14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 14 August 2008
Peter Carey's "Theft: A Love Story" is a literary tour-de-force, a brilliant book, a witty spoof on the art world, a tale of two brothers and a story about love, a story taking us from Australia to Japan and to New York, to sum it up: a magnificent book.
How often do you find yourself multiply re-reading sentences, phrases, even pages- not for the sake of understanding it, but out of sheer joy of re-enjoying the just-read phrases, sentences and pages. Not all too often, I would think. Peter Carey's writing is so exuberantly enjoyable, that there is actually no way avoiding multiple re-reading, enjoying the prose melt on your tongue. Scenes, sentences, phrases, which I just wanted to read to my friends, but where to start, each and every page is just full of excerpts you want to share with others.
"Theft: A Love Story" is the tale of two brothers, one of them a previously well known painter, now taking care of his art dealer's offbeat located home, also taking care of his huge and "slow" brother Hugh. It's a tale of love too, of brotherly love- they just don't seem to be able to live with each other, but obviously can't live without each other either. The story is told in turn (chapterwise) by the two brothers, and although both are rather huffy, grumpy characters (brothers all the way), who both really seem to have a ball verbally whacking each other, it is, due to master ventriloquist Peter Carey's intriguing prose, easy to recognize, whose narrative we are reading at that moment. Of course, the "Love Story" mentioned as un undertitle is the love story of Marlene (who walks into the lives of Michael and Hugh one rainy night, starting off the story there) and Michael. "Theft" is also a story of an art fraud, of mischief, even of murder, but never (at least I don't recall) have frauds and thieves been more overtly likeable than Peter Carey's characters in this novel.
"Theft: A Love Story" is sheer enjoyment, a literary masterpiece, a gem of a novel. One of the novels, which leaves you (though sad- for having finished reading it) with a big big smile, happy for having been fortunate to have read this book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 22 June 2012
Butcher Bones is an artist who has fallen from grace and unfortunately also out of fashion. He is divorced, has no income, and all of his paintings are being held hostage by his ex-wife, also known as 'the alimony whore'. He must also take care of his younger brother, Hugh, whose mental instability only adds to the problems they share. The two brothers have been offered a place to stay by an art collector, but of course, it's not really the magnanimous offer it appears to be.
One day, a stranger from the city turns up to value a painting owned by a neighbouring farmer. This stranger just happens to be an attractive female called Marlene, who with her contacts in the art world, and Butcher's talent proceeds to set in motion a convoluted chain of events involving art fraud, deception, and - potentially - love.
The story is told in alternating chapters by Butcher and Hugh (also known as Slow) Bones. Hugh is a great character - much easier to like than the artist - and Hugh's chapters add much needed humour to the story. His chapters let slip how he deliberately and inadvertently helps and hinders all the plans concocted by Marlene and Butcher. Despite the fact that Hugh often makes life difficult, there are still some touching moments between the two brothers which adds an extra dimension to the story. As love stories go, it's not a patch on 'Oscar and Lucinda', but it's an entertaining diversion, all the same.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Take a little bit of the movie Dominick & Eugene, plus a pinch of Of Mice and Men, throw in a dash of Les Miserables add a magnificent high-stakes art theft, murder and an international crime investigation and you get just a tip of the magnificent iceberg called THEFT: A LOVE STORY. This is the story of individual identity that explores the relationship between Michael "Butcher" Boone, a has-been Australian artist just released from the slammer and his mentally impaired two hundred twenty pound brother, Hugh.
The story unfolds in alternating chapters related by the two brothers, each offering their point of view - one wildly ranting and pretentious and the other achingly literal. Similar in theme to another book I read recently called THE ART FORGER it examines the very nature of art, its validity and valuation. With descriptive writing oozing from its pages, THEFT is filled with language that is grousing, earthy and crude as it amusingly addresses items as mundane as farting and bad breath, plus an assortment of other "stinky" items while in reality painting its story on a much large canvas. What appears at the outset to be just another run of the mill story of zealous but washed-up artist falling for a femme-fatale art appraiser/valuator is in reality a good hard look at the "fashion" of art, of what's in, what's out, and what's saleable in the art world, while addressing the question of why the theft of a piece of art can suddenly increase its value. Ultimately, it seems that the value of any piece of art is whatever the consumer is willing to pay for it and that self-invention is the order of the day.
This is my first venture into Peter Carey country and I was pleasantly surprised. With THEFT, however, there are just too many layers for a reviewer to do it justice in a few meager paragraphs. I do believe that he is one of those authors that that offers no middle ground. One either loves his work or hates it. Guess you will just have to check it out for yourself to determine if you fall into the Love it or Hate it category.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Very rarely do I get to the end of a book and want to start reading it all over again - I did here. This is a wonderfully entertaining novel - funny, tender, witty, clever and utterly compelling. The plot concerns the theft of a painting and the manufacture of several others. Michael Boone, known as Butcher Bones, is a painter of great talent who has unaccountably fallen out of fashion in his native Australia. Added to which, he has recently divorced and has had most of his recent work sequestered as "marital assets". He was in prison for attempting to take some of these paintings back, but is now released and is loaned a studio and house by his patron, Jean-Paul Milan, in the wilds of Northern New South Wales, and there he is to live, caring for his huge, mentally unstable brother Hugh. Then, in the midst of a flood, appears the miraculously beautiful, Marlene Leibowitz, soon to be the catalyst for a whole realm of other problems.
The book is written in alternating chapters from the point of view of Butcher and his brother Hugh. Hugh, given to capital letters in carefully selected parts of sentences, is a tremendous creation. Though he misses much of what is ostensibly going on, he pursues his own logic with perfect insight. He is wonderful. He reminds me of the great invention of John Kennedy Toole, the remarkable Ignatius J Riley, in his novel A Confederacy of Dunces.
In this book, character is all, but it has other attributes, not least a plot concerning art thefts, and the droit moral (power of authentification) to the whole oeuvre of a past-master of modern art named Leibowitz (Marlene's ex-husband's father).
The writing is very direct and has a shorthand effect - but though full of obscenities it is highly appropriate to the kind of story it has to tell, giving access to thought and feeling while dragging the reader by the scruff of the neck, onward into the nefarious tale it has to tell. It is one of the supreme pleasures of this book that the writing matches the characters - you hear about things from the inside, you are part of the story - there is no separation from reader and writer because writerly conventions are ignored. This is literary writing of the most assured and brilliant kind.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 12 May 2011
I found this book beautifully written, extremely moving and completely absorbing. I found it very hard to put down, and with a toddler in the house it wasn't easy to find the stretches of time and concentration it required, but somehow I managed!
I shan't go into plot details as they are well stated in other reviews, but will just say that the chapters narrated by the slow brother were superbly judged I thought - the logic and "intelligence"of his internal self are a counter balance to the way he is viewed externally (the very physical images of him portrayed in his brother's narration).
The character of Marlene is slightly less successful, in that her complexity is revealed without as much background and this made it harder for me to empathise with her. Nevertheless her role in the story is essential to the thriller element and I couldn't really imagine the book without that slightly surprising aspect.
I have to take issue with the reviewer who thinks that high praise for this book is based on his previous works - what a patronising assessment! I have liked the Peter Carey novels I have read before (notably "His illegal self", which didn't in fact garner that much praise from Amazon reviewers) but this was by far my favourite.
I loved it!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 24 February 2013
This looked a good story, it was from a Booker Prize winning novelist, surely the writing would be good. Well for my reading, it wasn't.
The story was written half from one brother's point of view, half from the other's. Whilst I could read the one half, I just couldn't read the other brother Hugh's bits. It wound me up so much that I just couldn't carry on reading it. I think I managed nearly half of it. I tried reading just the "nice" bits, but couldn't really follow the story enough.
For me it was truly an uncomfortable and awkward read.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Carey does well in creating two distinct voices for Butcher and his brother and really does a great job in conveying their personalities. Butcher is a selfish, self-centred man, fully focused on creating his work and bitter that he is no longer in fashion and thereby unable to command high prices. Hugh is an idiot-savant (at times, too savant for my liking) and with a tendency to TALK IN CAPITALS at odd times in his narration. In reality, the story is about the relationship between these two men - the resentment that Butcher feels for having to look after his damaged brother and the resentment that Hugh feels for never being allowed to do what he wants to do - and is explored through a plot concerning the theft of a painting by Leibovitz (Butcher's favourite artist and the person whose work inspired him to paint in the first place).
We meet Butcher and Hugh in the small outback town of Bellingen, where they're living in a house belonging to Butcher's patron, Jean-Paul, maintaining it for him whilst Butcher paints. Into their life crashes Marlene, a woman Butcher assumes is American, trying to get to Butcher's neighbour, Dozy (who owns the Leibowitz painting) in order to authenticate it. When the painting later goes missing, it's Butcher who is suspected of the crime and he's forced to return to Sydney, where he again meets up with Marlene and when she tells him she can help revitalise his career with a show in Tokyo, they become lovers and embark on a journey that takes them to Tokyo and Manhattan. On the way, Butcher and Hugh learn more about the Leibowitz family and Marlene's connection to them and also the dark scam at the heart of the story.
Carey is a lyrical writer and he excels at setting scenes and creating a sense of place. However, compared with the richness of the Butcher and Hugh characters, I felt that Marlene was too slight and trite a character to be truly believable and really wanted to know more about her and her relationship with Olivier than what we get on the page. Ultimately, Butcher was too bitter and unpleasant a character for me to feel drawn to, but I did feel tremendous sympathy for Hugh, albeit there were times when I'd have liked to see Carey play down the savant quality and show him as a simpler human being. Also, I felt that the plot hinged on a huge improbability (one that I'm not going to give away because I don't want to spoil it), but it was a fact that really irritated me because I'd been hoping for a more fulfilling pay off to the scam than what we're given.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 6 October 2006
Extremely good book, very well and unconventionally written. The story is told through the eyes of two brothers, one an out-of-fashion artist, the other his 'idiot savant' brother.
Carey's use of the two perspectives was very clever. Rather than going over the same ground from two different perspectives,as some novelists do with this type of structure, the next chapter from the next brother slighly over-lapped and then pushed the story on.
I expected to find the 'idiot savant' brother's chapters tedious but the opposite was the case. I looked forward to hearing Hugh's wierd and very funny take on what was going on, particularly his sarcastic comments about the sanctity of the artist. His vulnerability and his method of coping with the world were cleverly conveyed without bogging you down with too much information. I worried about Hugh's chair constantly!
The other aspect of the book I really liked was the economy with which Carey told his story. He kept the descriptions spare but still managed to conjure up rich images of both the Australian outback and New York.
Very enjoyable, accessible and at the same time challenging. I imagine the Booker panel felt they had to leave him off this year's short list since he's already won the prize twice before.
on 20 December 2013
The over-the-top style of this book reminds me a little of A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, with its crazed lead character Ignatius J. Reilly.
Instead of a New Orleans fantasist and a host of other bizarre characters, Theft is about a painter in Sydney, with a brother who is as grotesque as Ignatius J. Reilly, and his attempts to persuade the world to recognize him for the genius he thinks he is.
It is not nearly as good as A Confederacy of Dunces but is very funny especially when the reader receives the conflicting views of the same situation by the two brothers.
However, the plot is a bit weak and the sheer pace eventually tired me out. If you have more stamina then you might enjoy it.
41 of 52 people found the following review helpful
Two-time Booker Prize winner Peter Carey writes his most dazzling novel yet, a send-up of the art world, filled with satire about dealers, auction houses, compulsive collectors, forgers, conservators and technicians, art researchers, catalogue writers, and even the artists themselves. At the same time, he also creates two splendid characters through whose limited vision this world is viewed--Michael "Butcher" Boone, a formerly successful Australian avant-garde artist, now experiencing hard times, and his "slow" brother Hugh, a 220-pound giant with little control over his emotions and a penchant for breaking the little fingers of annoying people.
Butcher, recently released from prison after trying to steal back his own paintings, which were declared "marital assets" during a nasty divorce, is now living in northern New South Wales, as caretaker for the property of his biggest collector. He is also the full-time caretaker of his brother, "Hugh the Poet and Hugh the Murderer, Hugh the Idiot Savant."
When Butcher rescues Marlene Leibovitz from her partially submerged car during a flood, the "chance" meeting has long-range consequences. Marlene is the wife of Olivier Leibovitz, son of Jacques Leibovitz, a world-class artist whose paintings are nearly priceless. She has the power to authenticate Leibovitz paintings (the "droit moral") and effectively controls the Liebovitz market as undocumented paintings surface. She has arrived to document the "Leibovitz" belonging to Butcher's next door neighbor, a painting which promptly disappears.
The involvement of Butcher in a complex scheme to defraud is told in alternating chapters by Butcher and Hugh, whose limited "take" on the characters and action leads to hilarious commentary, which is often more astute and realistic than that of his brother. Butcher, devoted to his artwork, and eventually to Marlene, is a brawling innocent, totally over his head in the international art circles in which he moves in Tokyo and New York, following a sellout show of his work arranged by Marlene. Butcher's narrative reveals his obvious ignorance of the details of the Leibovitz art fraud, increasing the irony and humor and developing suspense about Marlene's intentions.
When the increased financial stakes lead to murder, the complexity of the art fraud is revealed to the reader--and to Butcher. The final chapter, almost an Afterword, gives new meaning to the word "irony." Theft is brilliantly constructed, and in Butcher and Hugh, Carey creates two characters the reader cares about. The art world and its rarified atmosphere are subjected to Carey's rapier wit, and the humor and satire are non-stop. Well known for his word play and sense of the absurd, Carey has outdone himself with this novel, a continuation of the themes he began in My Life as a Fake--and a new comic masterpiece. Mary Whipple