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Larry's Party by Carol Shields
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Larry's Party (original 1997; edition 1998)

by Carol Shields

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,471None5,053 (3.62)1 / 137
Member:jhowell
Title:Larry's Party
Authors:Carol Shields
Info:Penguin Books (1998), Paperback, 339 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:fiction, LT early reviewers

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Larry's Party by Carol Shields (1997)

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English (23)  Norwegian (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (25)
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
details Larry's life in Toronto & Chicago thru 2 marriages & 1 kid
12.01
  aletheia21 | Jan 19, 2014 |
Laurence John Weller, of Winnipeg Canada, is a man who creates and designs mazes; a construction, like life, that can be confusing, deceptive, a series of dead-ends but at its centre, its heart, there can be a feeling of well-being and achievement.
The novel begins with Larry inadvertently taking another person’s coat, which looks like his own, from a café he frequents. The ‘stolen’ jacket is however not only of better quality and more expensive than Larrys but the sleeves are a few inches too long. This sums up how Larry feels about his life; other people’s lives are richer and superior to his own and the life he is leading doesn’t fit or feel comfortable.
While on honeymoon in England, Larry and his new wife Dorrie visit Hampton Court Maze. Larry deliberately loses himself in the maze and in doing so finds and discovers a love for the unicursal puzzle.
Larry’s Party is a novel about a man attempting to find the path through life of least resistance. Like the mazes he designs and creates, Larry’s life, like most other peoples, has hedges that obscure the view of the paths around you, the future. There are paths that lead to dead-ends. There are new paths, well trodden old paths and the path that will lead to the centre, achieving one’s goal. Not everyone reaches the centre of the maze. Some people get lost but will eventually find the exit. Some simply give up and head straight for the exit while some people through fear, anxiety, laziness or dread, due to the lack of any Ariadneal thread to guide them, will tread well worn paths until the exit appears in front of them. Of course like life a maze only has one exit.
But, Larry knows the path that leads to the centre of the mazes he creates and because of this he “sometimes…sees his future laid out with terrifying clarity. An endless struggle to remember what he already knows.”
The subject matter of novel is a path well trodden: the telling of a man’s life from the seemingly limitless possibilities of youth and no inclining of mortality, marriage, children, divorce, nearing forty and beginning to question one’s life and realising that “getting old was to witness the steady decline of limitless possibility” and then through the invisible barriers of numerical ascendency toward middle and old age.
However, Carol Shields has written a superbly profound and unpretentious novel that will particularly resonate with those of a certain age. The author’s style is as strong, fluid and elaborate as the mazes that Larry Weller designs. Carol Shields has constructed a slice of literature that shows how people are also themselves like a maze. We strive to find something within us which we will attempt to find ourselves or other people will help us look for it.

Originally posted at http://womensprizeforfictionbookreview.wordpress.com/ ( )
  Kitscot | Jan 15, 2014 |
This is not a book that you could call riveting. It took me months to finally get through it--just couldn't seem to get involved with Larry. That said, the novel is a masterful study of character and societal attitudes. Shields goes up and down both sides of Larry, explores him front and back, goes inside his head and turns him inside out. The thin plot takes a back seat to "all about Larry." The final chapter is a satisfying roundup of the cast. ( )
  emmee1000 | Jan 21, 2013 |
A long time ago I read 'The Stone Diaries' and was underwhelmed, but found this in a used book store and knew it was a Orange prize winner, so why not? Well, truth be told, it was nicely written but dull. Essentially about the formative years of an ordinary Canadian man, Larry Weller, who falls into a life as a designer of hedge mazes. His life story is told in multiple chapters which are vignettes, short stories almost in and of themselves, dated through out the years 1977 - 1997.

The structure was unique and the prose above average; poignant. Larry really is everyman; or an anti-hero. Reminded me very much of Updike's Rabbit Angstrom - right down to the details of the 70's life and the rabbity little wife.

But in the main, I had to rather push through this. It was hard to really make myself care. It was hard to make Larry transcend the ordinary. Dull. I suspect I had very similar feelings about 'The Stone Diaries." Empirically good, but missing some verve. And I can't really read the name Dorrie without picturing Ellen Degeneress' fish, though that is certainly besides the point. rather like this book. ( )
  jhowell | Dec 26, 2012 |
I love re-reading books, and I've read this one at least three times in the last fifteen years. For me the mark of a good book is that it leaves some images with you, that you'll remmeber even when you have forgotten the plot. For me, in this case, it's the surviving half of the labyrinth in Larry's first house as a married man.

A good book showing the life of a man and his family, how through his talent and passion for his work he evolves and improves his social status, but in the end he remains the same person.

Highly recommendable. ( )
  kinsey_m | Aug 29, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Carol Shieldsprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dijk, Edith vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
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
Dedication
For Joseph, Nicholas, and Sofia
First words
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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:38:04 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

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)

(summary from another edition)

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