Larry's Party
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Larry's Party

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  4,911 ratings  ·  252 reviews
The San Diego Tribune called The Stone Diaries a "universal study of what makes women tick." With Larry's Party Carol Shields has done the same for men. Larry Weller, born in 1950, is an ordinary guy made extraordinary by his creator's perception, irony, and tenderness. Larry's Party gives us, as it were, a CAT scan of his life, in episodes between 1977 and 1997, that seam...more
ebook, 352 pages
Published September 1st 1998 by Penguin Books (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 Barrington
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
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
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
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
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.
Christopher Sullivan
Laurence John Weller, of Winnipeg Canada, is a man who creates and designs mazes; a construction, like life, that can be confusing, deceptive, a series of dead-ends but at its centre, its heart, there can be a feeling of well-being and achievement.
The novel begins with Larry inadvertently taking another person’s coat, which looks like his own, from a café he frequents. The ‘stolen’ jacket is however not only of better quality and more expensive than Larrys but the sleeves are a few inches too lo...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!
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
Kinsey_m
I love re-reading books, and I've read this one at least three times in the last fifteen years. For me the mark of a good book is that it leaves some images with you, that you'll remmeber even when you have forgotten the plot. For me, in this case, it's the surviving half of the labyrinth in Larry's first house as a married man.

A good book showing the life of a man and his family, how through his talent and passion for his work he evolves and improves his social status, but in the end he remain...more
Meg
Apr 27, 2014 Meg rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Meg by: Amanda
I am not usually a fan of books about everyday adult men living everyday adult male lives. I can't relate, and I'm disinterested. However, I actually enjoyed Larry's Party and found that I read it much more quickly an enthusiastically than I expected!

The plot of the book simply follows Larry's life beginning in his early 20s. Work, marriage, life in general. The narration engages the reader through its circuitous narration. Larry's passion is hedge mazes, and like the labyrinths he studies, the...more
Jess
This book suffered a bit for not being read in my usual manner (in short spurts on the subway). It would have been perfect for that, since it's a group of connected but stand-alone stories. However I read the whole thing on a train ride, meaning that the constant reorientation of the reader in the story (recapping background you just read in the previous chapter) was tiresome. It's a little like watching a full season of a TV drama and not skipping the "previously on..." segments.

But I found the...more
Agnes Mack
I was introduced to Carol Shields when I read The Stone Diaries for the Pulitzer challenge. I fell completely in love with that book and wanted to read more of her work but hadn't made it a priority. Now that I'm reading all the Orange Prize winners I finally got the motivation I needed.

So far I've read the first three Orange Prize winners now, and Larry's Party is far and away the best. The writing is solid, but unlike the other two winners, there is a compelling plot that pulls you through....more
Roberta
***letto nella edizione italiana La festa di Larry***

Larry Weller nasce a Winnipeg, in Canada, da genitori inglesi espatriati a causa di un tragico incidente familiare. Qui Larry cresce, lavora e si sposa. La sua vita segue un percorso che si può definire labirintico in quanto è difficile arrivare alla meta - è difficile capire qual è la meta - e le sue scelte non sono propriamente scelte, bensì il risultato di un insieme di sbagli e coincidenze, che talvolta conduce a un punto morto. Il labirin...more
Francene Carroll
This is not the book to read if you're looking for a fast-moving and gripping plot. In fact, there isn't much plot to speak of. Instead the novel follows the life of a man named Larry from his late twenties through to his late forties. I first read the book when I was in my mid-twenties and didn't think much of it. I enjoyed it more this time around, partly because I have a much better understanding of the themes.

It isn't a book you can't put down, it's one you read to savour the language and t...more
Elsje
Op aanraden van Ina Larry's party van Carol Shields gelezen.

Het verhaal
Het leven van de in 1950 geboren Larry Weller wordt beschreven van zijn 27e (als hij voor het eerst gaat trouwen) tot 20 jaar later (nee, niet als hij sterft hoor, maar als hij een feestje geeft, vandaar de naam van het boek).

In 15 hoofdstukken wordt telkens een onderwerp over Larry's leven beschreven, dat relatie heeft met het jaar waarover het verhaal op dat moment gaat. Zo zijn er stukken over zijn familie, werk, woorden,...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 The Republic of Love Jane Austen: A Life Swann

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“He wondered exactly how lost a person could get. Lost at sea, lost in the woods. Fatally lost.” 0 likes
“Like almost all men, Larry will be called upon in his life for a moment or two of genuine eloquence, and these instances will coalesce around that ceremony known as the marriage proposal. "Will you marry me?" he said to Dorrie Shaw back in 1978, his mouth full of sharp minerals. To a second wife, whom he has not yet met, he will say, simply, "I want to live with you forever."

He actually made these pronouncements, full of doubt and also hope. Full of amazement that he knows the words and that such simple words will suffice.”
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