Danny Wallace, ace author of ‘Yes Man’, ‘Join Me’ and ‘Awkward Situations for Men’ has turned his hand to fiction. It was only a matter of time, but does ‘Charlotte Street’ live up to Wallace’s previous books, does it warrant the marketing hype and does it differ from the non-fiction? Here’s what I thought.
‘Charlotte Street’ has a simple premise. Boy meets girl, girl drops camera, man has photos developed, gets into all kinds of weird situations and tries to track down the girl without being stalky and murderous. A modern fairytale, if you like. Our protagonist is ‘the thirty-two-year-old Jason Priestley who lives on the Caledonian Road, above a videogame shop between a Polish newsagents and that place everyone thought was a brothel, but wasn’t… who’s ended up single and going to cheap restaurants and awful films so’s he can write about them in that free newspaper they give you on the tube which you take but don’t read.’ He’s basically a downcast Danny Wallace, living in London, trying to get by in work, friendship and love.
The book’s plot is a bit romance, a bit bromance and a bit ‘find-yourself in the modern world’. Wallace has a knack for comedy writing, and manages to include deadpan and subtle humour whilst still writing prose, in the same vein as Joe Dunthorne or Joe Stretch. Wallace writes slyly, including humour as an aside to the action: ‘I noticed his fleece… No bobbles, no fluff. This was a fleece he took care of’.
‘Charlotte Street’ is not, and I don’t think Wallace would say it is, that far removed from his non-fiction successes. It is a simple plot, comprising a Wallace-like character in relationship and work troubles, with friends around him in a big town – but this book just happens to be fictional. But this doesn’t really matter. They say stick to what you know, and Wallace knows his craft. With lines like ‘Life isn’t a series of Martin Clunes references’, no one could deny that Wallace is a very comedic, and surprisingly touching, writer.
The novel is fun, comedic, moving and plot-driven, with the classic Danny Wallace humour and deftness of character. This is an excellent summer read, perfect for the beach. ‘Charlotte Street’ is a good light read; if you like Wallace, you’ll love this.