Monday, May 7, 2007

Book Circulation Day -- Theft

I'm posting early for this topic, since I will be away when the exchange for Book Circulation Group takes place, however I passed this book on to my friend when we met with her and her husband for dinner last Saturday.

Theft, a Love Story, by Peter Carey, two time Booker Prize winner. Let me tell you a little about this book, although I don't want to be a spoiler of the very complicated plot.

Michael "Butcher" Boone, is a formerly well-known and feted Australian painter, fallen on hard times due to drinking and a very bad divorce. Just released from prison, he is guardian to his mentally challenged brother, Hugh "Slow" Boone and together they are living in a house owned by his patron, while Butcher tries to resume painting. Into their lives sweeps Marlene Leibovitz, the beautiful daughter-in-law of the great fictional artist Jacques Leibovitz.

She and Butcher fall in love and the normal love-hate relationship between the two brothers is set akilter, since Hugh is also very taken with her. The story moves from Australia to Japan where Marlene has arranged a show for Butcher's work which is a complete sell-out before the opening, all to one man. Unbeknownst to Butcher, this is the beginning of an art scam set up by Marlene and the scene moves to New York where Butcher is finally drawn into the scheme as an active participant. Hugh is brought from Australia to New York by Olivier Leibovitz, Marlene's husband and there the story unfolds to an unexpected conclusion. Returning to Australia, Butcher and Hugh begin a different kind of life and Carey reveals to his readers the final twist in the art scam.

I found this a very cleverly-told, complex story. Narrated in the first person, from the alternating points of view of Butcher and Hugh, the story is revealed slightly differently in each case, as Hugh is not quite as "slow" as everyone imagines and he is often more astute and sees things more clearly than Butcher. In this book, Peter Carey gives an interesting picture of many facets of the art world. He is indeed a great wordsmith, however one with a quirky twist to his writing which I enjoyed. While the main characters are engaging, they are not portrayed very attractively, except for Marlene, the con woman and art thief.

I found the denouement to be quite surprising but believable. I think I can recommend it, but I'm glad I didn't buy this book. How's that for a half-hearted recommendation? Maybe a 7 out of 10?


Janice Thomson said...

It does sound kind of interesting though Jmb. I would read it just to lap up the facts about the art world but like you would probably never buy it.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, jmb. I like Peter Carey though have not read this one. It's one I may look out for. I love your reviews and your honesty - that was a tactful "sort of" recommendation at the end of the post! Auguri

jmb said...

Hi Janice,
It certainly was an easy read, and there was lots of technical painting stuff, straight over my head, I'm afraid. This was a library book for me.

jmb said...

Hi Welshcakes,
I certainly think Peter Carey is a very good writer, two Booker awards attest to that. However I was in mixed mind about the main characters.

Josie said...

JMB, I would read it for facts about the art world as well, but I haven't read fiction for a while. For the most part, I prefer non-fiction for some reason. I wish I could read fiction, but I don't enjoy it anymore. I feel I am missing out so much.

jmb said...

Hi Josie,

Isn't it funny how at different times in your life, you can only read certain types of books? For a long time I could only read historical fiction. Who know why? I wouldn't have been able to tell you. Nowadays I read about 1/4 non fiction to 3/4 fiction. And sometimes I just want relative trash for escapism.
Happy reading, whatever it may be.

patterns of ink said...

My daughter and I were surfing blogs together and saw you at Josie's place.
We have a Westie, too!
So my eleven-year-old said we had to come and leave a comment. We'll be back. This looks interesting.

jmb said...

Hi patterns of ink,
Well I don't have a Westie now, sadly but we did have for 15 years. My favourite dog, the best one we ever had. Her name was Cleo.
I visit Josie regularly, maybe I'll see you there again.
I nipped over to see your blog. It looks interesting so I'll visit when I come from my week's vacation.
Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment.

Lee said...

Peter Carey is "quirky" in his writing. As I said in an earlier post, I enjoy his writing very much and must get hold of this latest offering from him.

jmb said...

Hi Lee,
I did enjoy this book although with some reservations. Let me know what you think.