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Larry's Party

3.71  ·  Rating Details  ·  6,493 Ratings  ·  315 Reviews
At 26, Larry Weller thinks his future lies in flowers. He still lives at home, has a new career as a floral designer, and a girlfriend about whom he is somewhat ambivalent. What Larry is about to discover is that life is never a straightforward path. His girlfriend becomes pregnant. They marry and set off for their honeymoon in England where Larry stumbles upon what will b ...more
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Published August 1st 1998 by Goose Lane Editions (first published 1997)
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May 31, 2015 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: post-modern
4.5 stars
This is the first novel by Carol Shields that I have read (I still need to read The Stone Diaries). It is set mainly in Canada and the protagonist is Larry Weller. We follow Larry from about 1976 when he is 26 until 1997. It is thematic and each chapter looks at a different aspect of Larry’s life, through his two marriages, being a father, work, sex and so on. Often we see events at a distance as significant events seem to take place between chapters. The last chapter rounds off the who
Jul 13, 2008 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Jan 28, 2012 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Rebecca McNutt
May 06, 2016 Rebecca McNutt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian, fiction
This odd but interesting Canadian novel is a very different sort of reading experience. I really liked it for the most part, and its 20th century settings throughout the story made it even more creative.
Linda Prieskorn
Jul 24, 2012 Linda Prieskorn rated it really liked it  ·  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
Aug 14, 2012 Jean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 14, 2012 Pat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 17, 2015 Rushel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Ash Hiebert
Jan 14, 2016 Ash Hiebert rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
I didn't finish this book. I Did not enjoy this book. I tried! I got to page 207 before I realized I just didn't like it. Every chapter repeats the last chapters. It was neat at first, different chapters were on different ideas about his life or an aspect of who he was, so if that aspect included something hat had happened earlier se touched upon it in a different way. But gawd! There are only so many times I can read about his entire schooling and work history before I want to scream! Over and ...more
Kirsty Smith
I found this book difficult to read. Not because it wasn't well written, Shields certainly knows how to write. Having read a little of Shield's technique for structuring her work, I know that she has less of a focus on plot and more on the ordering of her chapters, which I think is very evident in Larry's Party. As the name would suggest, the novel does conclude with a party for protagonist, Larry, but it is a long and convoluted path to get there.

Each chapter begins with a recap of the previou
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
Aug 31, 2014 Burd rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Aug 02, 2011 Jayne Charles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 03, 2013 Claire rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2013
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
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
May 31, 2012 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-fiction
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
Aug 12, 2009 Marvin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 07, 2012 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
May 15, 2015 Maria Stevenson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 10, 2014 Alesa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 15, 2014 Lynley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian
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
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
I picked this up after hearing Nancy Pearl mention that it was one of her comfort reads on NPR--a book she likes to read over and over. I can see why--I haven't read Carol Shields before, but this book about the life of Larry is very satisfying. Each chapter pops into a different time in Larry's life--starting from the time he is a young man until he reaches his late forties. What is fun about the book is that just as in real life you sometimes look back to find meaning so do the chapters in thi ...more
Jan 16, 2016 Imla rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The quality of Carol Shields' writing cannot be criticised. She has this way of making the ordinary extraordinary, describing those throwaway moments in life as something we recognise. The playfulness of her short stories and her desire to use structure in new and interesting ways keeps her writing fresh.

I am a huge fan of 'The Stone Diaries', one of her other novels, which is a story about a woman's life - a normal woman, an ordinary woman. I found the novel moving and high readable. I believe
Sep 02, 2014 Mirrani rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 16, 2012 Stobby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 06, 2014 Lucynell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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.

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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.” 1 likes
“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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