Review: Peter Carey’s “Theft: A Love Story”

by writereaderly

Brothers Michael and Hugh Boone, aka Butcher and Slow Bones, one a painter, the other a bit slow, tell the story of their encounter with Marlene the crooked art authenticator. Bellingen, Sydney, Tokyo, New York. They’re all messy. She’s really, really bad. The boys are nearly done for. Fame and fortune come to those who worked for it (sort of).

It was pretty good; I know I was thoroughly absorbed for the first 70pp then again in the last 50 or so. Since I spend my days among artworks, it was entertainingly relevant to read of art and art dealership and even the “rural wilds” (according to the blurb) of Bellingen – a sequence which rather resembled my entirely tame and muddy existence.

The problem with Theft was that I got plain bored in the middle and was pretty close to book abandonment. Carey is an excellent creator of voice – fabulous imagination, unusual personages, careful selection of words just to get that nuance of character weighted just so – but I don’t know if he’s so hot on the driving plot. The plot got appropriately rapid and thrilling as the page count wound down, and it was clearly deviously entangled from the novel’s very first pages, but there was a good 100pp of tedium in there. I got bored of his Ned Kelly book once the voice was no longer of interest, and I actually felt just the same about Lolita. However skilled and diverse a writer Carey may be, it’s been a long time since I was really convinced by one of his books; I think I only persevere out of the obligation to read Great Writers rather than curiosity or joy. Well, and because I know he has it in him. I want to be blown away and he can so do it — but not for a whole book so far.

Where it came from: KT’s Housesat Bookshelf
Time taken to read: A couple of bed-nights and a bed-afternoon
Where it went to: Back home
Reminds me of:
Who I’d recommend it to:
Also reading: “The Heart of the Matter” by Graham Greene; “Gertrude” by Hermann Hesse; “The Plumed Serpent” by D.H. Lawrence; “The Reivers” by William Faulkner; “Seven Poor Men of Sydney” by Christina Stead