Thursday, April 02, 2009

A Fraction of the Whole

Author: Steve Toltz Publication Date: 2008 Category: Australian Fiction, Literary Fiction Who'll want to read it? Adults willing to commit to a 710 page book. Point of no return: First page: "There's a female guard whose stare of indifference is alluring, but I've never been good at chasing women - I always take no for an answer." Classic line: I could quote you the first 50 pages of this book, each line better than the last, but I'll give you an episode from page 8 where Jasper talks about being raised by his eccentric father: "He taught me if I had to meet someone for an appointment, I must refuse to follow the 'stupid human habit' of arbitrarily choosing a time based on fifteen minute intervals. 'Never meet people at 7:45 or 6:30, Jasper, but pick times like 7:12 and 8:03!' If the phone rang he'd pick it up and not say anything - then, when the other person said hello, he would put on a wobbly high-pitched voice and say, 'Dad not home'. Even as a child I knew that a grown man impersonating his six year old son to hide from the world was grotesque..." What's it all about? Set in Australia, France and Thailand, it's the story of Martin, Terry and Jasper Dean and, if not the Human Condition, then certainly the Australian Condition. It's tragic, it's funny and it's captivating. It even has a Sizzler restaurant in it. Martin and Terry are brothers growing up in a town near a prison. Martin is intelligent, but weird. Terry is great at sports, and obsessive about it too, until a stab wound to his thigh changes all of that. Watch the circumstances leading to young Terry chanelling his obsession in a destructive manner instead. Watch as he influences his brother's and his nephew's lives for years to come. I'm not ignoring Jasper on purpose, it's just that I think I'd give too much away. It really is Jasper's story and he tells it well. If he existed I'd like to meet him, preferably when he sorts himself and his heritage out. This is a fascinating story of cause and effect - seemingly innocent choices made by the characters' wreak monstrous results one after another. I'm so glad I read this book. Publisher: Penguin Books

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