Who is Tom Ditto? by Danny Wallace

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Who is Tom Ditto? by Danny Wallace

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sam Tyler
Reviewed by Sam Tyler
Summary: When Tom arrives at home to find that his girlfriend has gone, yet supposedly not left him, what can he do? Like any rational bloke he sets out to find her and uncovers a strange group that have a hobby most people would frown about. 'Who is Tom Ditto' is a funny and heartfelt novel about looking for someone, but discovering yourself.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: April 2014
Publisher: Ebury Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780091919030

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Danny Wallace is the foremost exponent of ‘Bet Based Non-Fiction’ that I know. This is when a bloke says something daft in the pub and follows through; Wallace has started his own cult, his own nation and said Yes to absolutely everything. However, some things are fine as a quirky adventure in the real world, but following people around London and copying their every move? That sounds a little like stalking to me and should perhaps be best explored in the world of fiction. In a world like Danny Wallace’s new novel ‘Who Is Tom Ditto?’

Is it the Tom who works as a news reader for a London based talk radio show? One day he returns home to find a note from his girlfriend saying that she has gone, but has not left him. What on Earth does that mean? Tom decides to investigate where Hayley has disappeared to and soon finds a secret club whose members wish to be someone else. Can Tom enlist the help of the eccentric Pia to search for his girlfriend and will he find out more about himself in the meantime?

The great things about all of Wallace’s books, both fiction and non-fiction, is the heart. Wallace has a wonderfully warm way of writing that is witty and intelligent, always making you feel uplifted by the end. ‘Tom Ditto’ is his darkest project to date and builds upon the fine work seen in his first work of fiction ‘Charlotte Street’. That book was about someone discovering a disposable camera and using the images to find the women who dropped it; ‘Tom Ditto’ takes this concept of mild stalking and builds upon it.

At its heart ‘Tom Ditto’ is a mystery novel. There may be no murders, but there is certainly a missing person. What has happened to Hayley? The book takes a while to warm up and actually start telling us, we have to get through Tom’s anger and denial before he reaches some acceptance and start to do something about it. At this point the book opens up. The idea of following strangers is a dark one, but Wallace uses it to show wonder. Where is that dapper gentleman going? Are that couple married or having an affair? The middle third of the book is a joyous adventure as Tom and Pia set out on adventures of discovery, not unlike those seen in Wallace’s non-fiction outings.

It may be that the premise for ‘Tom Ditto’ is a non-fiction concept that Wallace rejected. How can he possibly follow people unwittingly and write about it? By moving the idea into a work of fiction he can explore the idea and create characters too. It is in this area that Wallace has developed more than any other. Tom is a rounded character whose fight with depression adds yet another layer to the book. All of a sudden this is not a book about a jolly series of adventures, but damaged people finding one another after apparently lacking something in their own life.

There is a darkness that permeates the book at times, but that is offset nicely by Wallace’s deft use of humour. The Talk Radio elements of the novel are very amusing and the inane work emails cut a little close to the bone at times. There is also one excellent side thread that secretly hides, only to pop up towards the end. Wallace uses real intelligence to weave elements of the story together.

‘Who is Tom Ditto’ is Danny Wallace’s most accomplished book to date, but perhaps not his best. Its slow start and darkness means that it lacks the sheer joy I loved from [Charlotte Street by Danny Wallace|Charlotte Street]] and Yes Man. What it does show is a real progression in style that suggest he is not far from hitting the right balance between heart, character development and tone. Check out Tom Ditto and the whole body of Wallace’s work, this is an author who is one to watch in the coming years.

If this book appeals then you might like Charlotte Street by Danny Wallace and Boomsday by Christopher Buckley.

Buy Who is Tom Ditto? by Danny Wallace at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Who is Tom Ditto? by Danny Wallace at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Who is Tom Ditto? by Danny Wallace at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Who is Tom Ditto? by Danny Wallace at Amazon.com.


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