Anatomy of a Book: True History of the Kelly Gang, by Peter Carey

204754…this history is for you and will contain no single lie may I burn in Hell if I speak false. (p.5)

This is a story written as though an autobiography by Ned Kelly, a famous Victorian Bushranger from the late 1800s.

All my life all I wanted were a home… (p.181)

Ned Kelly recounts his life and events that led to murder, attempted murder, celebrity, and death.

I did not know it yet but this were to be my last day of paid labour… (p.200)

It written as though a history yet it is strong with classic story elements.

Changing Status:

Kelly wants a quiet life. In part this is to counter the presumed criminal guilt his family name carries. He will eventually become the most famous man in much of Australia.

High Stakes:

Kelly will not obtain his desire, and he will lose his life. This is foreboding and the loss of life is the ultimate stake. This threat to characters is often used in books to compel a reader to keep reading, yet Ned Kelly himself focuses on his family’s wellbeing. All the Kelly’s have constant police suspicion and so the reader can feel the fear Ned Kelly has for the safety of those who are dear to him.

Page Turner:

Each short narrative has a shift in status. Be this the husbands of Nelly’s mother, the plight of the land, or the reputation of Ned and his family with authorities. The movement and events are interesting.

Believable Characters:

Heavily researched and with good language use, there is a constant feeling of truth. Only occasionally does the book reveal itself to be a contracted story. A creative non-fiction. This does draw into question the truth, and how much of this autobiographical tale Ned is changing for his own benefit.


The Kelly Gang was convicted as thieves and killers. Despite this Ned and his gang are celebrated in parts of Australia. As this story is told by Ned his words help the reader understand the mindset of Central Victorian settlers like himself. In this way it helps a reader understand how Kelly, of recent Irish heritage, was seen as a champion by many settlers against constant and unjust persecution by the government’s policing force, mostly English-men. It is a class battle told by a man who says he wants only fairness for his family.


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