Theft

A Love Story

Publisher: Vintage Canada
Ferocious and funny, penetrating and exuberant, Theft is two-time Booker Prize-winner Peter Carey’s master class on the things people will do for art, for love . . . and for money.

“I don’t know if my story is grand enough to be a tragedy, although a lot of shitty stuff did happen. It is certainly a love story but that did not begin until midway through the shitty stuff, by which time I had not only lost my eight-year-old son, but also my house and studio in Sydney where I had once been famous as a painter could expect in his own backyard. . .”

So begins Peter Carey’s highly charged and lewdly funny new novel. Told by the twin voices of the artist, Butcher Bones, and his “damaged two-hundred-and-twenty-pound brother” Hugh, it recounts their adventures and troubles after Butcher’s plummeting prices and spiralling drink problem force them to retreat to New South Wales. Here the formerly famous artist is reduced to being a caretaker for his biggest collector, as well as nurse to his erratic brother.

Then the mysterious Marlene turns up in Manolo Blahniks one stormy night. Claiming that the brothers’ friend and neighbour owns an original Jacques Liebovitz, she soon sets in motion a chain of events that could be the making or ruin of them all.

Displaying Carey’s extraordinary flare for language, Theft is a love poem of a very different kind. Ranging from the rural wilds of Australia to Manhattan via Tokyo – and exploring themes of art, fraud, responsibility and redemption – this great novel will make you laugh out loud.


From the Hardcover edition.

READ AN EXCERPT

I don't know if my story is grand enough to be a tragedy, although a lot of shitty stuff did happen. It is certainly a love story but that did not begin until midway through the shitty stuff, by which time I had not only lost my eight-year-old son, but also my house and studio in Sydney where I had once been about...
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READING GUIDE

1. Why does Peter Carey use two narrators in Theft? How do Michael and his brother Hugh regard each other? Is one a more trustworthy narrator than the other? What effects does Carey achieve though this bifurcated perspective?

2. How do the two epigraphs that precede Theft illuminate the story? In...

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PRAISE FOR

"The serpentine plot is a brain-squeezing beauty, cunningly elaborated ... But it's the author's mastery of details of artists' lives and the racy energy of his prose that make this edgy, irreverent, often hilariously profane novel soar. In some ways a successor to Carey's impudent picaresque Illywhacker, it's a certifiable hoot. Is the endlessly inventive Carey on the Nobel shortlist? He ought to be."
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Two-time Booker-winner Carey returns with a magnificent high-stakes art heist wrapped around a fraternal saga . . . 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."
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Carey creates a whole new world in each novel, and nearly a new language, so fresh and transfixing are the voices of his narrators . . . He is at his satirical best as he mocks the venality of the international art market, and at his most tender in his spirited portrayal of daring misfits who fled the confines of working-class life 'half mad with joy' once they discovered the transformative power of art."
Booklist (starred review)