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A Fraction of the Whole

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  16,844 ratings  ·  2,524 reviews
Meet the Deans

"The fact is, the whole of Australia despises my father more than any other man, just as they adore my uncle more than any other man. I might as well set the story straight about both of them . . ."

Heroes or Criminals?
Crackpots or Visionaries?
Families or Enemies?

." . . Anyway, you know how it is. Every family has a story like this one."

Most of his life, J
Paperback, 561 pages
Published September 23rd 2008 by Random House (first published 2008)
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Average rating 4.14  · 
Rating details
 ·  16,844 ratings  ·  2,524 reviews

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Jan 09, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Amanda by: RandomReads
Holy... just holy, holy, holy. A Fraction of the Whole starts good, stays good for five hundred pages and three continents, is laugh-out-loud funny throughout, at certain points made my jaw drop in astonishment/horror, contains so many beautiful passages (you know the kind where you go yes! that's so true! like one about how it takes a couple hours to feel the sun on city streets in the morning, and one about the sounds of swimming pools), and gives us a couple of unforgettable characters, who e ...more
Jan 24, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Oriana by: Amanda
Well, I'm sorry, but I really didn't like this book. I feel a bit guilty for this, first because it came recommended by people whose tastes I totally trust (sorry Amanda! sorry Kira!), and second because, due to my really shamefully busy life, it took me a ludicrously long time to read this (sorry Steve Toltz). So yeah, I mean, it was my fault—not Steve's—that this book has been hanging menacingly over my head for freaking ages. But let's face it, Steve, it's your fault that your book just wasn' ...more
Paul Bryant
Nov 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommended to Paul by: M J Nicholls (not deliberately)
Shelves: novels
What does it take to abandon a 711 page novel on page 458? After all there are only – er – 253 more pages to go.

Finish it!


The thing is, I bought a bookcase this week – ah, how beautiful it is. Not one of those damned filthy flat-packs, no. This one was carpentered by doughty craftsmen and delivered in one piece to my very door.

This is exactly what it looked like. How pretty. Now it is full of books. Yes!

So now I have all my unread books collected together in one room. My God – there are s
Lolly K Dandeneau
Aug 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I am shocked to see anyone complain about this book being too long. I spent the majority of my time laughing like a madwoman when I read A Fraction of the Whole. Just this part alone made me think of all my cynical Hungarian elders, because man do they think like this "The younger passengers let out cries of joy. The older passengers knew that the key to happiness lay in keeping your expectations low. They booed." There was not one sentence that I would be happy seeing taken away. WHAT A WORK OF ...more
MJ Nicholls
I read this monstrous, merciless Australian comedy in a shack in Orkney in June 2010. For those unfamiliar with Orkney, it’s a small Scottish island known for its flatness. In the Annual Flatness Contest, Orkney narrowly beat the Whole of the Netherlands to win the coveted flatness trophy—a trophy crushed several times by a JCB hauler and shipped to a factory where extensive smelting work is done on its remaining points and prongs until the award achieves a “flatitude” of such 180˚ perfection as ...more

Ok, I finished it. But then I finished Infinite Jest, which was written three years earlier, so I figured if I could give David Foster Wallace the benefit of the doubt, I could do the same for Steve Toltz, especially as this was a Man Booker Prize shortlist nominee in 1980 and won several awards.

I’d rather have had a single, shorter story, keeping the quirky humour and the irreverent attitude. That's why it's only 3.5 stars. But there’s no doubt the gu
I finally finished this 25-hour long audiobook. I am so glad I stuck with it, despite my recently acquired dislike of overly long novels.

This novel was shortlisted for the 2008 Man Booker prize, which in itself should have brought it more notoriety, especially in Australia.

A Fraction of the Whole is a mammoth of a book, on another level. It's highly intelligent, original, funny and deep, philosophical, irreverent, and still so relevant.
My husband happened to hear some passages and he asked if
Peter Boyle
Books like this don't come along every day. It's almost impossible to categorize A Fraction of the Whole: a sprawling tale of love, heartache, crazy schemes and unexpected twists. It's absolutely bursting with life and I didn't want to it end.

The plot is a hard one to summarise but it all centres around the Dean family. In the opening pages Jasper tells us that "the whole of Australia despises my father perhaps more than any other man, just as they adore his brother, my uncle, perhaps more than
Aug 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, the New York Times reviewer couldn't have gotten this one mroe wrong.

One comes up a bit short trying to describe "A Fraction of the Whole." True, the book deals with the relationship of an eccentric father and son, but it is about that only in the way the "Confederacy of Dunces" is about a large rather odd man living in New Orleans. Indeed, it is Toole's classic "Dunces" which most often comes to mind when reading Toltz's "Whole," both highly original works in which odd protagonists offer m
Feb 27, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
To be fair I didn't finish this, so maybe the last half contained some redemption. It was amusing enough, but there was wasn't a single character I cared about.
Nov 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comic-novels
Thoroughly enjoyable and difficult to categorise. This debut novel is 700 pages long and bowls along at a very rapid pace. It is a very funny generational saga about brothers Martin and Terry Dean and Martin’s son Jasper. It’s pretty much totally unbelievable and there is extraordinary level of cynicism about life and the human condition; something which should delight even the most misanthropic.
It is set in Australia and ranges across France and Thailand as well. There are philosophical element
Betsy Robinson
Aug 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Betsy by: Peter Boyle
I wanted to read a contemporary riotously funny romp with edgy substance and this was it. It’s long (562 Kindle pages), but just as I was thinking it was dragging and a rant had out-ranted its welcome, things sped up, turned plot somersaults careening from absurdist hilarity to true agony, it exploded with insanity, and it left me both laughing and gasping, “What next?”

If you’ve ever felt eclipsed by a friend or family member or family celebrity, you’ll love the sibling, filial, and criminal (so
Apr 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The past is a truly inoperable tumor that spreads to the present.

Jasper Dean and his father Martin have little in common other than the fact that neither one seems capable of keeping goldfish alive, but they both live in the shadow of Martin's brother, Terry Dean, a man who gained notoriety for being a sort of "Poor Sportsmanship Avenger," a vigilante who liberated sport from the dirty hands of corruption.

It's incredibly hard to describe what exactly this book is about, and why I enjoyed it so m
Kevin McAllister
The term The Great American Novel is often bandied about. But what about The Great Australian Novel ? How come a country so full of fascinating characters has produced so few stories about them? Well this is it. The Great Australian Novel. The fun loving, rebellious, heroic & egalitarian nature of the Australian character is displayed on virtually every page. Every page contains insanely brilliant and incredibly hilarious observations of modern day Australian society. All aspects are covered. An ...more
Jan 06, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I just could not finish this book. Usually I have to finish reading a book because I really want to see where they go with it, even if some of the book wasn't that great. This one just kept getting worse and more depressing and yucky. I don't really care what happens to these characters. Some of their problems were not their own fault but some of them were and I just found myself getting too frustrated with the choices they kept making. It is a very quirky and creative story. Even after the nega ...more
Enjoyable. Lots of humor sprinkled throughout. Still storyline sleepy enough that I can fall asleep while reading it.

Having a mixed reaction... there are laugh-out-loud funny lines, or lines I want to quote later, every few pages, and yet it puts me to sleep. I find the Jasper narrated bits less tolerable as he is more consistently self-pitying and selfish than his truly eccentric father.

Finally finished. It was work for me to get to the ending, even with the attempted addition of suspense to th
Dec 15, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
LOOK, i dont mind quirky, even wacky, but zany i cant take and this book is zany as hell and seemingly grounded in nothing. toltz is funny, punchy and wicked so why on earth would he write such a long book? (732pgs) surely a long book has something to say that demands its long-bookedness. tolstoy, go for it, write a long book - you deserve it, you go to the depths of us but not this fellow (despite the booker shortlist). modern film seems to be doing this too. 'i dont know how to make a great mo ...more
Dec 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The most memorable novel I've read in at least five years.
Nov 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: DWGibb, Tracey, Jill, Paula
This is the best thing I have read in quite a while. It's a first novel that portends great things to come from Steve Toltz. It's brilliant, demented, hilarious and very inventive. It definitely claims a high place in my top ten list. It's the story of a man and his father, and their dispeptic relationship. Toltz has an amazing way with words, and the situations he finds his characters in are at times wonderfully bizarre, and their bent view of the world is the result. The author has no fear of ...more
Seth T.
Apr 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookclub
To begin with, a poorly-devised haiku review:

Stained honour, dented ego,
As we bury up our dead.
Smiles can last for miles


I had better get on my horse and start writing my own novels because Steve Toltz has been a-thieving from my brain stock. Both of A Fraction of the Whole's protagonists, Martin and Jasper, throw off a continuous stream of ideas and summations of the human experience that my friends are probably pretty tired of hearing spouted from my own mouth. From their ranti
Oct 03, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Funny. Brilliant. Dense.

The protagonist Martin Dean on Europe:
"Paris-perfect city to be lonely & miserable in.
O London! You grisly town! You cold gray cloud! You low-lying layer of mist & fog. You dense moan.
And Rome? Full of sexual predators who live with their mothers.
Spain? Streets smell like socks fried in urine-too many catholics baptized in piss".
On regrets... "To this day the memory of that look still visits me like a Jehovah's witness, uninvited and tireless."

Martin Dean isn't happy
Dec 24, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What a waste of my life. I left the last couple of pages unread just to make a statement of sorts.
Leila Soltani
Sep 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I simply enjoyed the whole story. It was like watching a good Woody Allen movie :)
Sep 09, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
OMFG GR just ate my long review! I am upset - I really poured my heart out here! I can not repeat that heartfeltedness again! PISSED!

So in a nutshell - a fine book that is a 3 because my experience of it 2/3 way through was TOO CLOSE TO HOME and stirred up all my too-early childhood fear of death because of growing up Jewish in the aftermath of the Holocaust learning the horror much too young. NOWHERE TO GO NOWHERE TO HIDE. (maybe Antarctica if I could get there) Please God don't let me die, I p
Nov 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
This is my favorite book this year. In fact, I'd place it as one of my all-time favorites, ever.

I like it for the same reason I like some of Neal Stephenson's books: it's chock-full of quirky characters, striking juxtapositions, and ideas that will give your brain a tickle. Like Stephenson, Toltz is a generous writer who never takes the easy path of moving a plot along by means of a plain, unadorned sentence. Instead, he packs it full of what one reviewer called "verbal dynamite," and another de
Mehdi Khazaeian
May 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Banafsheh Serov
Short Listed for the Man Booker prize in 2008, 'A Fraction of the Whole' was originally rejected by agents and publishers in Australia. It was only through a chance contact that the book was brought to the attention of Random House America and like a real-life fairytale went on to receive worldwide release and a nod from the most prestigeous literary prize.

Set in Australia, the book follows the Deans Family as retold by Martin Dean.
'The fact is, the whole of Australia despises my father more tha
May 25, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have to admit I didn't finish this. It's over 700 pages long and I got about halfway. So that pretty much invalidates this review. Except that I don't often leave a book uncompleted. There has to be a reason. In this case it was the fact that I simply didn't care about any of the characters.

What is striking about this novel is the voice. It's distinctive, witty, and intelligent. It also began to get on my nerves very quickly. I found the experience a bit like being stuck in a lift with a stand
Grace Harwood
Jan 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just when I'd completely and utterly lost faith in publishing - just when you think they're all corrupt bastards who are owned by pop stars and footballers - Penguin come up trumps and publish something that is actually worth reading. This book is described by The Guardian as "Funny, heartbreaking, brilliant" and there it is, in three words. Not a chapter passed when I did not laugh out loud at the one-liners, the frequent displays of acerbic wit - not a moment when I was not awed by the skill w ...more
Jan 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Well, I hope what I say here comes close to what this book made me feel, although honestly, that's very difficult. I read loads of reviews on this site, as well as the 'professional one-liners' in the book itself, and they all differ so much! So if you've read this book, or if you're comparing reviews, this one will probably be different, again.

And that's just it. This multidimensional book encompasses so much: a long line of wacky characters who have so many adventures and experiences that make
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Steve Toltz (born in 1972) is an Australian novelist.

Toltz graduated from the University of Newcastle, New South Wales, in 1994. Prior to his literary career, he lived in Montreal, Vancouver, New York, Barcelona, and Paris, variously working as a cameraman, telemarketer, security guard, private investigator, English teacher, and screenwriter.

A Fraction of the Whole, his first novel, was released i

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