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A book by Peter Carey

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A dazzling, entertaining romp.

  • Jul 5, 2009
  • by
The more I read of Peter Carey, the better I like him. I found "Oscar and Lucinda" tough sledding. "My life as a Fake" explored some interesting ideas, but wasn't altogether successful, in my opinion. In "Theft", Carey revisits some of the themes which clearly continue to interest him - Australian art and literature, and how they are perceived both within and outside Australia. "My Life as a Fake" dealt with literature and made obvious reference to the infamous "Ern Malley" literary hoax of the 1940's. In "Theft", Carey considers the issue of fakery in the art world, in a story that shifts between Australia, Tokyo, and the art world of Manhattan in the 1980's.

"My Life as a Fake" didn't soar as one might have wished - in part because Carey sometimes bogged down in the complexities of an overly laden plot, and in part because it was hard for the reader (at least this reader) to share his fascination with the repercussions of the Ern Malley episode on Australian literature. In "Theft", he is far more sure-footed, and though the plot is also quite convoluted, he develops the story in a compulsively readable fashion. The reader is swept along by the story, the brilliantly drawn, idiosyncratic characters, and by Carey's wonderful language right up to the jarring (and absolutely brilliant) conclusion.

The book reminded me of the recent film bombon (I mean that as a compliment), the wonderful "Duplicity", with Julia Roberts and Clive Owen, which also kept the viewer guessing throughout, but which the director and actors pulled off with tremendous style and humor. It was hugely entertaining, without ever condescending to the viewer.

"Theft" has that same lighthearted verve, and Carey's terrific writing and obvious love of language made it a joy to read. On the cover blurb of my copy, Ali Smith calls it "a funny, gorgeous steal of a book", and I agree completely.

Five stars.

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Starred Review.Two-time Booker-winner Carey (Oscar and LucindaandTrue History of the Kelly Gang) returns with a magnificent high-stakes art heist wrapped around a fraternal saga. Butcher Boone is an all-id all-the-time Australian painter of enormous talent and renown. Now divorced and bankrupted by his former wife, who tired of his excesses, Butcher has been reduced to caretaking a remote estate for his largest collector. And since the deaths of his working-class parents, he has also been saddled with his beloved, bedeviling brother, Hugh, who, like Butcher, has a primarily pugilistic relationship with the world. One rain-flooded night, a chic young woman knocks on their door, having lost her way. She is Marlene, wife of Olivier Leibovitz, son and heir to an early 20th-century master. Soon the brothers are embroiled in an international crime investigation that eventually comprises forgery, vast sums of money and murder. None of this, however, distracts Butcher from his overpowering love affair with Marlene, which threatens to leave Hugh stranded in an unforgiving world. Scenes in Australia, Japan and New York feature unique forms of fleecing, but setting and action are icing on the emotional core of Carey's newest masterwork.75,000 announced first printing. (May 12)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.--This text refers to theHardcoveredition.
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ISBN-10: 0307276481
ISBN-13: 978-0307276483
Author: Peter Carey
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Vintage
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