Thursday, 29 April 2010

A Year in Books 2010 - A Fraction of the Whole

As I've said before, normally the words "shortlisted for the Booker prize" has me running for the hills. This was recommended to me by someone who knew I liked early Peter Carey, so I thought I'd give it a go and after 700 pages I just didn't want it to end. Written by Steve Toltz, it is a saga of a family of males. Jasper Dean sits in his prison cell thinking back through is life and those of his father Martin and his uncle Terry. Over the course of the novel we hear the voices of all three. We start with Martin as a young boy as his idea for a town suggestion box and observatory backfire spectacularly. We learn about Terry's life of crime and his rise to Australian national hero as he brings fair play back to sport by simply bumping off all the corrupt sportsmen. We follow Jasper as he finds love for the first time only to be betrayed as he struggles with his father's mood swings, wild ideas and get rich schemes all whilst living in a house in the centre of a labyrinth.

Having said all that the plot is almost secondary to the constant flow of one liners, comic asides, philosophical meanderings and off kilter ideas. Steve Toltz has written a genuinely funny, clever book, with absolutely fantastic use of language and a unique set of characters. It is wildly ambitious and at times does stumble , but as it rattles along at such a pace, the misteps hardly seem to matter.

A fantastic debut and being lazy it is a cross between the Carey of Illywhacker and the Chuck Palahnuik of Fight Club. I hope this is the start of a great new talent and not the literary equivalent of a one hit wonder

You can buy A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz here

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