This is another Booker Prize winning novel, and it’s in the running for the best or top five or so of the best novels. This is a long British/Australian (minor) epic. It’s written in the form of a how did my parents (or grandparents) meet kind of biopgraphy, where we see two disparate people in their early lives with a forward momentum.
Oscar finds himself with a calling for the church, and as he moves in this life, he finds that he has an even deeper calling for gambling. Lucinda becomes a rich glass factory heiress early in her life. As the two lives slowly move toward each other, eventually spilling over into a meeting at a gambling hall and a falling in love over a shared passion for that particular vice, we see the ways in which two people’s lives can transform into a kind of inverse, but falsely defined sense of destiny. Looking back at one’s beginnings, something that is inherently based in chance and arbitrariness, there’s a sense of destiny that only comes from this perspective. The novel bases itself on that feeling and even just the title of the novel alone creates this sense of destiny, knowing that not only will get “Oscar” and “Lucinda” but also “Oscar and Lucinda.”
The novel then works as a kind of deconstructed Victorian novel. This is shown through the disruption of England, through the immigration to Australia, where the transplanted English conservative religious are not supported by the landscape, which is wild seeming, but also by the very present and evil displacement of the indigenous Black population, a musing on that begins the whole novel. In addition, we also see the characters in this novel reading the various novels the book upends in it’s own right.
It’s dry a lot of the time, but rewarding and glacially paced as well, but very satisfying in the final moments as a bet over a fortune and a church made of glass signify the melding of these two lives.