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Theft by Peter Carey

Theft (original 2006; edition 2007)

by Peter Carey

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1,085357,675 (3.34)71
Authors:Peter Carey
Info:Faber and Faber (2007), Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:BEN - DIS
Tags:Australia, tbr

Work details

Theft: A Love Story by Peter Carey (2006)


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English (32)  Dutch (2)  Danish (1)  All languages (35)
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
Book on CD narrated by Simon Vance

Michael “Butcher” Boone used to be a famous painter. Now, following a messy divorce and a jail term and thanks to the largess of a former patron, he’s living on a remote estate with his developmentally delayed brother, Hugh. One rainy day a beautiful young woman appears at their door in a downpour. Marlene is smart and driven, and also the daughter-in-law of the late Jacques Leibowitz, a painter of world renown, and one of Michael’s early influences. She’s nice and develops a rapport with Hugh – not an easy fete – and departs on her 3-inch Manolo Blahnik heels just as quickly as she appeared. But Marlene’s connection to the Boone brothers isn’t over. Like a bad penny she reappears and continues to wreak havoc.

The novel is told by the two brothers in alternating chapters. Butcher is pretty straightforward in his narration, if a little slow to catch on to what Marlene is up to. Hugh, given his mental deficiencies, seemingly rambles, but has insights unique to his perspective. Regardless, the two are drawn into Marlene’s schemes, like moths to a flame, and the reader can only watch the train wreck.

The plot is convoluted and intricate, as befits a psychological thriller, but I didn’t find it a grippingly fast read. I was interested but puzzled about where this was going for a good third of the novel. Part of this, of course, is the dual narration, especially given Hugh’s limited information. However, once Butcher and Marlene begin their international adventure – going first to Japan and then New York – I was completely engrossed. And just when I thought I had it figured out, Carey had another surprise in store for me. I’ve finished the book and I’m still waiting for the next twist …

Simon Vance is superb as the narrator of the audio version. He gives each brother a unique voice, which makes it easy to tell who is narrating. ( )
  BookConcierge | Feb 5, 2016 |
(7.5) This story is told in the alternating voices of two brothers Michael and Hugh Boone. There is good characterisation of them and their relationship. It delves into the complexity of the art world and at times I felt a little lost /bored. The story moves from rural Australia to Japan and New York. A different tale from this author but not one I enjoyed as much as others of his I have read. ( )
  HelenBaker | Nov 11, 2015 |
Michael "Butcher" Boone has hit on some hard times - recently divorced and his life work as an artist not only out of popularity but in the hands of his ex-wife - and to add on to his troubles, he's been appointed the guardian of both a rural estate belonging to a patron and his own brother Hugh, who has an unspecified mental disability. Things go from worse to unexpectedly whirlwind when a beautiful authenticator, Marlene Liebovitz, arrives on the scene and declares that the Boones' rustic neighbor is in possession rare piece of art from the early 20th century - and the work is soon stolen days afterward, with Butcher becoming the police's primary suspect.

The story of Theft is told in the alternating perspectives of Butcher - a coarse, bitter, and angry man - and Hugh - who, as aforementioned, has some behavioral/mental issues and doesn't always understand what is going on around him. Neither of them were particularly likable or even engaging characters. Marlene, who seems to be a one-note character who can do whatever she wants because she is so irresistibly beautiful that all men around her fawn over her, was equally uninteresting. The "love story" between Butcher and Marlene seemed completely unbelievable, although there is an attempt toward the end to explain that Marlene is attracted to men who are as a physically imposing and brusque as her country father was.

Plot-wise, Theft is actually pretty slim when it comes right down to it, despite the multiple changes in scenery. There were few surprises, except one at the very end. A big overarching theme is about the nature of art itself - what goes into making it, what goes into appreciating it, and what goes into deciding a masterpiece. However, I felt like this theme was very similar to that of My Life as a Fake, the other Peter Carey novel that I read before this one and enjoyed much more. I had found My Life as a Fake much more thought-provoking than this novel.

The reader of the audiobook version of this book was just okay. Some of his accents were just completely off (like that of a woman in New York) while others came off as insulting caricatures (like that of a Japanese man). I had a hard time telling if it was Carey's writing or the narrator's reading or a combination of both that made the character of Hugh come off as a bit disparaging as well. There were other bits dropped here and there that hinted at some casual racism, misogyny, classism, and ableism, but it was think that was more a reflection of the characters' opinions than Carey's. Either way, it didn't make the characters any more likable or the book any more enjoyable.

Greater minds that mine have praised this book and its place in literature, but it just wasn't my cup of tea. It was not poorly written; it just wasn't a compelling read for me. I'm glad I tackled Carey's My Life as a Fake prior to this one; if I had read this first, I probably wouldn't pick up another Carey, but as it is, I am still interested in trying some other works of his and hoping this one was a fluke. ( )
  sweetiegherkin | Nov 4, 2015 |
i don't have a lot of peter carey experience. the only other book ih ave read by him is Parrot and Olivier in America. i think it was also a 3-star read for me. which isn't a bad thing...but i always feel that 3-star reads are books that, while fine, could have been better. so i get bummed out when i land on a 3-star rating. (aside: both of the carey novels i have read contain a privileged character named 'olivier' -- ummm...what's up with that, dude?)

anyway...theft was interesting but i felt certain moments in the story to be flimsy - i was not wholly invested in the plots or the motivations. so that was a bit of a sticking point for me. i very much liked the fictional look at the art world, but i have no idea if it is authentic? (do/would people in the art world find this story believable??) so the novel has actually served to make me want to read some nonfiction on art theft or forgeries. so that's not a bad thing at all. ( )
  Booktrovert | Jul 20, 2014 |
I enjoyed this novel overall, although found the second half more enjoyable than the first half. I have read it once; I have heard it stands up well to a second read to pick up what was missed the first time through. ( )
  crosbyc | Apr 25, 2013 |
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Book description
From CD Case: "Theft is about obsession, deception, and redemption, a psychological suspense story and a work of charged, hilarious 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, setting in motion a chain of events that could be of the making--or the ruin--of them all."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307276481, Paperback)

Michael "Butcher" Boone is an ex-“really famous" painter, now reduced to living in a remote country house and acting as caretaker for his younger brother, Hugh. Alone together they've forged a delicate equilibrium, a balance instantly destroyed when a mysterious young woman named Marlene walks out of a rainstorm and into their lives. Beautiful, smart, and ambitious, she's also the daughter-in-law of the late great painter Jacques Liebovitz. Soon Marlene sets in motion a chain of events that could be the making--or the ruin--of them all.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:02 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Reduced to living in a remote country house and serving as caretaker for his volatile and childlike brother Hugh, Michael "Butcher" Boone, a once-famous painter, finds his life changed by the arrival of an enigmatic young woman named Marlene.

(summary from another edition)

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