I liked the book, and simultaneously, found it… difficult.
First off, in the “liking it” department, well… it is Peter Carey!
You don’t win the Booker Prize twice by writing poop even once! He is an incredibly good writer.
I loved his Oscar & Lucinda, and My Life As A Fake.
But this one, Theft. I did not love it, per se. I liked it.
Hand it to Carey though, he trusts his reader! He just didn’t count on the likes of me showing up!
I needed help. Parts of it got away from me, like a lifejacket floating out of reach, and I often had to rely upon my Reading Partner to haul me into the boat, as it were.
Theft is sub-titled “A Love Story” and it is!
The story of Michael Boone, an ex-“really famous” painter, born 1943, in Bacchus Marsh, Australia. [← As was Carey himself, in both time and place. Let the reader interpret!]
Newly divorced and down on his luck, Michael retreats to the unoccupied house of his patron, Jean-Paul, in an effort to here, perhaps re-invent himself.
With him is his near-autistic brother Hugh. Michael takes care of Hugh in lieu of the only other option, which would be abandoning him to an institution.
And so Michael sets out out to work on a series of new paintings.
But into this peaceful backwoods setting, a beautiful woman appears one rainy night, her car stuck in the mud.
28-year old Marlene Cook is not only vivacious, but also an art expert.
Michael soon discovers she's married to the son of the now-deceased 20th-century artist, Jacques Leibovitz, and is involved in the authentication of Leibovitz’s works.
Michael has been a fan of Leibovitz since his high school years.
Needless to say, his interest in Marlene knows no bounds!
Soon he will wish there were bounds to his interest, as she involves him in a web of thievery and chicanery that threatens all he has ever stood for, in the production of authentic, genuine ART!
Not to mention, he loves her. And she, him, apparently.
Scamming, double-crossing, faking, severe cheatitry.
In many ways, this novel is rip-roaring good. Roller-coastery good!
In style, Carey is as subversive and non-generic as ever. The narration alternates, chapter by chapter, between Michael and Hugh. Hence, we are given dual perspectives of simultaneous events, and this keeps the reader [if the reader is me] fully engaged and on the edge of their seat. Or the edge of the boat, as it were.
But a few times I fell into the lake.
I got a bit lost in the intricacies of exactly what is done in the art world as presented, regarding counterfeit painting and related forgery activities. I think that Carey is counting on a real savvy reader here.
It’s not the kind of book you read while driving a tractor along a straight furrow. Or while stirring a pot of soup with one hand and changing a diaper with the other.
You’re just not going to get it unless you are paying attention.
Throughout the book this one sentence is, themewise, center-stage:
How do you know how much to pay if you don’t know what it’s worth?
Hmmm…. a good question. As for me, I like to pay nothing!
My own walls are filled with laminated posters I stole from Starbucks, so what do I really know about the higher realms of art?
Because I needed a friend with this book, I suggest it as a Reading Group selection. In the multitude of voices, this book has gemstone potential.
Getting your paws on your own authentic and legally-obtained copy of Theft is as easy as doing THIS!
READ AN EXCERPT!