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Jack Maggs

By: Peter Carey
Narrated by: Steve Shanahan
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Summary

A thrilling story of mesmerism and possession, of dangerous bargains and illicit love.

London, 1837. 

Jack Maggs, raised and deported as a criminal, has returned from Australia in secret and at great risk. What does he want after all these years, and why is he so interested in the comings and goings at a plush townhouse in Great Queen Street? And why is Jack himself an object of such interest to Tobias Oates, celebrated author, amateur hypnotist and fellow burglar - in this case of people’s minds, of their histories and inner phantoms? 

Winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and the Miles Franklin Award, Peter Carey's Jack Maggs is dazzlingly entertaining.

©1997 Peter Carey (P)2019 Bolinda Publishing

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Good, if mispronounced. A sparkling novel.

You would think that if you were going to mispronounce a word in a Peter Carey novel – particularly one which turns on a painful moment in Anglo/Australian history – you wouldn’t want it to be “antipodean”.

The otherwise excellent Steve Shanahan manages this three times, along with getting a gaggle of other words wrong. 'Sulphurous", "proffered" and "profligacy" all get mispronounced in his otherwise empathetic and engaging read, ad it does take you out of the story a little bit.

We might not be surprised that Australian Shanahan also gets British place names wrong, mangling Clerkenwell, Holborn, Severn and anywhere that ends in “-shire”. "Long Acre" gets the wrong stress, as does "subaltern", which is pity as Shanahan's reading is otherwise strong, with characters well delineated (even if from time to time the nuances of class distinction in English speech are inconsistently applied to the characters, so that Tobias Oates is sometimes a bit cockney and sometimes effete),

That said, it’s not the most appallingly mispronounced Carey that I have listened to (so far that honour goes to – 'Amnesia') but it does surprise me how often audiobooks by stellar writers are so inattentively produced.

I listened to Eddie Izzard's masterful reading of 'Great Expectations' in preparation for listening to 'Jack Maggs' and, even there – with a star reader on whose name one imagines sales are largely predicated (there being other recordings of the public domain novel available) - no one had bothered to edit out Izzard's second takes and repetitions. It got to the point where I expected to hear him blow his nose or take a sip from his water bottle.

This was better than that, though every couple of chapters there would be a long pause in the middle of a paragraph where Shanahan seem to be catching his breath. Sensible editing would simply have nipped these gaps out to create a more fluent listening experience.

The novel itself needs no introduction or recommendation – this is one of the better novels in Carey's extraordinary oeuvre and it’s a very satisfying book to read or listen to.

Overall, then, it’s a 7/10 read of a 9/10 book

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Jack Maggs- a formidable yarn

This is an intricate and very engaging story. The period details and echo of Dickens are superbly handled. Well read, too!