For my last stand in Ned Kelly November, I thought I would look at some adult books on Ned (one biography, two fiction) . The first was a biography on Ned’s Mother by Noelene Allen Ellen A Woman of Spirit. This was very sympathetic to Ellen Kelly and doesn’t present her as the ‘desperate for a man and a quick buck’ type of lady that occurs in the two fictional accounts. It simply narrates the hardships and losses she went through and in the process provides details about the fate of her family members including Ned. An interesting but not riveting read.
Robert Drewe’s Our Sunshine was the next book and this fictional account of Ned explaining his actions and life history to his captive audience at Glenrowan was richly written with enchanting descriptions of people and the countryside. I found it easy to read and older students could handle it. I then returned to Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang which I last read in 2001. Carey is very clever in this book by building authenticity around parcels of written accounts making it appear a “true” history (it is a work of fiction). The accounts are addressed to Kelly’s daughter. As this was the second time I read of Kelly having a child (Drewe also talks of it in a dream sequence featuring Red Kelly) I started to doubt my knowledge of Kelly but after some Googling reassured myself that this was a piece of fiction and just a creative tool of both authors. In the process, however, I found the site http://www.bailup.com which provided me with a really interesting overview of whether Ned was married or not and the sort of information that is available. I liked it because it assessed the quality of the evidence. Apparently, after Carey’s book was released many naively believed that Kelly had a child because they took the book as fact (as it is titled ‘True History’). I am not sure whether I was over Ned by this stage but I struggled to finish it. The font size and spacing did not make it any easier…perhaps I have been reading too many kids books! Onto next month’s theme…. thinking about Driving December – books about road trips!