Larry's Party by Carol Shields won the 1997 Orange Prize for Fiction. Does it deserve it? Well maybe I'll leave that one alone. Is it a great book? - I don't know, but it certainly is a good read.
The symbolism running through the book, down to even the pictures on the front pages of each chapter of the paperback edition I read, is of mazes. The Larry of the title sees his first maze during his English honeymoon on a visit to Hampton Court. He is transformed from small town florist with the "little" wife who collects 50cents off coupons ( I thought if was only Americans who collected those damned pieces of paper!) to a maze designer with intellectual, third wave feminist, second wife.
The book takes the reader on a series of time stops throughout Larry's life, beginning in 1977 through to the party of the title in 1997. The reader feels like a time traveller, putting down at several places and times and catching up on Larry, his life and surroundings. You see all the dead ends and wrong turns that make up the maze of Larry's (and probably everyone else's) life - indeed some parts ring so close to reality, for example the chapter on Larry's Living Tissues to this fellow mid 40s bod!
Shields captures the different eras very well - although sometimes maddenly, she reintroduces people, circumstances, facts at each time stop. How many times do you need to be told he's the son of Stu and Dorothy Weller, brother to Midge etc!. But she does subtly reflect the era of each time snippet, for example the way she describes Dorrrie, Larry's first wife - Dorrie knows how to stretch money (those coupons again!) to Dorrie knows how to manage money; Dorrie has a knack for sales; Dorrie is in car sales to Dorrie is the VP of a large and expanding sportswear manufacturer, thinking of going international.
Yes, a good read, not in my top ten category, but a good portrayal of a man's life through the last two decades.