A Fraction of the Whole

I’ve been listening to the audiobook of A Fraction of the Whole, with the intention of posting something about it when I’m done. However, it’s 25+ hours long (good!), and I’m not going to finish it for a while yet. And I found a review, Sue Arnold’s in The Guardian, that says it better than I could. Every word is true. I don’t doubt that the book would be a joy to read, but the readers here are so perfect that, well, you’ll see. Or hear.

(This is part of Arnold’s series on audiobook choices; I look forward to reading the others Real Soon Now.)

Five down, one to go. I’m slowly making my way through last year’s Booker shortlist and, unless Sebastian Barry’s The Secret Scripture proves to be invincible, this extraordinary Australian debut novel about, well, everything really — families, crime, celebrity, philosophy, religion, sport, relationships, travel and above all the search for identity — will have been my winning choice. To give any of the plot away would spoil the surprises, and it’s full of wonderful surprises. The story is told alternately by Martin Dean – paranoid, intellectually brilliant, dysfunctional, achingly funny wannabe philosopher from a hick town voted the most boring in Australia — and his son Jasper, ditto. The frenetic action — prison revolts, serial killing, bush fires, exploding river barges carrying guns/drugs — swerves wildly between Poland, China, Australia, France and Thailand. Toltz’s wit is as good as Clive James’s, though maybe darker, and he can be lyrical, too: “the rhythms of the universe were perceptible in the way the boats were nodding at me.” Brilliantly read by both actors to make you mourn as much as laugh, this David Copperfield Down Under on speed with son is an epic in every sense, including length. But don’t be tempted, even if there is one, to get an abridged version. Every macabre detail, every chaotic incident, every wisecrack is an essential fraction of the whole. Heartfelt thanks to Whole Story Audio for getting this and half the other 2008 Booker shortlist out so quickly. To cut a single sentence would be criminal.

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