Charlotte Street by Danny Wallace
|Charlotte Street by Danny Wallace|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Iain Wear|
|Summary: Danny Wallace makes the transition from off-the-wall comedic writing to realistic bloke-lit seemingly without breaking sweat. Mike Gayle has got some serious competition.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 416||Date: April 2013|
|Publisher: Ebury Press|
|External links: Author's website|
In his early books, Danny Wallace was the new Tony Hawks, taking on silly challenges and recounting them in amusing ways. With Charlotte Street, his first entirely fictional work, he seems to be moving into territory inhabited by Mike Gayle, that of bloke-lit. It seems a decent fit, as his book Yes Man had elements of bloke-lit, despite being based on actual events. It may have suffered from a twee ending, but it offered enough to suggest that this is a field Danny Wallace could work well in.
Jason Priestley's life isn't going quite the way he'd planned. Apart from sharing a name with a famous actor which results in comment everywhere he goes, he's also suffering from a nasty break up with an ex-girlfriend who, according to her Facebook status 'is having the time of her life' with her new boyfriend. He may be doing the job he always wanted to, as a journalist, but he's only doing that on a small free London paper which seems to have no long term future.
Then one evening, he bumps into The Girl on Charlotte Street. Helping her with her bags, he finds he has a disposable camera in his hand. Not knowing how to find her again, he develops the camera encouraged by his friend Dev and sets about tracking her down. Discovering that he is in the background of one of the photos, Jason's need to find The Girl again becomes paramount, as he feels they may have a natural connection.
Whilst the set up and some of the specific events might stretch credulity a little, Danny Wallace here does what Mike Gayle also does so well, in making the story seem very realistic. Jason has found that his dream job isn't as wonderful as he thought, his best friend is running a failing business and The Girl has had an affair with a married man. Many of us will know the feeling of seeing your former partner move on with their lives whilst you remain stuck and leaving drunken and insulting messages for them on Facebook isn’t unusual. Danny Wallace slips his story in amongst events that are well known enough to many of us to make it feel a lot more real.
I liked the writing style he uses, too. Again, like Mike Gayle, this is a gentle read that doesn't always move in a forwards direction, with the asides and events that make up real life. There may be a few overly flowery or profound statements that you wouldn't usually hear real life people saying, but for the most part he writes the dialogue in the way a lot of people would talk. This is a book that takes you away from real life by giving you real life, just a different version.
If there was one minor disappointment, it was in the ending. Although the book was set up to end the way it ultimately did, it just seemed a little too pat and contrived to fit in with the rest of the story. It wasn't unrealistic as such, just a little too neat. In real life, sometimes we don't get to see the end of the story, but with books you do and I've often found that this can be where stories like this can fall down slightly.
However, everything that leads up to that ending is a delight. Danny Wallace writes with a lightness of touch that is enjoyable and with a sense of reality that is often refreshing. Mike Gayle has been at the head of the bloke-lit genre for some time, helped by there not being any decent challengers. If Danny Wallace keeps writing like this, he'll be looking over his shoulder any day now.
Mike Gayle is the original and best writer in this particular field - for now - so check out Turning Forty by Mike Gayle
You can read more book reviews or buy Charlotte Street by Danny Wallace at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Charlotte Street by Danny Wallace at Amazon.com.
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