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Mr Toppit Hardcover – 5 Feb 2009

3.3 out of 5 stars 79 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 5 Feb 2009
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; First Edition edition (5 Feb. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670917818
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670917815
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.3 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,525,022 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'Charles Elton's humour is as pitch-black and merciless as Darkwood itself... This is an extraordinary debut, not only for its confident storytelling but for its nerdish familiarity with such an eclectic range of subjects: the costume melodramas of Gainsborough film studios in the early 1950s, contemporary Los Angeles, publishing contracts and even Mexican cuisine. The author details on the book jacket don't reveal whether he's working on his second novel; I hope that he is' -- The Sunday Times

From the Publisher

Q & A with Charles Elton, Author of Mr Toppit

Where did the idea for Mr Toppit first come from?

When I was a literary agent, I worked with the Estate of A.A.Milne and had always been struck by the level of unwanted fame that was foisted on his son Christopher Robin Milne by being a character in Winnie The Pooh. He - and the books - were a global phenomenon in the 1920's and I wondered what would happen today when the outlets of fame - movies, TV, merchandising, the internet - are so much more numerous than they were. That was the only idea I started with. Everything else came as I wrote.

It took you a long time to write – why was this?

The book took an embarrassingly long time to write - 15 years. You can put that down to laziness, or - if you're generous - the fact that I was a TV producer with a very busy life. I didn't have a deadline and in a strange way I wasn't writing it to be published - I just wanted to see if I could do it. It was my hobby, like a train set in the attic that I could retreat to when I had time.

Did it change a lot during that time?

I wrote so slowly that I didn't need to do a lot of rewriting. I never planned anything or made notes. Most of the best things in the book came as I went along. I cut about 25000 words from the first half, not plot - just things I had overwritten. The second half is more or less unchanged from when I first wrote it.

The Hayseed Chronicles feel very real; could you see a day when these might actually be written and published?

Some people have thought that the 'Hayseed' excerpts in the book are like the tip of the iceberg and that I wrote much more. In fact, the bits in my book are all there ever were. I thought that the less I put in, the more enigmatic it would be. I suppose it's in my head somewhere - as an exercise I wrote jacket copy for the five Hayseed books, and found that there was more of a plot than I thought. Luke Hayseed's mother turns out to be in league with Mr Toppit.

What are you working on now?

I'm writing another book about a dysfunctional family - this time a strange dynasty of folk singers and political activists. I've written about 20000 words and have no idea what happens next.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I raced through this book in a few sittings -- it held my attention, even when it annoyed me. Everything is nicely done -- Laurie's journey from misfit fatty to Oprah-esque daytime-TV queen; the evocation of Darkwood as part 100 Acre Wood, a dash of Potter (both Beatrix and Harry), some Spiderwick and a hint of Narnia. But it fails to grip, partly because the voice (or voices) falter; mainly because the author does not give his prose the space to let his imagination -- and his story -- come to life. The book is paced at an ambitious jog, but the finishing line is always in view. I wanted to get lost in the story, but I couldn't.

There's nothing wrong with Mr Toppitt, but neither is there anything outstanding. In comparing the book to Jonathan Coe's What A Carve Up! the publisher makes claims for Mr Toppitt that not even its wildest fan could justify.
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Format: Hardcover
In Charles Elton's debut novel, "Mr Toppit", Luke Hayman's father Arthur has immortalised a version of his son as Luke Hayseed, the main character in a series of children's books that sell moderately well until Arthur meets a violent death on the streets of London. Arthur's demise, and the intervention of a visiting American tourist who publicises the novels on her radio show, combine to send the sales of the books into the stratosphere and their villain, the title's Mr Toppit, into the global public consciousness. The fallout for Luke and his family from the effects of fame, wealth and public interest in their lives forms the basis for this novel.

I liked the sound of this book and was looking forward to reading it, but whilst "Mr Toppit" has an intriguing premise, a strong opening section, and some amusing sequences, overall, it is a disappointment. The characters feel underwritten as well as quite cliched; Luke's troubled, drug-consuming elder sister, the aggressively rude German family friend, the overweight American with an overbearing mother and so on. Unfortunately Luke is the weakest character of all, seemingly not possessed of any personality whatsoever. Perhaps the idea is that he has been overshadowed by his fictional counterpart, but the result of a Luke who narrates most of the book, yet does and feels little of any note, is a distinctly uninvolved reading experience. In truth, none of the characters are developed beyond cardboard cutouts, except in the noticeably stronger middle section of the book where we are taken back to the early days of Luke's parents' marriage, a sequence I particularly enjoyed and found to be the most believable part of the novel - I was disappointed that Charles Elton did not return to this thread.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I think the marketing hype for this book hasn't done it any favours: a spoof ad in The Times on the day of publication, impressive website dedicated to "The Hayseed Chronicles" - Mr Toppit would have been an instant best-seller without any of the clever dick stuff. It's almost impossible to categorise because it crosses or touches on many different genres, but it quite simply one of the best books I've read for years; brilliant characterisation, clever plotting, an achingly touching 'hero' in Luke Hayman and also funny, funny, funny. A brilliant, subtle satire on celebrity culture and a very realistic portrayal of a family more dysfunctional than Jonathan Frantzen's Apparently it took Charles Elton 15 years to write Mr Toppit, I just hope he pulls his finger out and delivers his next a bit quicker.
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By Book Gannet TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 25 May 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The original premise of this book intrigued me, and I found the hardback cover (Mr. Toppit on the dust jacket, with the Hayseed Chronicles underneath) a gorgeous idea. Unfortunately it did seem to be the best bit of the book.

After a promising start, I must admit this book became a bit of a gruelling read for me. I didn't connect with any of the characters, starting with the main narrator: Luke Hayman. Luke's narration is detached, lack-lustre and disinterested. He doesn't speak much, he just watches, but he seems to miss all the vital points. Or he doesn't see them as important. Since he is the main voice in the book, I felt this was quite a big factor in why the overall story didn't work for me.

The character of Laurie just irritated me. I wanted someone to tell her to go away, or ask why she felt she had a right to be there, or do this, but everyone just accepted her. Rachel and Martha were vague figures who never truly came into focus, except in cliches - drug-taking, troubled daughter; unfaithful, disappointed wife. I constantly felt as if there was a deeper story here (something about Jordan, perhaps) but it never quite arrived.

As for the Hayseed Chronicles themselves, the characters of Luke Hayseed and Mr Toppit, to be honest I felt the connection was hazy and feeble. It certainly didn't cause Rachel's problems (though early on when Luke remarks that Rachel was never in the books, as if she didn't exist I hoped that would go somewhere. It never truly did, except as a very tenuous reason for why Rachel was so desperate for attention. But that could just as easily have been inherited from Martha), which were in existence before Arthur's death, and therefore predated Laurie's interference and the success of the books.
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