Monday, December 7, 2015

Audiobook: Mr. Toppit

Mr. Toppit by Charles Elton is about a children's book series author and how his life, death, and work have affected everyone around him.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

First Impression: I'm already halfway through this book but haven't had a chance to write about it yet. The story is pretty dark, starting out with Luke unhappy as an adult and then switching to when Arthur dies, his series unfinished and his family despondent at the end of his existence. Apparently, Elton was inspired to write the book when wondering how Christopher Robin's life would have been if he'd grown-up in the modern age of media and exposure. (Christopher Robin being the real boy who inspired the Winnie the Pooh series.) This to me is a really fantastic idea, albeit a little depressing and strange to read. My audiobook is narrated by Simon Vance, and I'm not a big fan of his voices for women, but they are distinguishable both from the male voices and from each other, so that's more important I suppose. I also find the timeline a little strange. So far, there hasn't been much point to starting the book later in Luke's life other than to cast a tone that nothing will get better for him. And Laurie's character is just strange. I don't really know what to make of her or how to understand her relationships with Marge and Alma. I'm a little curious how things will go later with Rachel and Claude or Martha and their German friend. Also, how will the story with Jordan play out, and what significance will it have in Martha and Arthur's relationship?

Conclusion: I did not expect how this book ended. Maybe I should have, given the rest of the story and the characters. Let me start with the writing style. Elton has a really great balance of dialogue and prose. His characters are very well-rounded--even some of the side characters who don't play much of a role until later. I also think his plot was somewhat realistic, given the circumstances of the characters' lives. That being said, I felt frustrated a good portion of the time reading the book--mostly on Luke's behalf. It's unfair that everyone feels justified taking over parts of his life just because a character in a children's book was named after him. Everything spins out of control, and he's caught up in the outcome. So, I'll conclude with this: I like Elton's style of writing, and I don't think the book would be much different in print than audio. The idea for the story was a unique and inspired one which grabbed my attention, and the subtle backstory that drove everything was brilliant. He made some characters appealing that I would not usually like--such as Rachel, the drama queen addict sister who probably suffers the most from everything that happens. But I couldn't fully enjoy the story, because it dragged me down quite a bit. I felt emotionally drained after finishing it. Also, I felt like Laurie should have had a crappy ending for being a crazy jerk, but maybe that's not fair. Martha is a social hog and makes everyone suffer for a mistake she made as a young woman. Alma got a crappy ending for trying to protect her ignorant daughter. I don't know--I have very mixed feelings about this book. I may read another by Elton just because his writing style was so good, but I need some time to shake this one off.

Recommendation: If you like dark fiction or family drama, this would probably be a good book for you. Think Lord of the Flies--very well-written, very depressing, and very complicated.

This is my ninth choice for the 2015 Audiobook Challenge.

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