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Larry's Party by Carol Shields

Larry's Party (1997)

by Carol Shields

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,573314,644 (3.6)1 / 145

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Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
An episodic accounting of a man's life, one instilled by past family tragedies, in which he makes an unlikely, diverting, way in business while experiencing the pitfalls of love. Her writing is smooth, and she uses an interesting method of reframing memories as the years (chapters) accumulate. Ultimately though, I found the story a bit trite, the characters too self-centered, the insistent occupation with sex an annoyance. Maybe I'm weary of the self-indulgent motif. ( )
  JamesMScott | Dec 4, 2016 |
An interestingly constructed book. It starts with a chapter about a florist called Larry, then one about Larry and his wife, then about his family, and so on, spreading wider and progressing through the years. An unexpected but satisfying conclusion. ( )
  SueinCyprus | Jan 26, 2016 |
Some interesting parts Bit slow. Maybe some editing would have been a good idea ( )
  shazjhb | Jul 18, 2015 |
You can say there is a lot of symbolism in this book. Larry, who is a florist at first, discovers the art of the hedge maze on his honeymoon and from there finds that it becomes a large part of his life. Following the path of his own maze, he changes wives, changes careers, and in his own way changes his life.

I enjoyed the writing style of this book and actually found myself looking through pictures of hedge mazes on the internet when I was finished reading. The main character could be the guy next door. His life isn't a big event, it's just life, which is refreshing and a perfect fit for this writing style. The people feel real, they have a sort of evolution to them and not every ending is a happy one, but still love pushes on, characters take the next turn in their evolution and keep wandering through their lives, eventually meeting up again in the end.

I can't say that I enjoyed the repetition of history, though. Whenever Larry looked back on the past it seemed like we had to slosh through a lot of the same old stuff to get at what was new. It's possible that maybe the author wrote this way so that people could pick up from where they left off, no matter how long they left the book waiting for their return. Getting lost wasn't a problem for me because I couldn't put the book down. There wasn't any real plot point that drove me to devour it, I just enjoyed reading that much. ( )
  mirrani | Sep 2, 2014 |
Someone asked on a writing forum lately for examples of books with ordinary protagonists -- characters who are interesting to read about despite having nothing unusual about them at all. Well, this book is a perfect example of such a protagonist, and suits me very well at this point, when I'm sick of antiheroes and superheroes and the hero's tale in general. This is a story of middle age and reflections, and nuance of character, and it's extremely well done.

The extended metaphor of a maze as Larry's life could be trite from a lesser writer, because at first glance this seems like a bit of a hackneyed comparison, but actually Shields takes the reader on an unpredictable journey through Larry's life, drawing more comparisons to a maze than I had initially predicted. Each chapter almost serves as a stand-alone short story, with information introduced in previous chapters expanded upon in time, just as I was wanting more detail. I think this is partly how Shields achieves reader sympathy for Larry, who is such a nice person that Larry's injuries felt like my own. ( )
  LynleyS | Feb 16, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Carol Shieldsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dijk, Edith vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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What is this mightly labyrinth-- the earth, but a wild maze the moment of our birth.

- "Reflections on walking in the maze at Hampton Court" British Magazine, 1747
For Joseph, Nicholas, and Sofia
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By mistake Larry Weller took someone else's Harris tweed jacket instead of his own, and it wasn't till he jammed his hand in the pocket that he knew something was wrong.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140266771, Paperback)

Larry Weller is a regular guy, or so Carol Shields has him think. When we first meet him in 1977 Winnipeg at age 26, he's pondering the pluses of Harris tweed, still living at home, and realizing he's in love with his girlfriend, Dorrie, a flinty car saleswoman. Larry is proud of his job at Flowerfolks, even though he fell into floral design by accident, and if his relationship with his parents isn't perfect, it's not too bad, either. (Stu and Flo Weller may have less page-time in Larry's Party, but they are hugely memorable. He is a master upholsterer, happiest when working; she is a woman ruined by nervous guilt, having inadvertently killed off her mother-in-law with some improperly preserved green beans.)

Carol Shields has said that she had "always been struck by the fact that in most novels people aren't working." Though her hero climbs the floral managerial trellis for 17 years and finds more rhapsody in work than marriage, Larry and Dorrie's honeymoon in England points him toward what will be his true vocation--mazes. These living constructs turn him into a thinker, a man of imagination, and the author's descriptions are quietly spectacular as well as effortlessly sweet. Larry wonders at their "teasing elegance and circularity ... a snail, a scribble, a doodle on the earth's skin with no other directed purpose but to wind its sinuous way around itself." Just as Larry changes with the times--each elliptical chapter ages him by one or two years--so does his art. In 1990, he designs a maze in which you can't really lose yourself. In 1997, the McCord Maze "is intended to mirror the descent into unconscious sleep, followed by a slow awakening." Larry, too, has a slow awakening, taking several false turns before reaching midlife. As the novel closes, with a bravura dinner party scene, he may finally be at ease in the world. But his creator knows that he is only halfway there, and still has to negotiate his way from the center of the maze to its exit.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:11 -0400)

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The San Diego Tribune called The Stone Diaries a "universal study of what makes women tick." With Larry's Party Carol Shields has done the same for men. Larry Weller, born in 1950, is an ordinary guy made extraordinary by his creator's perception, irony, and tenderness. Larry's Party gives us, as it were, a CAT scan of his life, in episodes between 1977 and 1997, that seamlessly flash backward and forward. We follow this young floral designer through two marriages and divorces, and his interactions with his parents, friends, and a son. Throughout, we witness his deepening passion for garden mazes--so like life, with their teasing treachery and promise of reward. Among all the paradoxes and accidents of his existence, Larry moves through the spontaneity of the seventies, the blind enchantment of the eighties, and the lean, mean nineties, completing at last his quiet, stubborn search for self. Larry's odyssey mirrors the male condition at the end of our century with targeted wit, unerring poignancy, and faultless wisdom. --Publisher.… (more)

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