You’ll either love it or hate it. A Fraction of the Whole is Steve Toltz’s debut novel filled with unpredictable twists and turns in Jasper Dean’s journey to find his identity as well as to discover and unveil the Dean family history.
With the first chapter starting like this: “You never hear about a sportsman losing his sense of smell in a tragic accident, and for good reason; in order for the universe to teach excruciating lessons that we are unable to apply in later life, the sportsman must lose his legs, the philosopher his mind, the painter his eyes, the musician his ears, the chef his tongue. My less? I have lost my freedom and found myself in this strange prison, where the trickiest adjustment, other than getting used to not having anything in my pockets and being treated like a dog that pissed in a sacred temple, is the boredom. I can handle the enthusiastic brutality of the guards, the wasted erections, even the suffocating heat. (Apparently air-conditioning offends society’s notion of punishment – as if by being a little cool we are getting away with murder.)” … I couldn’t put the book down for the first sixty pages. Rather than my curiosity, it was the tone that pulled me into the novel. The excerpt pretty much summarizes the tone of the book until its very last page. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing but I’ll let you decide.
Jasper Dean is the son of Martin Dean, who is the older brother of Terry Dean, who was an infamous criminal in their small Australian hometown, who ironically spent years in a prison that their father had built. Martin teaches his son the philosophical values and meanings of life by diffusing the stories of his earlier life with the Dean’s family past. Jasper slowly learns of his mother’s mysterious absence and why his father had constantly been striving to be different from the rest of society. The book is comical and witty but it lacks sophistication in characterization, which most often than not makes the characters more appealing. A good leisure read.
dee’s recommendation: 3/5