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Larry's Party

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  7,575 ratings  ·  385 reviews
Larry Weller, born in 1950, is an ordinary guy made extraordinary by his creator's perception, irony and tenderness. Carol Shields gives us, as it were, a CAT scan of his life, in episodes between 1977 and 1997 that flash back and forward seamlessly. As Larry journeys toward the millennium, adapting to society's changing expectations of men, Shields' elegant prose makes th ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published September 29th 1998 by Vintage Canada (first published 1997)
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3.72  · 
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 ·  7,575 ratings  ·  385 reviews

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May 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Hannah Greendale
Meet Larry Weller, an ordinary man with an unbridled passion for designing hedge mazes. In a series of vignettes, Shields explores Larry's conventional life, ticking off the usual items like finding a wife and having a child. Shields manages to come full circle with Larry's story, writing a complete narrative that arrives at a rewarding conclusion - one that links beautifully to the central theme of mazes as an analogy for life. However, Shields often reiterates known-information about Larry, a ...more
I did not finish this. I still feel like reviewing and rating though. This was odd. The narrators voice to me was a mocking tone, but I didn't know if it was meant to be, and I was mocking the mocker. I felt it was slow and things only started to pick up a little when Larry's first wife took a back hoe to his prize shrub maze in the front yard. Cue divorce. Larry was a florist. Larry kept talking about words to describe his penis, or his erection. Diatribes of word after word after word. This ha ...more
May 07, 2008 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
Samir Rawas Sarayji
This novel is the story of Larry and his journey through two divorces, a girlfriend and falling again for one of his exes. All of which happens to an average person with average desires and an average passion, namely, designing mazes. The result for me was therefore average.

It’s also the first work by Carol Shields that I’ve read but I suppose this may not have been the best place to start. I’ve heard good things about her writing which is why my review is focusing on the writing aspect.

Jan 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jul 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
The man’s vocation as maze maker is intentionally apt. It mirrors his mind.

I was several dozen pages in before I latched. I felt lost in the mental maze and fatigued by the density of the story’s stream of consciousness style, the obsessive thoughts, ruminations, and people who didn’t seem to matter, such that when those who did matter reappeared on the scene I felt sweet relief.

And then I surprised myself by ultimately loving this book and the sleuth work it demanded. I loved Larry, and the s
Jul 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After two lovely collections of short stories it seemed only right to check out the author’s long form and it didn’t disappoint. Actually it was notably similar, unfolding in such a way as to be composed of short interconnected stories right down to the (slightly annoying) revisits of previous chapters, so that each one was logically self sufficient. But really, this was a proper novel, it followed a very average sort of man named Larry Weller for 2 decades of his life, from mid 20 to mid 40s. E ...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
Apr 06, 2014 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
Linda Prieskorn
Jul 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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
Kirsty Dummin
Sep 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
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
Rebecca McNutt
May 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, canadian
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.
Jan 28, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: winner, womens-prize
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
This weekend I went to the inaugural Emerald Street Literary Festival, which was fantastic. The first panel was on the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, which, as regular readers will know, is something I’m very interested by, and which I’ve been trying to read all the winners of. (Awkwardly constructed sentence, sorry, but can’t think of a way to fix it without splitting it into two sentences, which is boring. Onwards!) This book, Larry’s Party, won that prize in 1998. One of the things that i ...more
Mar 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 16, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Rushel Miller
Apr 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
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
Dec 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 21, 2008 rated it liked it
I think Carol Shields tried to explore the male psyche in Larry's Party like she did a woman's in the Stone Diaries. I was captivated with the latter. As for Larry...I think Carol tried, valiantly...
Rob Forteath
Jan 05, 2019 rated it liked it
The author plays it very straight with us, leading us through Larry's adult life in a sequence of moments. Often a chapter will include a brief retelling of a previous stage of Larry's life, cleaned up and perhaps slightly modified to show how Larry has interpreted his own past. This is all nicely managed and there is plenty of wisdom sprinkled in.

We understand that Larry is meant to be a representation of all of the ordinary men who reached adulthood approximately at the same time the Equal Rig
Jan Morrison
Another reread of a favourite. I love Shields writing - so seemingly simple while being wildly inventive.
Paula Maguire
Dec 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book which was, as you would expect, beautifully written and full of wonderful observations and perceptions on life. I was on my bookshelf for years as it was a freebie from RUTC library and I didn't like the cover of green topiary ( mazes) but it was a real treat.
Edwin Lang
The book was quite good: the characterizations were realistic and the story interesting.

I liked Larry. It is odd though that throughout the story I was not sure if Carol Shields did. In Come Thou Tortoise and The Painted Girls I felt that the authors loved their creations, and so did I. it’s odd because all three authors are Canadian, and Canadians are like Golden Retrievers in their love for other people (relatively speaking).

I wondered if at some level Carol Shields thought Larry unworthy, an
Jan 04, 2016 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
Dec 01, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Stone Diaries was quite a good book yet somehow this didn't measure up quite as well. Maybe Shields didn't understand the male point of view well enough. Larry seems like a remote character throughout most of it; it's the women in his life that are portrayed more clearly. The novel has its good qualities but I kept getting lost in mazes for some reason.

Reaching the end of the book (NO SPOILERS) I wondered why I had spent my time on it, but the final chapter entitled "Larry's Party" redeemed
Francene Carroll
Oct 09, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Jayne Charles
Jul 24, 2011 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
Nov 07, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scotia-heights
Initially started in November 2011, for book club. I hadn't had time to finish it, but had always intended to do so. I was surprised to realise how little I had read- I thought I was more than halfway through, but I was maybe a third of the way.

Overall, I rather enjoyed the book. There were just enough details to help fix things in time and space, which in turn helped the characters to come alive, to seem more plausible, "real", even.

At the same time, some fictionalised details had, for me, the
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Savidge Reads: Larry's Party by Carol Shields (1998) 1 18 Jun 11, 2019 05:02PM  

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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.” 2 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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