Mr. Toppit by Charles Elton
Published by: Other Press
Published on: November 2010
Page Count: 400
My Reading Format: Audiobook purchased using Audible.com credits
Audiobook Released By: Blackstone Audio
Narrator: Simon Vance
Audiobook Length: 10 hours 21 minutes
Available Formats: Paperback, eBook, audiobook
Spoiler Alert: To avoid spoilers, skip reading the bulleted list.
When I got the opportunity to visit with Jen from Devourer of Books in November, we spent a lot of time talking about books we’ve read and want to read. Shocker, I know. One of the books she mentioned reading in audio was Mr. Toppit by Charles Elton. When she mentioned that it was narrated by Simon Vance, I jumped right on the bandwagon with her. My Audible credits were due to refresh within the next week, so I bought it right away.
In lieu of my traditional review format, I thought I would summarize my thoughts and feelings along with discussion points with Jen in a few bullet points. Unfortunately, I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to do so without revealing more of the plot than I’d normally be comfortable with. If you don’t want to run into any spoilers, please jump to My Final Thoughts:
- I was hoping this book would have a dark, Gothic feel. You have this mysterious Mr. Toppit for whom the book is titled and a young man living in the aftermath of his father’s hugely popular children’s books. Sadly, this was not the case. While there were some strange things that happened, namely the entire arc of the story dealing with Laurie, Mr. Toppit was more a curiosity than a mystery. Most importantly, he was never a) a menace or b) truly revealed.
- There was not a single, solitary character in this novel that I liked even the least bit. While it’s not necessary for a book to have likable characters in order for me to enjoy, it is important to me when the book is more about a concept than a story. Characters are what drive me to explore within a story. After some time spent with these characters, it felt like I was just putting in my time to complete it.
- During our reading, Jen pointed out correctly that Mr. Toppit is about celebrity and success. Luke did nothing to to create his own fame, yet he had to live with the consequences because his father named the lead character in his Hayseed books Luke. While discussing this with Jen afterward, it occurred to me that Mr. Toppit was, to borrow from Lady Gaga, a fame monster.
- Simon Vance’s narration is probably the only thing that kept me interested in Mr. Toppit. I enjoyed hearing his American accents, especially Laurie’s. Hands down, that was the most amusing part of the entire novel. Now, there are some novels that I feel would have worked better for me in print than audio. I don’t believe this is one of them, though.
- Both Jen and I recognized the danger of using Simon Vance to help us through a tough read. We don’t want to get to the point where his voice gives us a negative Pavlovian response.
My Final Thoughts
Mr. Toppit was interesting in its look at the way unexpected fame and fortune impacts a family and those involved with them. Perhaps if I hadn’t gone into it hoping for Gothic darkness I might have liked it better. Then again, I might not have picked it up at all. Elton’s novel is by no means the worst book I’ve read this year, but it is far from the best. If I had a rating system, I’d give it a 5 out of 10. Since I don’t, I’ll just close by saying that Mr. Toppit was just okay for me.
Jen will also be posting her review today. Be sure to check out her review on Devourer of Books today!