At the heart of Peter Carey’s Novel Oscar and Lucinda is the unpredictability of life. Rational and irrational choices and twists of fate are shaping the lives of the protagonists: Oscar and Lucinda. A narrator tells the reader about Reverend Oscar Hopkins and how he transported a church made of glass to win the heart of a woman called Lucinda.
Oscar’s story begins in the 1850s around Christmas time. The servants have baked him a Christmas pudding and they are standing in the kitchen, watching Oscar taking his first bite ever of this delicious treat. Oscar’s father, a widower and an Evangelical Christian, believes Christmas to be a pagan festivity and of course he finds out what the servants and Oscar are up to. He slaps the pudding out of Oscar’s mouth. But it’s too late. The sweet taste of raisins, the cinnamon and the ginger have already made an imprint on Oscar’s tongue. Something so delicious couldn’t be the fruit of Satan, could it? And so Oscar starts to doubt his father’s believes and we follow him on his path to find the meaning of life – which he seems to find in gambling.
Lucinda becomes an orphan at the age of seventeen and a year later, with her inheritance in her purse, she travels to Sydney and buys a glass factory. She tries to establish a profitable business. However, her love of gambling makes this harder and harder.
This shared love of gambling brings Oscar and Lucinda together. They make a bet and so Oscar’s journey begins: he needs to travel 250 miles on foot without breaking the glass church – and there is no turning back.
I’m not surprised that Carey won the Man Booker Prize with this book. It is one of those novels that really deserves to be read – You can feel all the seconds, the sweat and tear drops that have been put into it.
The characters keep popping up in my thoughts and I know they will stay there for a long time. Because all the short chapters give the character’s different perspectives, this book is a wonderful read. What Lucinda sees as a mere storm, Oscar sees as a sign of God. But not only is this an interesting read, it actually conveys a great life lesson: Life isn’t predictable. You can plan and plan and plan, but in the end it doesn’t matter. Oscar and Lucina shows that many things cannot be controlled and so, sometimes, you just need to go-with-the-flow and see where you wash up.
And the ending – oh my. It’s worth reading this book just so you can be totally bewildered, amazed and shocked when you’ve finished the last few pages.