Wednesday, 21 April 2010

A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz


DATE READ: April 2010

NOTES: A Fraction of the Whole is a cleverly constructed novel that records the heartbreaking (but funny) story of the life of Jasper Dean. Jasper’s father Martin wrote copiously of his own life and his notebooks are included. Martin (and to a lesser extent Jasper) lives very much in the shadow of his dead brother Terry. Terry is a notorious criminal who becomes an Australian folk hero even though he is clearly a despicable character. Every time Martin seems on the verge of doing something the spectre of Terry seems to arise…..

Right from the very first page the book is brimful of quirky ideas and droll observations. Although more than 700 pages long the narrative seldom lags and the reader is swept along in a tide of ideas, coincidences and outlandish incidents. On nearly every page there is a witty, wise or just plain silly saying. For instance Martin (in Paris) observes: “No wonder key existentialists were French. It’s natural to be horrified at existence when you have to pay 4 dollars for coffee.” Later Jasper is scorned by the love of his life – “To this day the memory of that look still visits me like a Jehovah’s Witness, uninvited and tireless.”

Apart from Anouk, the hippy housekeeper, I didn’t really like the main characters – but was intrigued enough to keep on reading. A Fraction of the Whole is an amazing debut novel written with great energy and exuberance. Very impressive.

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