Fiction – hardcover; Faber and Faber; 274 pages; 2006.
The wonderful and intriguing world of art forgery is explored in Theft: A Love Story, the Booker shortlisted novel by Australian author Peter Carey.
In my experience, reading anything by Peter Carey can be a bit of a hit or miss affair. There are certain books by him that I love (Jack Maggs, Oscar and Lucinda) and certain books I’ve struggled with and eventually abandoned (The Illywhacker, The True Story of the Kelly Gang). Fortunately, I found Theft: A Love Story to be immediately accessible and highly entertaining. I loved it’s balance of humour and melancholy, and the twist at the end was a joy.
The story follows the lives of two very different Australian brothers — Michael “Butcher” Bones, a wayward artist, and his “damaged two-hundred-and-twenty-pound” brother, Hugh — who take turns to narrate their escapades chapter by chapter.
Their various run-ins with art dealers, collectors, critics and curators covers rural Australia, Sydney, Tokyo and New York. Accompanied by the mysterious Marlene, a woman with an eye for a genuine work of art, the brothers get themselves into all kinds of “situations”.
It is, at times, laugh out loud funny and at others slightly distressing. But above all it’s a fun read about a world characterised by deception and dishonesty, where no-one can tell the difference between the real thing and a fake, and where the road to artistic fame and glory is paved with criminal intent.