TITLE: JACK MAGGS
AUTHOR: Peter Carey
DATE PUBLISHED: 1997
DATE READ: February 2008
NOTES: The story is set in 19th century London. Jack Maggs is told with great verve and has echoes throughout of Dickensian writing. There are obviously some deliberate parallels – Jack Maggs = Magwitch Tobias Oates = Dickens Henry Phipps = Philip Pirrip and Silas = Fagin.
Tobias the writer comes over as egocentric and self-serving – in no way a heroic figure. This is a refreshing change as writers in novels are so often portrayed as noble and sensitive beings.
Jack is desperate to find his “son” who helped him when he was a prisoner in chains. The “son” Phipps fears being found as he thinks he will lose his house (owned by Maggs) and wants nothing to do with his benefactor.
As a felon Maggs should not be in England but it is not in the interests of the main characters to have him arrested as they could be accused of harbouring him. Phipps would lose the house if Maggs is arrested – but not if he is dead…… It all moves at a cracking pace with superb descriptions of London at the time. I would have liked more of the relationship (i.e. a conversation) between Maggs and Phipps – a minor quibble.