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A Fraction of the Whole Kindle Edition

170 customer reviews

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Length: 546 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Fortune Smiles
2015 National Book Awards - Fiction Winner
Get your copy of this year's National Book Award winner for fiction, "Fortune Smiles" by Adam Johnson. Hardcover | Kindle book | See more winners

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. At the heart of this sprawling, dizzying debut from a quirky, assured Australian writer are two men: Jasper Dean, a judgmental but forgiving son, and Martin, his brilliant but dysfunctional father. Jasper, in an Australian prison in his early 20s, scribbles out the story of their picaresque adventures, noting cryptically early on that [m]y father's body will never be found. As he tells it, Jasper has been uneasily bonded to his father through thick and thin, which includes Martin's stint managing a squalid strip club during Jasper's adolescence; an Australian outback home literally hidden within impenetrable mazes; Martin's ill-fated scheme to make every Australian a millionaire; and a feverish odyssey through Thailand's menacing jungles. Toltz's exuberant, looping narrative—thick with his characters' outsized longings and with their crazy arguments—sometimes blows past plot entirely, but comic drive and Toltz's far-out imagination carry the epic story, which puts the two (and Martin's own nemesis, his outlaw brother, Terry) on an irreverent roller-coaster ride from obscurity to infamy. Comparisons to Special Topics in Calamity Physics are likely, but this nutty tour de force has a more tender, more worldly spin. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“Comic drive and Steve Toltz’s far-out imagination carry the epic story . . . a nutty tour de force.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“This hilarious, sneaky smart first novel is as big and rangy as Australia . . . Toltz salts it all with uproarious ruminations on freedom, the soul, love, death, and the meaning of life. This is one rampaging and irresistible debut.” —Booklist, starred review

“A fantastic, rollicking adventure of a novel, both startlingly
original and hysterically funny. Surely this is
the new picaresque, rivaling Ignatius Reilly and Billy Bathgate.”
—David Francis, author of The Great Inland Sea

Product Details

  • File Size: 1482 KB
  • Print Length: 546 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau (February 12, 2008)
  • Publication Date: February 12, 2008
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0013A1JAQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #151,811 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Mark Eremite VINE VOICE on December 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Writing is about, if anything, ideas. And Steve Toltz has a lot of them. His book, "A Fraction of the Whole," is a sprawling stew of philosophies and ruminations, a grand fictive enterprise teeming with two-sided arguments over everything from the meaning of life to the horror of death. There's no doubting that Toltz's ambitions are lofty, but his prose is loopy and lanky. The end result may be a bit bloated, but it's also dangerously close to being brilliant.

Martin Dean, a moderately deranged father, and Jasper, his emotionally stunted son, form the core of the novel. Although their individual and combined stories concern things like espionage, mental hospitals, murder sprees, comas, first loves, and the burning down of an entire town, most of the story actually takes place in the plotless morass of these guys' heads. Both Martin and Jasper shudder when they are labeled philosophers, but they seem unable to do much more than let life wash over them while they try vainly to sift purpose and justification out of the foamy waves.

Toltz may be brimming with interesting bon mots and thought-provoking insights, his story may be almost obsessively concerned with the cold, shuddering stop that comes at the end of life's twisted coil (four separate characters commit suicide), but his writing is agile and clever enough to shrug off the ponderous gloom that normally comes with such a dark and dismal subject matter. Martin and Jasper never miss an opportunity to analyze the weird and warped ways of life and its inevitabilities, but at least they do it without taking themselves too seriously. They are like clowns smirking under painted frowns. And what is a clown, anyway, except a philosopher with flashier clothing?
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By wbjonesjr1 on March 23, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was a really tough book to get through. I only did because I thought the writing was outstanding. Tolz is a literary virtuoso. There are great positives in this book, from the overall originality of the novel; to the very moving and powerful climax; to an extraordinarily original and intricate plot; through Tolz's writing. But there are also aspects that irritate and almost made me give up halfway. These are:

- the characters are impossible to like. This applies to Martin and Jasper Dean, both of whom are just too wierd and eccentric and self-important to care about. The review on the cover page comparing this novel to " A Confederacy of Dunces" does "Confederacy..." a disservice: Ignatius O Reilly is also wierd and eccentric and self important but he was comic and pathetic in a way that the Deans never manage to be. By the way, its not easy to like much any of the secondary characters either...

- some plot twists are hard to handle, eg. Anouk's transformation from hippy into "one of the richest women in Australia";

- while the book had a hugely entertaining first 100 or so pages and equally excellent final 100 pages, the middle was boring at times, irratating at others (where it seems Tolz wants to show he's read every book on philosophy ever written). The one exception here is the part involving bullying and suicides at Jasper's school, which is really really emotionally devastating - enough so to make one persist through the book in search of more of the same power (which does finally happen).

3 stars therefore for exceptional power and excellent writing, versus some (rather lengthy) deeply irritating sections and unsympathetic characters. But I'm very curious to see what Tolz will come up with next
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By John Standiford VINE VOICE on February 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Every once in awhile you get the opportunity to read a book that comes close to astounding you, but you're not really sure why. In this debut book by author Steve Toltz, A Fraction of the Whole will demand your attention. It's a book about a remarkably dysfunctional family, the Deans of New South Wales, Australia. It's primarily about Martin Dean as remembered by his son Jasper. Unfortunately, Martin Dean's life is overshadowed by his brother, a notorious and somewhat beloved and infamous criminal.

Martin Dean is truly a loser in almost every sense of the word, but the story that is told in this book about his quirky life and relationships raises a number of great points and will stay with you long after you have scanned the last page.

Among the issues to think about are the bonds of family, what truly makes a worthwhile and happy life, and some interesting commentary regarding what it is to be Australian and the impact of nationalism.

Overall, it's one of the better books I've read in a long time that made me laugh, angered me at times, caused me to think, but never had me question why I chose to read it.

I give it a strong recommendation.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By M. A. Filippelli VINE VOICE on February 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
An interesting story about Father - son(s) relationships in some very odd situations. It is well written. Toltz describes the situations in complete detail. Some of the situations are ridiculous but make total sense based on the characters personalities, some funny situations and some ridiculously funny situations. It's very easy to immerse yourself in the story. Toltz does a good job of setting up the story starting out with setting up how these characters came to be and their genetic make up according to the stories told by the Father. The story is told in a fairly detailed and descriptive way. I do like the narrative style of this book.

Through these characters you get to travel to many different places. It's quite an adventure. It's a crazy zany story that just could happen. It's fiction in a non fiction way in that the story is well written and the characters are believable

This is an excellent fist novel that reads like a seasoned writer had written it.
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