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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

Distinctive, Witty, Intelligent And Immensely Irritating

A Fraction of the Whole - Steve Toltz

I have to admit I didn't finish this. It's over 700 pages long and I got about halfway. So that pretty much invalidates this review. Except that I don't often leave a book uncompleted. There has to be a reason. In this case it was the fact that I simply didn't care about any of the characters.

What is striking about this novel is the voice. It's distinctive, witty, and intelligent. It also began to get on my nerves very quickly. I found the experience a bit like being stuck in a lift with a stand-up comedian. At first you are grateful for the stream of amusing patter and the wealth of salty anecdotes, but after a little while you tire, and after a long while you are desperate for him to shut up.

The narrator clearly suffers from verbal diarrhoea. But so does every other character. They all speak in the same larger than life, manic and wittily cynical way. Which is why it's hard to care about them. They're not real people, just extensions of the narrator.

Perhaps that's what the book is all about. Perhaps that's why it got short-listed for the Booker. I don't know. I'm afraid I just couldn't take any more.