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Larry's Party

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  5,764 ratings  ·  283 reviews
Larry Weller, born in Winnipeg in 1950, is like a lot of people. He never really liked his first name; "its Larryness has always seemed an imprisonment and a sly wink toward its most conspicuous rhyme: ordinary... He was just one more citizen of the Larry nation, those barbecuers, those volunteer firemen, those wearers of muscle shirts." But Larry Weller is an ordinary guy ...more
Hardcover, 339 pages
Published September 2nd 1997 by Random House of Canada (first published 1997)
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Amy
Jul 13, 2008 Amy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who enjoy a simple read over plot.

I can't help it. I love Carol Shields. I miss her voice in the world. I deeply feel her loss to breast cancer 5 years ago.

Larry's Party is a novel that won Shields the Orange Prize. I'm impressed at her tackling an in-depth, from-the-inside look at the life of an average North American man. I feel she only stumbled by falling into a feminine sensibility in a couple of lines, so overall, I'm still giving this book 5 stars. Basically, I want to give all Shields' work 5 stars.

And yes, if you're loo
...more
Sarah
Carol Shields liked to write about ordinary people with ordinary problems. On the face of it, that's just about the last thing I'd want to read! But hers are not the loud, robust "common men" we hear so much about in country songs. These are the unsung ordinary people, quietly living their lives: The gentle souls.

I like Larry, and Shields is becoming my favorite novelist.
Linda Prieskorn
Jul 24, 2012 Linda Prieskorn rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Linda by: Lynn Lumbard
Larry is a typical boring human who plods through life. The author uses 100's of comparisons to benchmark Larry against average people. She repeats many scenarios about his life, his first marriage, his life as a child as he progresses through life. As boring as the language is in the book you feel compelled to continue reading because Larry's life is your life. You are not a famous statesman, you are not an olympic athlete, you are not in the news weekly, you write on Facebook and goodreads and ...more
Jean
In the end, I liked this book far better than I imaginged I would. My first thoughts as I read centered around what I felt was Carol Shields' smuggness to believe that SHE could actually have any true insight into the working of a man's brain/thoughts. I had a professor once who stated, "A brain soaked in testostrone, does not function like a brain soaked in estrogen!" Having lived all these years, I have to agree. Men and women function differently and neither really understands the other, even ...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
A few professional reviews likened this to her The Stone Diaries, but from a man's viewpoint. I did not see the commonality. In the Diaries, I always felt as if the person was real, while in Larry's I never did. From the beginning, it felt as if a woman trying to write from a man's point of view and not quite making it.

Throughout, Shields repeats parts of the story given in earlier chapters. It's almost as if she thinks you will take a long time reading it and might forget what has gone on befor
...more
Pat
I really enjoyed reading this book. At first I thought the subject matter was going to put me off but in the end I came to like Larry. I like the idea that a person can find inspiration in a particular situation and then go on to build a life on that inspiration. Larry goes in to his first maze at Hampton Court while on his honeymoon and it is a life changing experience for him. I did find the idea of surrounding ones own house with a maze a bit weird and obviously it was more than Dorrie could ...more
Rushel
because i've decided that once i pick up a book i will finish it--i've finished this book. it was okay. i was delighted by her disregard for focusing on plot, revelling in her choice to weave a convincing character profile of the mc: larry. however, convincing as the white, heterosexual, male from first world privilege larry was, it didn't make him interesting or compelling. i liked the book for its technique but i'd have loved to witness the same technique illustrating a character with more tha ...more
Burd
I was given this book when it first came out in 1997. After reading the first few pages, I put it back on the shelf. There it sat for 17 years with a bookmark at page 20. I'm so glad I came back to it. At this stage in my life I am so much more receptive to Larry's life lessons! I think the reason I didn't like it at that time was that I had read The Stone Diaries and was expecting something similar. I've learned not to do that. An author's books should be like his or her children. They should e ...more
Jayne Charles
There was an awful lot of wisdom packed into this story about Larry, sometime nerd and hedge enthusiast, so many neat little observations that had me saying 'wow'! It has to be admired as a feat of writing, if nothing else. Each chapter moves Larry along in his life chronologically, but at the same time each section has its own theme - his kids, his job, his health, etc. Strands of chronology are drawn through each of these themes, the story dipping back into the past as necessary, so it was alm ...more
the never-ending library
This is a deceptively simple book. Just one guy’s life.


When you meet Larry he is luxuriating in a rather new ‘find’, a Harris Tweed jacket to end all Harris Tweed jackets. Larry does own one, but not this one. That means someone else will no doubt notice upon closer examination that their once pristine sartorial prize resembles a battered hand me down. This is Larry’s opening triumph, and for a young man about to embark on life as an adult – he’s ready to do so in style.


The book is demarcated in
...more
Claire
I didn't like the structure of this book - each chapter about something to do with Larry, and written as if the reader hadn't read any of the previous chapters - so there was time catching up and filling in on information that the reader already knew. A booksey technique that didn't work.

And then there was the neat ending. Far far too neat. Shields must have wanted full-circle contentment for Larry or something, and in order to give him that, had to make sure all the other characters who spun a
...more
Marguerite
Larry's Party was better than OK, right up till the ending, though Larry the character still seemed fairly flat, apart from his profession of designing and installing mazes (insert appropriate pun here). But Carol Shields totally lost me at the event called Larry's party, where the dialogue turned a bit Noel Coward. I felt as though I had to find my way out of a literary thicket.

I did like this:
"He loves the Latin roll of the words in his mouth -- Leguminosae -- and he loves himself for being a
...more
Mary
This author’s characters are often improbably insightful, but I love the way she gives mundane people immense internal lives. Even simple acts in simple lives have drama. Love her descriptions of work in this book too. “There’s no getting around it: the rhapsody of work hums between Larry’s ears, its variables and strategies, its implements and its tightly focused skills. Sometimes he tries to scare himself with thoughts of worklessness, the long, vacant mornings of the unemployed – how would th ...more
Marvin
An unusual book. Each chapter is almost like a fictional essay/reflection on some topic--marriage, work, sex, turning 40, etc. The main character, Larry, is especially appealing because he is so surprised by his good fortune & is keenly conscious both of how his past shapes his character & at the same time how his life has taken totally unexpected turns. Shields is also good at reflecting on the meaning of work & relationships. While the chapters could stand on their own as independe ...more
Elizabeth
In one sense this is a very straghtforward, even simple book. It is the story of one man's quest to find out who he is and create meaning in his life. Shield's use of mazes - as plot point, as metaphor, as the structure of her story, as theme - gives this book wonderful depth. Larry often seems lost in life, and makes mistakes, but he is essentially lovely and endearing.

I like this book better than The Stone Diaries, which I also gave four stars. I would probably alter that rating to 3 1/2 star
...more
Despoina Xr
Ένα πολυ ωραίο βιβλίο το οποίο διηγήται ουσιαστικά μεγάλο μέρος της ζωή του Λαρρη, χωρίς να φτάνει στο τέλος της. Μου άρεσε πάρα πολύ σαν νόημα και τα μηνύματα που ήθελε να περάσει η συγγραφέας, Για μένα το βιβλίο έχει πολλά κενά και αρκετά σημεία στα οποία γίνετε λίγο δυσνόητο, δεν το διάβασα στα τα αγγλικά, τα οποία είναι και η αρχική γλώσσα του βιβλίου, οπότε δεν μπορώ να ξέρω αν είναι απο την μετάφραση ή όχι. Ωστόσο είναι ένα πολύ ωραίο βιβλίο αρκετά διαφορετικό απο όλα όσα έχω διαβάσει.... ...more
Maria Stevenson
Carol Shields never ceases to astonish. She's someone who just "gets it," this quirky puzzle that is the human being. Oh, maybe she doesn't know how to solve the puzzle after all, but she knows it's unsolvable and shows us this so many ways, ways that have us nodding in agreement, "here, here," "been there, felt that."
Larry Weller is the protagonist (or should I say, "agonist") of "Larry's Party." He's a fairly ordinary guy, all too aware of the fact, although his eventual professional expertise
...more
Val
The book recounts episodes in the life of Larry Weller, florist and maze-maker, over a period of twenty years.
We can see why Larry likes mazes, they have a logic and structure which can only be seen from above; when one is in them, they can be confusing, people get lost. Larry feels like this about his life, he wants there to be a logical pattern to it, but much of the time he is lost and confused. His judgement and ability to read situations are often faulty. (We are given a good example to dem
...more
Alesa
I debated giving this five stars, because of the brilliant writing and stunning insights. It really is a remarkable piece of fiction, and filled with wisdom, in its own way. And, frankly, my evaluation of the novel moved up from four stars nearer to five as it wove its way onwards, despite the rather depressing topic.

The topic is the inward life of an ordinary Canadian man, following him from his mid-20's, when he has a rather nondescript job at a florist's, through marriage, fatherhood, divorce
...more
Lynley
Someone asked on a writing forum lately for examples of books with ordinary protagonists -- characters who are interesting to read about despite having nothing unusual about them at all. Well, this book is a perfect example of such a protagonist, and suits me very well at this point, when I'm sick of antiheroes and superheroes and the hero's tale in general. This is a story of middle age and reflections, and nuance of character, and it's extremely well done.

The extended metaphor of a maze as Lar
...more
Alma Jylhä
Larry veti Dorrien lähelleen, keinutteli häntä sylissään ja taputti hänen tukkaansa.
Hän hätkähti tuntiessaan taputukseen sisältyvän julman varauksellisuuden, suorastaan monumentaalisen etäisyyden. Se kertoi ihmisestä, joka oli hajamielinen, väsynyt. Se oli aviomiehen taputus. Hän oli nähnyt isänsä koskettavan äitiään täsmälleen samalla tavalla silloin kun äidillä oli alakuloinen päivänsä. Mutta taputtaminen ei ollut samaa kuin kosketus. Taputtaminen oli kuin vaihtaisi automaattiohjaukseen, sitä
...more
Mirrani
You can say there is a lot of symbolism in this book. Larry, who is a florist at first, discovers the art of the hedge maze on his honeymoon and from there finds that it becomes a large part of his life. Following the path of his own maze, he changes wives, changes careers, and in his own way changes his life.

I enjoyed the writing style of this book and actually found myself looking through pictures of hedge mazes on the internet when I was finished reading. The main character could be the guy n
...more
Stobby
A life beautifully weaved. Each character and scene was developed in such a palpable way I began recalling my own childhood memories in poignant detail. Not perfect though. Some scenes added for drama, fizzled and the height of main character, the moment where he summarizes all moments, comes mid forties which seemed a little premature. Still, I'm a fan.
Lucynell
My first Carol Shields novel this. I have, without noticing it, accumulated half a dozen of her books. I don't know how that happened but I'm glad it did because I liked this a lot. It's pretty much plotless, just fragments of Larry Weller's (maze enthusiast) life. Chapters are in chronological order but we move flawlessly back and forth in time to pick up more and more information. Its structure is brilliant, very energetic writing and multi-layered. Think John Williams' Stoner but with more te ...more
Katie Palterman
My absolute favourite book! I've read it multiple times and it's still good! Larry is so average and boring that his life is halarious and makes for a very interesting read! The way Carole Shields wrote this book is amazing!
Susan Mangigian
I picked this book up and the bring/take shelf at my local gym. It was a wonderful story about a marriage, about an average, quirky guy, and about love and relationships.
Apimom
Feb 16, 2015 Apimom rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: This is not even bad enough to serve as a bad example - just boring
Boring character and I am not sure why the author tells in the last chapter that both ex-wives are smitten by him. The problem is the story does not tell this fact.

The very giving and warm hearted girl friend at the time gets swept under the table. The main character does not act on any of this. It is done by the author exclusively.

Numerous happenings in the book are played up and fizzle out without contributing to the story at all. Why mention them? The jacket switch in the beginning for instan
...more
Grace
the mundane made meaningful - the characters wonderfully absorbing. it reminded me a little of 'stoner' by john williams - shields should be applauded for writing such a convincing male protagonist. i loved larry, unassuming as he is, stumbling through a maze of his own making. there is something about a canadian setting that appeals to me immensely...i find that as in a lot of canadian writers work, the landscapes seem to whisper secrets. i only take issue with the ending - i found the final ch ...more
Müller Italia
Larry fa il paesaggista: disegna e realizza giardini e parchi, e la sua specialità sono i labirinti. E proprio il labirinto sembra essere il simbolo della sua vita, l'apparentemente semplice, normale esistenza di un uomo medio. I suoi rapporti con i genitori, la sorella, con le due donne che l'hanno sposato e da cui ha divorziato e con il figlio sono altrettanti percorsi, intricati e ostacolati da apparenti vicoli ciechi, ma rigogliosi e colorati come le siepi che Larry progetta. Vent'anni della ...more
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Carol Ann Shields was an American-born Canadian author. She is best known for her successful 1993 novel The Stone Diaries, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction as well as the Governor General's Award. Her novel Swann won the Best Novel Arthur Ellis Award in 1988.


More about Carol Shields...
The Stone Diaries Unless Jane Austen: A Life The Republic of Love Swann

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“He had been relfecting, while staring at the fringed blue petals, about love, about the long steady way his imperfect parents managed to love each other, and about his own deficient love for Dorrie, how it came and went, how he kept finding it and losing it again.

And now, here in this garden maze, getting lost, and then found, seemed the whole point, that and the moment of willed abandonment, the unexpected rapture of being blindly led.”
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“He observed how his feet chose each wrong turning, working against his navigational instincts, circling and repeating, and bringing on a feverish detachment. Someone older than himself paced inside his body, someone stronger too, cut loose from the common bonds of sex, of responsibility. Looking back he would remember a brief moment when time felt mute and motionless. This hour of solitary wandering seemed a gift, and part of the gift was an old greedy grammar flapping in his ears: lost, more lost, utterly lost. He felt the fourteen days of his marriage collapsing backward and becoming an invented artifact, a curved space he must learn to fit into. Love was not protected. No, it wasn't. It sat out in the open like anything else.” 0 likes
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