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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Putting time wasted to good use
Author Dominic Hutton was so sick of being late for work that he started a blog detailing his letters to the Managing Director of train operative First Great Western. The blog became a hit as fellow commuters felt his pain as we all have to suffer unexplained delays that mess up our lives - wrong type of snow, leaves on the line and the catering water boiler failing etc...
Published 7 months ago by Tommy Dooley

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3.0 out of 5 stars Quirky
After hearing that the book started life as a real blog of letters actually exchanged between the author and a commuter rail company, I looked up the blog and found the content interesting enough to try the book. I wasn't dissapointed, this is a fun little read that chugs along giving a diarists insight into commuting and is down to earth enough to be familiar to...
Published 3 months ago by Andrew Riley


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Putting time wasted to good use, 22 Feb 2014
By 
Tommy Dooley (London, England) - See all my reviews
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Author Dominic Hutton was so sick of being late for work that he started a blog detailing his letters to the Managing Director of train operative First Great Western. The blog became a hit as fellow commuters felt his pain as we all have to suffer unexplained delays that mess up our lives - wrong type of snow, leaves on the line and the catering water boiler failing etc. He then took the idea and has written this little beauty where he substitutes the real names for fictitious ones; but we all know it is Worst Gross Letdown (as we call it) that he is really talking about - albeit tongue in cheek.

He writes to CEO Martin Harbottle and decides for every unscheduled minute he has to spend on one of the lack lustre trains he will waste an equal amount of time for Mr Harbottle. In true stiff upper lip fashion Mr Harbottle does reply but always with an eye to explaining why his train service is so crud and blaming the network operators wherever possible and acts of God - the sort of acts that have nothing to do with any deity now or yet to be conceived.

In choosing material to write about Dan (the main character) shares what is going on in his life. He is recently married and a new father - his wife is having a hard time and he is working for The Globe a made up newspaper that looks strikingly like The News of the World; that is as it goes into melt down over phone hacking and other abuses. He also relates what is going on with the other commuters. But as the service deteriorates and so do the fortunes of the World's most read English `newspaper' so does Martins private life follow suit and start to unravel.

This started out like a bit of a chore as it is told in a series of emails, so was a bit like being at work as I read a lot of ruddy emails. This style can and should be a tad limiting in terms of a writers ambition. It is a testament to Dominic Utton (who is a real life journalist) that he has made this eminently readable and utterly compelling. What started as a slog soon became a pleasing page turner; which I enjoyed all the more as I read it whilst commuting and knew there was a true kindred spirit out there. I ended up absolutely loving it and recommending to my fellow train sufferers. My line isn't that bad but it was still stopped a few weeks ago during the floods by what turned out to be a six inch puddle - still safety first and all that. This will give you faith in the human spirit and I can only highly recommend.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Man is born in freedom but everywhere in trains, 20 Feb 2014
By 
J. Brand "jbrand" (Somewhere else) - See all my reviews
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Martin Harbottle's appreciation of time feels like it is always about to descend into a rehash of the rise and fall of Reginald Perrin but never falls into that trap. Instead we watch Daniel being dehumanised by the daily grind of his work and his commute and apparently oblivious to the fact that both are destroying the things he should really care about. This is a book to strike a chord with everyone who has ever been a commuter. It exaggerates how bad trains are, which is perhaps not surprising as otherwise the premise of the book would have disappeared, but for everyone who has ever felt that they're going through the motions at home just to commute and work every day then this will sound familiar.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable., 16 Jan 2014
By 
Cath B - See all my reviews
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An interesting concept, a series of emails from a disgruntled passenger, whose life is unravelling. Pulling inspiration from the recent tabloid misdemeanours, the author manages to convey several problems from a modern age, including the stresses of parenthood and the daily commute. Funny and accurate.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Martin Harbottle's Appreciation of Time, 26 Feb 2014
By 
Damaskcat (UK) - See all my reviews
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Dan lives in Oxford and works for a tabloid newspaper in London. He commutes daily on trains run by Premier Westward. Unfortunately the trains are frequently late or cancelled and Dan decides to e-mail the managing director – Martin Harbottle – every time the train is late. The e-mails are designed to take as long to read as he was delayed.

What starts off as a way of voicing a complaint soon turns into Dan’s thoughts on world current affairs, celebrity gossip and his own troubled marriage to Beth. Martin gradually starts to respond on a personal level and an interesting and wide ranging correspondence ensues.

I think you either love or hate novels written as e-mails or letters and if you don’t like the form you will probably dislike this example. I found it interesting reading and at times a poignant insight into the lives of two men who have never met and are never likely to.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, 22 Feb 2014
By 
Antonia Chitty "Author of Food and Your Speci... (Sussex, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is a great read, especially if you're looking for something to enlighten your delay-ridden commute. Dominic Utton gives an insiders view on life as a jobbing journalist in the present day, at a paper dealing with corruption within and without. At the same time, protagonist Dan's personal life is falling apart. He lets out his frustrations in a series of emails to the chair of the rail network he has the misfortune to use every day. The emails are funny, sarcastic and on occasion sad as they provide an insight into Dan's life. Excellent writing, well worth buying.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful, witty and rewarding - in the end, 14 Feb 2014
By 
Sid Nuncius (London) - See all my reviews
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I struggled with the beginning of this book but in the end I found it involving, with an interesting take on the behaviour of the tabloid press and some good things to say about life's priorities and relationships.

The book is a fictionalised version of Dominic Utton's blog in which he wrote to the CEO of First Great Western with the idea of annoying him in proportion to the annoyance caused by the late running of Utton's train each day. It's a good, amusing idea for a blog but runs the risk in novel form of annoying the reader, too, if it's too flip for too long. For the first 50 pages or more I did find the style repetitive and gratingly, relentlessly ironic, so the humour wore thin very quickly. For example, "Do you remember when Princess Diana died? Of course you do. Tall, blonde lass, liked a holiday, married that odd feller with the big ears, unfortunate business with bulimia, three of us in this marriage, Queen of Hearts, landmines, Paris underpass, all that stuff. That's the one!" is OK as a one-off, perhaps, but I really did wonder whether I could manage to wade through 300-odd pages of this sort of thing, and I went in for a bit of judicious skimming.

However, things began to pick up considerably around page 100 because interesting things began to happen and it started to become genuinely insightful. The narrator, Dan, is a journalist on the showbiz desk of a thinly disguised News Of The World (well, hardly disguised at all, really), and we get his take on things coming apart there as the hacking scandal unfolds against a background of fictionalised versions of real events. He makes some interesting and penetrating points about the way in which disgraceful press behaviour is seized upon by unscrupulously sleazy people to cover up genuine wrongdoing and hypocrisy, as well as about the attitudes within the newspaper, the sense of priorities in the world and in his own, troubled marriage. I came to care about him and be interested in what he had to say and in what became of him, and the style became far less intrusive and more appropriate somehow.

So, overall I did enjoy this book and am glad I persevered. You may, like me, struggle at the start but once the book shows where it is going it develops real purpose, insight and some genuine wit, too. I can recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun easy read that resonates if you're on a train, 10 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Martin Harbottle's Appreciation of Time (Kindle Edition)
A slow read but by the end I was totally engrossed. Is about more than just the late running of the trains!!

Very enjoyable and hits close to home if you're on a late train. Thankfully my trains are not as bad as these ones!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is not the blog!, 8 Feb 2014
By 
JoMaynard (UK) - See all my reviews
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This novel may be based on Dominic Utton's blog, but it is not just that blog repackaged.

As anyone who has ever commuted by train will know, it can sometimes be a frustrating task. Daniel (just like Dominic did in real life) starts to email complaints to waste the time of the chief executive of the rail company (Martin), in proportion to the amount of time wasted on his journey.

However Daniel seems especially frustrated. Over the course of the emails he treats Martin as something of a father confessor. So we also learn about the struggles of being a new parent; and of working for a Tabloid newspaper which is going through a crisis.

There are hints to gossip that Dan knows, and these seem oh too real! (But I am sure that some of the disguised characters are amalgamations of celebrities.)

It is a fun easy read. It also gave me a little more respect for some of the tabloid press (as long as they don't attack "normals").
Maybe ideal for your morning commute?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In search of time lost, 30 Jan 2014
By 
Quicksilver (UK) - See all my reviews
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Commuting is perhaps the overlooked ill of modern life. Countless people do it. Millions of hours are spent daily trailing to and from work. A necessary evil that keeps the world ticking over. But what price on the nation's psyche? The time lost, separated from loved ones, crammed together but ignoring those around us. Collective silence, all thinking 'Let's just get this over with.'

Sure, we can read (yea!), update statuses, play games or, heaven forbid, do more work, but it's hardly relaxing. It's essentially dead time; hours stolen from our lives. And that's without the system having one of its regular failures. I'm not aware of other attempts at critiquing the commute, but that's what Dominic Utton' does with his acerbic and accurate Martin Harbottle's Appreciation of Time.

Dan is a tabloid journalist who commutes five times a week from Oxford to London, a foolhardy distance to rely on a consistent service. Fed up with paying over the odds for an appalling service, and a lover of words, he starts to write emails to the head of 'Premier Westward Trains' complaining about not only late trains but the parlous state of the world generally. His aim with each letter is to waste exactly the amount of Martin's time as Premier Westward has stolen from him.

What follows is a modern epistolary novel centred around Dan's feelings of powerlessness. Dan recently became a father, and parenthood is not coming easy to him or his wife. His paper 'The Globe' becomes the centre of a hacking scandal, whilst at the same time a rebellion in North Africa is becoming increasingly bloody.

The letters start off jovial, but as his marriage begins to crumble and his job security is less and less assured, Dan's missives start to reek of desperation. All the time Martin's replies remain composed and professional, with just the occasional piece of avuncular advice or discreet inquiry into a piece of tabloid scandal. Dan's depiction of commuting and the characters that ride with him will strike a chord with most people who use the trains on a regular basis. As will the pedantic accuracy of Martin's replies. Not to mention the delightfully obfuscating language he uses to dress up common (avoidable) problems to sound like major catastrophes (these are probably funnier in context, so I won't spoil them for you).

The juxtaposition of Dan's work/home balance and the travails of the populace of the unnamed African country works well. The Globe's obsession with celebrity and Dan's own fixation with the trains feel shallow up against a nation in turmoil, yet 95% of the time these are the things we worry about.

The novel's middle third was over-long, and I started to fear that the book as whole wouldn't live up to the quality of its premise. Fortunately, Utton brings things back on track (ahem) and the various strands of Dan's missive's reach if not happy endings, then certainly satisfactory conclusions. MHAoT is a witty chronicle of one of the most frustrating aspects of modern life. Delayed trains may be a bit of a first-world problem, but Utton's novel is a first rate way to combat your frustrations. A free copy given out with every season ticket purchased would go some way to easing the pain. A tonic that might even last until the second week of January...
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Really Funny, 2 Jan 2014
By 
atticusfinch1048 - See all my reviews
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Funny But Oh So True

Dominic Utton has hit on a winning novel with Martin Harbottle's Appreciation of Time, this novel is based up on the email of Daniel who has to commute in from Oxford to London on a "premier-westward" service and decides to email the Chief Executive every time his service is late.

This is the novel that all commuters want to write about their terrible, and unfortunately it is often commute in to work on our great train network. How often have we spoken to customer services and just wanted to cry in despair at their lack of service or care. This is a novel for those who have often heard the train announcer come out with the "Such and Such rail would like to apologise for the .... (late/cancelation) of the service to/from ... I have heard that announcement that often that I now have loyalty cards for a large number of coffee shops to pass the time as I wait - in hope - for the next service.

Dan our protagonist emails Martin Harbottle with a well written email equating to the length of time that the delay or cancelation has taken out of his day. Those minutes that we will never get back, he makes sure his email is the length of the delay. These musings are often funny incisive and speaking for all of us.

At the same time Dan who works as a tabloid journalist on a Sunday red top that is in trouble with the courts and the police for some of their underhand methods. He and his wife a nurse who has just given birth are living in the commuter belt so that they can make their way on to the housing chain. The only chink in his armour is the commute the train is either late or cancelled and never is a customer told the reason. Using his journalist tactics he finds the MD's email and hence begins a long email correspondence bring all manor of subjects for discussion.

This is a funny book if read on your daily commute will mean there will be quite a few train company CEOs awaiting your email for your late arrival in our capital and elsewhere. Oh train company bosses you should read this it might even make you smile instead of just taking our cash and giving us poor service. Great book, great read for the commuter!
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