Tom’s girlfriend has left, but she hasn’t left him. At least that’s what the note she leaves behind for him says. Feeling confused and angry, Tom sets out to find out where she’s gone. His path leads him to a Holiday Inn Express and a group of people with an odd way of life.
I’ve loved Danny Wallace’s previous books, including his debut novel Charlotte Street, however I struggled to get into Who is Tom Ditto? There’s lots of wonderful little observations throughout the pages and trademark Wallace charm but the story was slow and maybe a bit too surreal for the realistic setting.
At times, it does sort of feel like something Danny might have done in real life, like his Join Me book. The group of people Tom finds like to follow people, to experience the lives of strangers. Some take it a bit too far, others just spend evenings eating and drinking the same things as their chosen target. It’s a way to break free from the routine of everyday life and add some spontaneity.
I know words. I know how they sound. I read for a living. Out loud. For strangers. I can see those words in the air as I hear them, like subtitles in a film only I’m watching. I can feel words. And these words felt weird.
Tom’s story is broken up by snippets of what seems like a newspaper interview, with the man behind the following movement. These didn’t add much at all and just slowed the pace down. Tom is also a radio newsreader and a lot of the time is spent in the studio. His job actually provided some of the funnier moments but it just didn’t quite all mesh together. I did really like the escape of Binky though.
How to describe it, normally? It’s just a complete lack of will. The lack of will to get better, even the will to look for how to. Not caring enough. But it’s a feeling that is crawling along so subtly and becoming so insidious that soon five, ten, fifteen years may pass, where you’re chained to this feeling of ennui, without ever really realising that you weren’t, in fact, crawling along – you were going downhill.
On a positive note, it’s refreshing to see a character suffering from depression where it’s not the main focus. He gets on with his life, even if he’s not fulfilled, he’s coping. Although it could be argued that the whole following thing was a symptom, a way of deflecting but I don’t think Tom got that into it. The distractions of new people did seem to help him.
Who is Tom Ditto? is published by Ebury and is available now in hardback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.