Books, life the universe

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Mr Toppit

I've been reading Mr Toppit by Charles Elton. This is a beautifully produced book and the description made it sound far better than it was. Yes I know that, in a sense, is the purpose of the blurb. The book is mainly narrated by Luke Hayman - the son of Arthur Hayman - who wrote 5 books known as the Hayseed Chronicles. They became famous after his death and the story concerns how the author's family dealt with the fame and fortune which ensued.

Luke himself is not a terribly interesting person and he spends most of his time complaining he can't escape from his alter ego Luke Hayseed. The book starts off with Arthur's death in his 60s as a result of stepping into the road in Soho in front of a lorry. This event seems purely designed to introduce the American TV and radio presenter Laurie who recognises him and goes with him to the hospital. She then becomes a fixture in the family which consists of Martha Hayman - Arthur's widow, Luke himself and his sister Rachel and Lila who drew the illustrations for the original books. Rachel is in and out of psychiatric hospitals most of the time and seems to have been affected by the books even though she does not feature in them - possibly because she doesn't feature in them.

Who is Mr Toppit is the question which seems to occupy the minds of all the characters as he is the mystery at the heart of the Hayseed chronicles. But it is never really answered - unless I missed it completely! My favourite character is Alma - Laurie's elderly mother who is suffering from dementia. I'm afraid the book just didn't do it for me though a lot of people seem to love it.

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