February 11, 2010

A Fraction Of The Whole - Steve Toltz

Even though A Fraction Of The Whole had been shortlisted for the 2008 Man Booker Prize and it was by an Australian author (I like to support our home grown writers as much as possible) I was not really drawn to read this one. Then I saw the book praised very highly indeed by one of my favourite local journalists and I thought I would give it a go.

The book started out very positively for me - a striking opening paragraph to draw you in and then some funny, sharp writing to follow that introduction. The narrator of the book, Jasper Dean is in prison - for what exactly we don't know but it clear he is going to tell us eventually.

The premise of the book is that it tells the story of the Dean family. Jasper's father and uncle both become very well known identities and personalities in Australia - but both for very different reasons - and Jasper seems to be eternally caught in the middle of their fame and infamy trying to carve out an existence for himself.

The book could definitely be described as a "saga" and I don't mean that in a melodramatic, soap opera kind of way. The book covers so much in terms of time, geography and emotion. At times I thought the book was moving too fast and there was not going to be enough time to tell the whole story, but then, given that the book is 710 pages long, I admit there were times towards the end when I thought things were dragging a little.

Toltz is an amazing story teller - it felt as though Jasper was there in front of you narrating his life - there was definitely a connection and sense of empathy built even though some of the events and actions taken by the characters are (thankfully!) far outside the realm of what I would be expecting to experience in my own life!

When I finished the book my partner asked me if I had liked it and I honestly couldn't give an answer to the question because I was not sure! It was a fantastic read and an amazing story but could I say I 'liked' the story?? I'm still not sure about the answer to that one but I know that I am glad that I have read it and that I can pass it on to others. I will definitely be reading more work by this author.


Anonymous said...

people keep telling me to read this book...I think your review is the straw that's breaking this camel's back :0

*skips off to the library*


Unknown said...

I have this one on the shelf, but it never really appealed to me either. Its length is putting me off too. Your review has made it appeal a little bit more, but I think it will be a few months before I get round to it.

Anonymous said...

Interesting review! I keep seeing this in charity shops but the length puts me off. It's one I'll look out for in the library when I fancy a longer read, I think!

Teresa said...

This was my favorite of the 2008 Booker nominees, mostly for the humor and the great storytelling. I agree, though, that it could have done with some trimming, but overall, I had great fun reading this.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I think I would enjoy this book; great review - thanks

Jo said...

I've got this from the library at the moment. I'm not sure if I'll read it though, the size intimidates me, especially in hardback. It does sound good though.

Anonymous said...

This is one I have ummmed and ahhhhed about quite a lot over. I now am going to look out for it at the library tomorrow!!!

Karen said...

Hi Aimee - I hope you enjoy it!!

Hi Jackie - I know what you mean about the length. If it helps I didn't notice the length until right at the end when I thought it was time for it to end. Up until then I was flying through it - the writing was so engaging.

Hi booksnob - I think it would be the perfect book to read when you have some time to just sit back and enjoy it.

Hi Teresa - it sounds like we had very similar views about this one. The humour was great I thought.

Hi Diane - I hope you do enjoy it!

Hi Jo - I say give it a go and see how you go. If you are anything like me the start will just suck you in and you will want to keep going!

Hi Simon - I really hope you find it and enjoy it!

Anonymous said...

I think I took about two months to work my way through this. I did love the twist in the middle, and while I was getting slightly frustrated as the book was drawing to a close, I think I'm glad I read it.

Loved the start of the book though - it made me want to keep going on and on. Somewhere in the middle, something broke though, and the spark was lost.

Karen said...

Hi anothercookiecrumbles - it sounds as though we have had similar thoughts about this one. For me I was able to forgive the boringness towards the end because of the brilliance of the beginning but I understand completely what you mean.

Samantha said...

I read this one at the end of 2008 (I think!) and what I do remember of it (my long term memory is shockingly bad) is that it made me laugh out loud - always a rare thing. I also liked that the settings were places I knew but I also remember thinking it was far too long! It's hard to know who to recommend it to - other than Australians - I think ;-)