Jason Priestley (not THE Jason Priestley) is a former teacher, now working as a journalist on a free newspaper. One day he sees an attractive woman loaded down with bags struggling to get into a taxi and goes to help. As she drives away he realises he is holding her disposable camera. Once his best friend persuades him to have the photos developed in case they reveal some clue as to her identity so they can return them to her he discovers that he is in one of the pictures and realises he is in love...
It's a simple premise but is engagingly written in Danny Wallace's usual light, amiable style. If you've read any of his previous books such as "Yes Man" or "Join Me" you'll be familiar with his slightly wide-eyed and innocent view of the world, and this, his first novel, is no great departure from his usual approach. In some respects the book is essentially one of his usual works in that he travels from place to place, seeking something (in "Join Me" he would travel to meet people who wished to "join" him, and in this he travels to the locations depicted in the photographs) but as the book progresses it turns into something slightly different, more of a book about a group of friends and their relationships, rather like the film "Notting Hill" in a sense. By the end I found I liked the characters quite a lot, and although I didn't find the book remotely funny it did give me a warm glow of happiness.
Criticisms? As I said earlier, in some ways it does seem a bit like a fictionalised version of one of his previous books, as though he's decided to write a novel but stayed in his comfort zone, sticking with what he knows works for him. It seems to take a long time - just short of 100 pages - to actually get going too, and before then there is a lot of "don't Polish products have funny names?" type humour, along with numerous mentions of places in London which, for those of us who don't live in London, are rather meaningless: for example he namechecks various roads, and when he says there is something special about Charlotte Street he doesn't actually seem to want to describe it, to explain what it is that seems special. Towards the middle of the book I also thought it lost its way a little, and maybe fifty or so pages could have been trimmed (the book is just over 400 pages long.) I also felt that, despite it being fairly predictable and alluded to throughout the book, the ending felt a little tacked-on, as though someone had insisted Wallace should add one final page.
All in all though it's a very entertaining and amiable book, a little flabby around the middle maybe, but I can already imagine seeing an awful lot of people reading this on sun loungers around the pool and on the beach whilst on holiday, and the inevitable movie somewhere down the line. Recommended.
When I've seen Danny Wallace him on TV as a presenter or as a guest on a panel show I've always liked him, without really knowing why. I guess it's his charm and humour, both of which are evident in this his first novel. When I started reading I thought that it was a bit slow to start and the story just seemed very inconsequential, with the two leading characters like a British version of characters in a US slacker comedy film. However, that Wallace charm got to work and I got into the book, I got to like the two main protagonists and also many of the supporting cast of characters and I became intrigued by their task. Not a lot actually happens in the book and I thought that it was much better dealing with male friendship than with male/female relationships.
Although I did enjoy the novel it isn't a perfect book, I still consider that it was inconsequential and I thought that there were problems with the pacing and I didn't like the device of including the 'Shona blogs'. Also I didn't like the ending, at first we seemed to be heading for a non resolution which would at least have been realistic but then the final coda just seemed tacked on, as though the publisher had insisted on a happy ending, or is Danny looking for another Hollywood film?
on 3 August 2013
As a long time fan of Danny Wallace, I found this a tricky to read a times as the first person perspective makes it feel like many of his other madcap adventures rather than a work of fiction, not that this is necessarily a bad thing it just makes it difficult to separate Wallace from the character. That said, other characters such as Dev and Matt are brilliantly constructed and add much of the humour to the novel. Perhaps a bit meandering and frustrating in places but ultimately a really enjoyable read. I'll be interested to see what his next novel is like.
on 2 May 2014
This is such a fun read, but nothing 'too heavy', so perfect to read on commutes; I've found myself enjoying it so much that I've been taking longer and slower journeys (going the long way around and/or making more stops along the way) to allow myself more time to read. Sitting on the tube with a big smile on your face may scare other commuters, though...
on 11 May 2012
Jason Priestly (no, not that one) is left standing on the corner of Charlotte Street holding a disposable camera. The Girl has left it behind but it's too late to hand it back and he doesn't know who she is. His flatmate and best mate, Dev, thinks they should get the film developed and look for clues to her identity. Jason thinks they're bordering on stalking. Yet, there's a link, a tenuous one at best, and they team up with ex-pupil, Matt, to uncover the pattern in the photos.
Jason's had a rough time of things lately. The prologue is rather dark and may leave you feeling, just for a moment, that this isn't the humorous book you were expecting. Whilst it does have its serious side, it's full of Danny's trademark, charming humour. Just like the funny parts are funny because they are grounded in reality, the characters are incredibly real and that includes their faults. Humour can often be a mask to hide behind.
It's one of those books that captures the current day of normal people like you and me. They may get a bit drunk and say stupid things on Facebook when their ex is happy and engaged. They might create fantasies out of people they bump into on the street and may never see again. Yet there's that hope that they might. They might not be all that great at their jobs but muddle through anyway. There's a hint of recession but nothing overwhelming to the plot, just enough to place it in the now.
As a photographer who has moved from film to digital, I loved the little photography metaphors. Photographs have become so less special in the digital age, yet there are still thousands who love that finite quality of a roll of film. I also love how the story of The Girl unravels through the photographs.
Danny's first foray into fiction has been a huge success. I did at times picture Jason as Danny himself, which is difficult when a writer has done so much autobiographical writing, yet as the story develops Jason becomes his own person. The characterisation is spot on and I just wanted to keep reading about their lives, but alas, all good things must come to an end.
on 25 October 2013
Funny, sweet and somehow genuine. I really enjoyed reading this novel. It was a bit like One Day (also a great book) without the sadness. Perhaps the most redeeming feature of the novel isn't the male/female romance element, but the bromance between three of the main characters, which is also responsible for much of the book's comic appeal. Perhaps this isn't the most profound novel in the world but it's certainly enjoyable.
on 24 May 2014
Having hit the two-star button above, I'm going to start by admitting that Charlotte Street is enjoyable. I found it mostly inoffensive, occasionally amusing, and I did in fact manage to finish it - although I skipped big chunks of inner-voice commentary from the hero.
The hero Jason spends the novel tracking down A Girl using a packet of her photos that he has ended up in possession of. In the process, he discovers what real friendship is, what he really wants in life, and.. stuff like that. Yes, I know. He accumulates a collection of quirky friends in the process, all of whom he treats badly at one time or another, and all of whom forgive him. I guess he's just too lovable to resist, hmm? Jason is working as a reviewer for a struggling London free newspaper and this "job" leaves him plenty of time to hang out with his quirky best mate, pine after his idealised ex-girlfriend, be confused about his feelings for a spiky younger woman, and track down The Girl.
This is carefully modern, metrosexual bloke-lit, and feels engineered to be likeable and inclusive. Our hero's name is Jason Priestley and that joke is worn rather thin (and perhaps rather target's Wallace's (un)intended audience to thirty-somethings).
There are some promising plot-threads: the novel starts with a genuinely engaging classroom trauma; there's genuine comedy in some of his inept reviews. But it's all tied up at the end with absurdly neatness. So... cannot recommend.
on 21 September 2013
I've read, and loved everything Danny Wallace has written. I've always got caught up in the moment of his other books. I'd advise everyone to buy Random Acts of Kindness, it'll make you a better person, but I digress.
As usual, I fell head over heels in love with this book, his first novel. The draw back with this was I couldn't put it down, read it far too quickly, and now I can't wait for his next book!
Its a truly an excellent read, which had me gripped from start to finish, going through the proverbial roller coaster of emotions, both loving and hating the main protagonist, and then loving him again.
If I've got to give a balance to my gushing, I would say that I can see a lot of Danny in the Jason Priestley character. It doesn't appear that its been a stretch for him to write. But that's just nit picking.
Generally, a fantastic story, if you've enjoyed any of Danny's work before, you'll love this. Buy it now!
on 20 September 2012
I have enjoyed my (admittedly limited) forays into the non-fiction work of Danny Wallace before, so was keen to try his debut novel. The synopsis is thus: Jason Priestly (no, not that one) a former teacher, now struggling freelance journalist, bumps into a stranger on Charlotte Street in London one day. As he helps her pick up her stuff and clamber into a taxi, he finds he is left standing with a disposable camera in his hand. Captivated by this girl and easily influenced by his friends, he gets the film developed and tries to track her down through her random assortment of pictures.
Personally, I found the beginning of the book slow going. Jason isn't the most dynamic character in the world: He has screwed up his previous relationship, plus felt he couldn't cope with his job as a teacher and seemingly is drifting along with no real direction. Eventually the cast of supporting characters helps the book pick up pace a bit. Poor Jason can't seem to do anything right and with reflection, his best ideas, however well-intentioned, haven't really been that good.
Jason seems to be a bit of a screw-up and at times rather pathetic, but as I have mentioned above, most of his efforts are well-intentioned, if misguided and that means you stay on his side and root for him. The character of Jason is well-written as are the supporting characters to varying degrees. I found them well-drawn and easy to imagine. The story generally was good, and there was more to it than just a search (which at times bordered on stalking) of a random girl. However, whilst I mostly enjoyed the light humour of the story (never `laugh-out-loud') it did seem to meander in occasional places, and lose direction slightly. Generally the book is well-written and a good, easy read without becoming `pulp' or trashy.
I assumed the book would fall under the `lad-lit' genre, but I think that it is doing it a slight dis-service, I think it is certainly accessible to the female reader; it isn't crude or `bloke-ish'.
Whilst I enjoy Wallace's writing style and subtle humour and generally enjoyed the book, I did find it slow to get going and think it could be tighter at the beginning. The various strands of the story detracted from the original premise (a girl who loses her disposable camera) to the extent that the book wasn't necessarily about that but a meandering tale of a few months in Jason's life. Ideally I would give this book 3.5 stars, but that isn't an option. I'll knock off the extra half a star as it didn't live up to my expectations.
They say all authors represent themselves in their own novels in some way. Often this can be almost imperceptible; after all, authors who write so vividly about axe wielding maniacs rarely turn out to be drooling psychopaths themselves. Other times, particularly a problem for those in the media limelight, the author writes so much in their own voice that it's practically impossible to separate them from their fictional creations.
It's a subjective matter whether this is a flaw or a talent in itself, but, in Charlotte Street, Danny Wallace certainly falls into the latter category.
Having read and enjoyed his previous non-fiction books, I was quite intrigued to read Danny Wallace's first foray into fiction. In Charlotte Street's main protagonist, one Jason Priestley (not THAT one), I found a very familiar voice and style and couldn't picture the lovelorn Jason as anything other than Mr Wallace himself. Fortunately, I rather like Danny and his writing style. I find him a likeable, charming and witty fellow which, in the end, are fitting words to describe this début novel.
The premise of the story is that a recently heartbroken young man, Jason, picks up a camera dropped by a girl, possibly THE girl, who hops in a taxi before he can hand it to her but not before she steals his heart with the briefest of smiles. The rest of the novel follows his attempts to find the girl, he hopes, of his dreams whilst, in the process, deftly managing to neglect all the things he should be taking care of like the small matters of his life, career and friendships.
The interesting thing is how Jason's pursuit, or possibly "stalking" depending on how harsh you're feeling, of "the girl" is something of the spine of the story rather than the meat on its bones. It's what happens around and because of this infatuation that provides the narrative thrust, as the new characters he consequently meets slowly force him to take a long, hard at his life.
So, in essence, the novel is a modern romance that should appeal equally to women and the modern "reconstructed" man. It never falls into schmaltz and deftly skips around the tiresome self pitying or whining often so prevalent in the genre. In fact, the entire book retains a level of fun throughout and is never less than a pleasure to read and the "will he/won't he" set up keeps the pages effortlessly turning.
In short it's a perfect Summer read; fun, not too taxing but substantial enough to engage and, if you enjoyed the likes of "Yes Man", you should very much enjoy a walk down Charlotte Street.