Most helpful critical review
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The children liked it at least...
on 3 November 2012
...and that's what counts I suppose. We listened to the CD on a car journey, and our 8 and 11 year daughters thought it was funny and entertaining. It's a bonus when adults can enjoy a book as well, but we didn't think it was very well written. I found parts of it almost depressing in fact; there's no explanation for why Ben's parents are so horrible to him, and why they apparently feel utter hatred for his grandmother (who is presumably the mother of one of them.) Yes, some parents are very bad, but that's not entertaining. I suspect this is just easy characterisation, in the same vein as the repetitive cabbage gag with the granny, and the stereotypical Indian shopkeeper. In David Walliams's reading, he puts on his usual funny voices (familiar from Little Britain) for all of the adult characters, yet for Ben he uses his own normal voice, which seemed odd to me; the voice of a middle class adult cutting in makes it seem as if Ben is somehow more sensible and knowing than the dreadful adult characters, yet this is a child who is meant to be obsessed by plumbing, and so is definitely meant to have some quirky personality of his own, yet that doesn't come across as part of him. He apparently finds his Granny deadly dull, although she is a fan of thriller novels in which he has no interest, while he loves Plumbers' Weekly... does that make sense? In fact I ended up feeling that the whole plumbing thing was only there to provide the boy's knowledge for the later escapade with his granny; as a result I felt that his character just didn't stack up.
The covers and the style of writing do seem to point to a wish to follow in the footsteps of Roald Dahl, but I don't think this is at that level at all. Never mind, the children did like it.