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The Hopeless Life Of Charlie Summers Hardcover – 18 Feb 2010

33 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; First Edition; 1st printing. edition (18 Feb. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297855263
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297855262
  • Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 2.4 x 20.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 691,568 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Paul Torday was born in 1946 and read English Literature at Pembroke College, Oxford. He spent the next 30 years working in engineering and in industry, after which he scaled back his business responsibilities to fulfil a long-harboured ambition - to write.

He burst on to the literary scene in 2006 with his first novel, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, an immediate bestseller that has been sold in 19 countries.

He is married with two sons by a previous marriage and has two stepsons and lives close to the River North Tyne.

Product Description


one of the most outstanding authors to have emerged in recent years (Caroline Jowett DAILY EXPRESS)

Torday is master of blending satire with gentle humanity (Clare Longrigg PSYCHOLOGIES)

Charlie then turns up at Henry's house - and Eck begins to see a disturbing reflection of himself (Kate Saunders THE TIMES)

Charlie is a wonderful creation, at once sad and heroic, whose search for redemption attains real pathos at the end of this affecting, skilfully crafted novel (David Evans FINANCIAL TIMES)

shades of both Greene and Ambler here, both in the crispness of the exposition and the marrying of humour with something close to tragedy (John Preston THE SPECTATOR)

A beautifully told tale - we loved it! (BELLA)

A brilliant, page-turning read that combines the pace of Torday's The Girl on the Landing with his trademark humour in Salmon Fishing (GRANTA)

a fine tale. Even the worst of us, according to this novel, can find redemption (Virginina Blackburn DAILY EXPRESS)

Brilliantly and sympathetically drawn.. this wonderfully written, clever book does not miss a single trick (Wendy Moore DAILY MAIL)

Four stars (SHE)

This is his fourth novel and it too deserves to do well... It is funny, touching and ultimately surprising (Allan Massie THE SCOTSMAN)

his quietly compassionate portrait of Charlie has powerful echoes off Dickens's Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities (Claire Allfree METRO)

another deft and likeable comedy from Torday (Max Davidson MAIL ON SUNDAY)

this is a hugely readable and largely fluent novel (Elizabeth Buchan SUNDAY TIMES)

The Salmon Fishing in the Yemen author is now achieving 'must-read' status. You're in for an Eck of a good time (NEWS OF THE WORLD)

Torday's novel gives a strong impression of the callous indifference that moving around big sums of other people's money tends to entail. (David Horspool TLS)

Book Description

A modern TALE OF TWO CITIES by the bestselling author of SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By D. Harris TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 6 Jan. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I do find Paul Torday's books very readable. It helps that he has characters wandering out of one book into another and plots or themes from one book prefigured in another. But also, the world he describes seems a pleasant, sunlit place, populated by decent types with names like Hector ("Eck") Chetwode-Talbot who bump up against each other in London clubs and never have to do a 9-to-5 job. Instead they live on inheritances or farm a bit. There might be some trauma in the background - in Eck's case, a nasty experience in Afghanistan - but it's kept at arm's length. As Eck says in "The Hopeless Life of Charlie Summers", none of them are ever really on the edge.

Or so you might think. There comes a time, though, when the music stops, and most of the chairs have disappeared. In this book, Torday describes the recent financial crash. Eck is a roper-in for a London hedge fund, encouraging his wealthy friends to put their money in his company's "Styx II" fund. The Charlie of the title is a lower level conman, selling dodgy dog food and beetroot wine from the back of a rented van, stretching his credit and vanishing when things get too hot. What, the book asks, is the real difference between them? It's perhaps a fairly obvious point, and certainly not a subtle analysis of the crash, but Torday's characters are compelling (except the real villains, who are perhaps a bit cardboard). I did see how it would all end when I was three quarters of the way through, but it's fun to read and still quite compulsive - I had to sit up last night to finish it.

Properly I'd like to give 3.5 stars but as I can't, 4 rather than 3 for sheer verve and readability.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Kanga Cupcake on 14 July 2010
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book so much that I immediately went out and bought another book by Paul Torday. With someone who writes as well as this, I don't think you can really go wrong.
I couldn't put the book down. The plot was ingenious, the themes topical, the characterization very credible and as an added bonus, it had me laughing out loud. That's not to say that it was a comedy. There are definitely some scary parts and one or two very scary characters. And the ending is terribly sad.
However, everything flowed, all details were relevant, and Mr Torday is a very competent and compelling storyteller.
I only wish that really good books like this would get more attention, but sadly, it's often the so-called bestsellers that end up being a disappointment. You won't get that here.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Janie U VINE VOICE on 8 Dec. 2012
Format: Paperback
I had enjoyed two of Paul Tordays earlier books and thought I would give this a go.
The tale is told by Hector, who is a "greeter" for a hedge fund company, attracting new clients and comforting existing investors. He observes his experiences in a comfortable way which is very easy to read and gets around the problem of relating events where he is not present by referring to stories being told to him later in time, quite a clever way of getting around a problem with a first person narrative.
I was hooked into the plot from the first page of the prologue. The story has financial blind optimism at its heart which creates a wonderful feeling of inevitable gloom in you as you are reading, as you know better than Hector about the future prospects for the investments.
There are many novels which have used the financial boom and bust as a backdrop. This one approaches the economic crisis in a very matter of fact and easy of understand way which links in well with the plot of the story.
It's a great story with some lovely characters whose only criticism can be that they are slightly overplayed. That aside it is a good fun book to read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By biggest Joni fan ever on 14 Jan. 2011
Format: Paperback
I have read all Paul Torday's books up to date and this one did not disappoint. As the plot has been outlined in other reviews, I will keep this brief and just say ''The Hopeless Life of Charlie Summers'' is another great read. His earlier novels, like this one, are a mixture of humour and (often) sadness - his characters usually somewhat flawed but likeable. There is always an unusual twist to look forward to. I so enjoyed this latest novel and urge others to read it. It's impossible not to like ''Eck'' and Charlie Summers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 14 May 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Pros - It's well written, and the financial backdrop and jargon seem well observed. It's also interesting (if you've read any of the author's other novels)to see how the lives of characters from other tales intersect with the characters in this story.

Cons - The parallels between Charlie the low level conman and Eck the hedge fund financial salesman are too laboriously worked, to the point where it is in danger of becoming a finger wagging morality fable. Also given that we all know the outcome of the financial shenanigans described, the reader can accurately predict the fates of Eck, James and Bilbo right from the outset. We are constantly reminded of the physical resemblance between Charlie and Eck, so the "mistaken identity" twist is also quite predictable once you hit the last few chapters.

It's written in the author's usual pleasant (if bittersweet) style, it's not a demanding or exciting read, but the main characters are well drawn, and it's a reasonably interesting read.
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