Summary and book reviews of Theft by Peter Carey

Theft

A Love Story

by Peter Carey

Theft
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  • First Published:
    May 2006, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2007, 288 pages

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Book Summary

Michael Boone is an ex–"really famous" painter acting as caretaker for his younger brother, a damaged man of childlike emotional volatility. When a mysterious woman comes into their lives, she upsets their delicate equilibrium sets in motion a chain of events that could be the making—or the ruin—of them all.

From the two-time Booker Prize–winning author and recipient of the Commonwealth Prize comes this new novel about obsession, deception, and redemption, at once an engrossing psychological suspense story and a work of highly charged, fiendishly funny literary fiction.

Michael—a.k.a. "Butcher"—Boone is an ex–"really famous" painter: opinionated, furious, brilliant, and now reduced to living in the remote country house of his biggest collector and acting as caretaker for his younger brother, Hugh, a damaged man of imposing physicality and childlike emotional volatility. Alone together they’ve forged a delicate and shifting equilibrium, a balance instantly destroyed when a mysterious young woman named Marlene walks out of a rainstorm and into their lives on three-inch Manolo Blahnik heels. Beautiful, smart, and ambitious, she’s also the daughter-in-law of the late great painter Jacques Liebovitz, one of Butcher’s earliest influences. She’s sweet to Hugh and falls in love with Butcher, and they reciprocate in kind. And she sets in motion a chain of events that could be the making—or the ruin—of them all.

Told through the alternating points of view of the brothers—Butcher’s urbane, intelligent, caustic observations contrasting with Hugh’s bizarre, frequently poetic, utterly unique voice—Theft reminds us once again of Peter Carey’s remarkable gift for creating indelible, fascinating characters and a narrative as gripping as it is deliriously surprising.

Theft, by Peter Carey
Excerpt

I don't know if my story is grand enough to be a tragedy, although a lot of shitty stuff did happen. It is certainly a love story but that did not begin until midway through the shitty stuff, by which time I had not only lost my eight-year-old son, but also my house and studio in Sydney where I had once been about as famous as a painter could expect in his own backyard. It was the year I should have got the Order of Australia--why not!--look at who they give them to. Instead my child was stolen from me and I was eviscerated by divorce lawyers and gaoled for attempting to retrieve my own best work which had been declared Marital Assets.

Emerging from Long Bay Prison in the bleak spring of 1980, I learned I was to be rushed immediately to northern New South Wales where, although I would have almost no money to spend on myself, it was thought that I might, if I could only cut down on my drinking, afford to paint small works and care for Hugh, my ...

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About The Book

Michael "Butcher" Boones was once as famous as a painter in Australia could be. Now he is just a down-and-out "dogsbody" [p. 11] having suffered a humiliating divorce, a precipitous decline in his artistic reputation, and a stint in jail for attempting to steal back paintings in his ex-wife's–"the plaintiff," as he prefers to call her–possession. To make matters more complicated, Michael is saddled with his "slow" brother Hugh, a 6' 3", 220-lb mixture of unpredictable violence, poetic fancy, and childlike dependence. As the novel begins, Michael is serving as an unpaid caretaker in the borrowed cabin of an uptight art collector, Jean-Paul, outside a ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Despite having lived in New York for 15 years, Carey once again sets his latest book, at least in part, in Australia, but we're also taken on a wild ride through Japan and New York in a novel that has received exceptional reviews from all prepublication review sources (including three starred reviews), and has been variously described as "a masterpiece", "a certifiable hoot", "edgy, irreverent, often hilariously profane", "sharply observed, well written, and acerbically witty".   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews

Library Journal

Sharply observed, well written, and acerbically witty, this book will only further Carey's reputation.

Publishers Weekly

Starred review. A magnificent high-stakes art heist wrapped around a fraternal saga.

Booklist - Donna Seaman

Starred review. Carey is at his satirical best ... and at his most tender.

Kirkus Reviews

It's a certifiable hoot. Is the endlessly inventive Carey on the Nobel shortlist? He ought to be.

Washington Post

Carey frames a story that shifts before our eyes -- maddeningly complex, hypnotically brilliant, entirely original.

Reader Reviews

Travis Ann Sherman

Book of the Decade
Theft is everything I yearn for in a book. It is beautifully, lyrically written in first person and more amazingly for serious fiction, not serious -- not even a little depressing. Open the covers and you fall immediately into the bizarre modern ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Peter Carey was born in Australia in 1943 (in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, about 30 miles from Melbourne). He attended Geelong Grammar School (one of Australia's top private schools which at one time or another has been responsible for educating many of the most powerful names in Australian business and government). He left university after a year having failed his science exams and found work as a copyrighter in London (UK) and Melbourne - and eventually started his own agency. He published his first volume of short stories, War Crimes, in 1979, followed by another volume of short stories, The Fat Man in History, in 1980.

He then wrote three novels, Bliss (1981) - about an advertising executive who has an out-of-body...

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