Theft: A Love Story
From the two-time Booker Prize-winning author and recipient of the Commonwealth Prize comes this new novel about obsession, deception, and redemption, at once an engrossing psychological suspense story and a work of highly charged, fiendishly funny literary fiction.
Michael-a.k.a. “Butcher”-Boone is an ex-“really famous” painter: opinionated, furious, brilliant, and now reduced to living in the remote country house of his biggest collector and acting as caretaker for his younger brother, Hugh, a damaged man of imposing physicality and childlike emotional volatility. Alone together they’ve forged a delicate and shifting equilibrium, a balance instantly destroyed when a mysterious young woman named Marlene walks out of a rainstorm and into their lives on three-inch Manolo Blahnik heels. Beautiful, smart, and ambitious, she’s also the daughter-in-law of the late great painter Jacques Liebovitz, one of Butcher’s earliest influences. She’s sweet to Hugh and falls in love with Butcher, and they reciprocate in kind. And she sets in motion a chain of events that could be the making-or the ruin-of them all.
Told through the alternating points of view of the brothers-Butcher’s urbane, intelligent, caustic observations contrasting with Hugh’s bizarre, frequently poetic, utterly unique voice-Theft reminds us once again of Peter Carey’s remarkable gift for creating indelible, fascinating characters and a narrative as gripping as it is deliriously surprising.
“In addition to historical, behavioral, and playful storytelling dimensions, there is an emphatically physical dimension of conflict to [Carey’s] work, conveyed not through words but in between them. The air in his novels can feel charged and changeable, thinning to ghostliness or thickening to sluggishness, as before a storm. Carey’s latest novel operates on all these levels, and a couple of new ones . . . . [Hugh’s] voice is studded with funny malapropisms, Joyce-inflected scat, and a low-grade hysteria that Carey humorously conveys . . . The most skillful effect in Theft is Carey’s complex weaving of [the brothers’] harsh emotional legacy into the grown men’s thoughts, behavior, and spasmodic jokes . . . On the surface Carey’s [prose] pulls us forward in an atmosphere of antic noir. But the book turns out to be nearly as dense with themes, subplots, and embedded details as a more capacious and ambitious work like Oscar and Lucinda . . . Impressive.” New York Review of Books