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Steve Toltz was born in Sydney. After graduating from Newcastle University in 1994, he has lived in Sydney, Montreal, Vancouver, Barcelona and Paris, working primarily as a screenwriter and freelance writer, but also doing stints as both a private investigator and an English teacher. A Fraction of the Whole is his first book.
'A fat book but very light on its feet, skipping from anecdote, to rant, to reflection, like a stone skimming across a pond ... it is brilliant' Guardian 'If first novels were sandwiches, Steve Toltz's would be a juicy, swaggering doorstop of a sarnie, overflowing with eccentrically combined but delicious ingredients ... Toltz is a superb phrase-maker with an acute eye for humanity's shortfalls' Big Issue 'A grand achievement and the debut of a great comic talent ... go away and read it' Sunday Times 'Sparkling comic writing...It gives off the unmistakeable whiff of a book that might just contain the secret of life.' Independent 'With tinges of magical realism and buckets of misanthropic humour it's a clever and funny debut.' Observer
A Fraction of the Whole is an ambitious, lively, ebullient novel that is funny, philosophical and always has an eye on the foibles of life. With arms wide open for its world, this is a picaresque, meandering tale on a grand scale. Restraint has been thrown out the window in favour of capturing the lives of its oddball, flawed and yet strangely resonant characters. The story revolves around the Dean family- Jasper, a judgemental but ultimately forgiving son and his father Martin, a deeply eccentric man with an often unfortunate relationship with life and the world. Jasper begins the story locked up in a prison, remarking cryptically that 'his father's body will never be found.' While we never know at this stage just what this means, or why Jasper is in prison, Jasper takes this opportunity to fill us in on his life, and the life of his father and uncle, the famous and much-loved Ned-Kelleysque Terry Dean. As Jasper recounts the story of Martin's early years in a small town on the outskirts of Sydney-a town that's central purpose seems to be building and supporting a prison-we learn quite quickly that Martin's developing misanthropy is a product of his environment and circumstance. While his brother, Terry, seems to have the gift of leadership and is destined for a kind of thwarted fame. In other sections of this vast novel, we learn of Martin's relationship with Jasper's mother, and the development of the deep and abiding relationship that Jasper and his father share, as well as the capacity Jasper has to forgive the excesses of a man whose eccentricity borders on madness. There are plenty of adventures to be had throughout the book, which include Martin's stint managing a squalid strip club; Martin's misjudged scheme to make every Australian a millionaire; and a feverish odyssey through Thailand's menacing jungles. It's almost like being holed up by a compelling story teller who you suspect is pulling your leg, but whose power of narrative doesn't let you go. The book does have its problems though. This is an overconfident debut that, while exuberant, lacks self-knowledge and becomes wrapped up in its own self-importance. I could have done with a bit less of the beer-coaster philosophy and with a bit more suspicion that there was something meaningful at the heart of all those fireworks. Nevertheless, it's an exhilarating tale that will engross many Australian readers. Shane Strange is a bookseller at Riverbend Books, voted Australian Independent Bookstore of the year 2007