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Extended Audio Sample Mr. Toppit, by Charles Elton Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (842 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Charles Elton Narrator: Simon Vance Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: December 2010 ISBN: 9781455198856
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“And out of the Darkwood Mr. Toppit comes, and he comes not for you, or for me, but for all of us.”

When the Hayseed Chronicles, an obscure series of children’s books, becomes world famous, millions of readers debate the significance of that enigmatic last line and of the shadowy figure, Mr. Toppit, who dominates the books. The author, Arthur Hayman, an unsuccessful screenwriter mown down by a concrete truck in Soho, never reaps the benefits of the books’ success. The legacy passes to his widow, Martha, and her children—the fragile Rachel, and Luke, reluctantly immortalized as Luke Hayseed, the central character of his father’s books. But others want their share, particularly Laurie, the overweight stranger from California who comforted Arthur as he lay dying and has a mysterious agenda of her own that will change all their lives, for buried deep in the books lie secrets which threaten to be revealed as the family begins to crumble under the heavy burden of their inheritance.

Spanning several decades, from the heyday of the British film industry after the war to the cut-throat world of show business in Los Angeles, Mr. Toppit is a riveting tale of the unexpected effects of sudden fame and fortune. Not since Jonathan Coe’s What a Carve Up! has a novel managed to capture a family and a society to such wonderfully funny and painful effect.

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Quotes & Awards

  • Mr. Toppit is a darkly comic, thoroughly engaging narrative about a successful writer and the complicated legacy he leaves to his wife and children, and to the world at large. Charles Elton’s witty and unsettling debut novel explores the emotional turmoil that results when a family's private history gets transformed into public myth.”

    Tom Perrotta, New York Times bestselling author

  • “Skillfully written and oddly haunting.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “Witty, engrossing, moving…One hot mess of a family romance.”

    Times (London)

  • “A cracker. Elton has an arch wit, and engaging style and a sense of invention that recalls Jonathan Coe’s What a Carve Up!...You are gripped.”

    Evening Standard (London)

  • “An extraordinary debut…Dark, funny…jangly with secrets.”

    Sunday Times (London)

  • “A mystery tale of quiet torment.”

    Sunday Telegraph (London)

  • “Painfully funny.”

    Marie Claire

  • “Dark, hilarious, and cruelly honest, Mr. Toppit exposes some uncomfortable truths about the English and American mindsets, and the effect of celebrity on private lives. A truly smashing debut novel.”

    Christopher Fowler, award-winning English thriller writer 

  • “Elton’s sense of character and personality is astounding, and he captures each important detail on the page…Elton’s writing style is charmingly British, well-executed and all-around pleasing to both the eye and ear. Bottom line: At times laugh-out-loud funny and other times truly heartbreaking, Mr. Toppit captures the power of books on its pages…Personally, I'm excited to see more from Charles Elton, and can only hope his sophomore novel comes soon—and lives up to expectations.”

    Entomology of a Bookworm

  • “In this excellent debut, Elton tells the story of a complicated family stretched to its limits by sudden fame and unexpected acquaintances…Elton skillfully weaves together postwar England and a terrifyingly modern LA, as well as the hopes and disappointments of frustrated mothers, neglected children, and clandestine lovers. While beautifully written and graced with a unique story line, it is Elton’s characters who drive the novel and give it a depth uncommon in debuts.”

    Publishers Weekly(starred review)

  • “Simon Vance’s selections for distinct character voices make Elton’s sometimes-complicated novel quite accessible…Vance executes strong accents as needed but also uses reserved but effective tones for the range characters. He’s careful not to exaggerate voices, such as that of the sister who ends up in the mental ward. Rather, he reads them straight, and that works well.”

    AudioFile

  • “British reader Simon Vance does an admirable job…and listeners will be caught spellbound waiting for the unlikely events to unfold.”

    SoundCommentary.com

  • “[In] Charles Elton’s funny, strange, and often surprisingly insightful debut…the siblings confront the mess their father—the true Mr. Toppit, some might say—has left for them, and in turn confront larger issues of family and obligation, celebrity and privacy, and the vast gulf between British and American sensibilities. From the comically bland sitting rooms of middle-class England to the boozy shenanigans of modern-day Los Angeles, Mr. Toppit shows the effects of legacy on its inheritors, while at the same time exploring the way in which we use fantasy worlds to better understand our own.”

    BookPage

  • Selected for the November 2010 Indie Next List

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kate Murphy | 2/15/2014

    " I quite enjoyed this book, in particular the literary world it is set in. It left me feeling quite sad though - the ending was probably predictable to the characters but I didn't really see it coming and thought it was written very movingly. Well worth a read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Robin | 2/15/2014

    " What a great idea for a book! The British author of a dark children's series is killed right at the beginning of the book. The rest of the book is about his family and an American bystander who is with him at the accident site. Who's Mr. Toppit? Read it to find out. I thought it was fun. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Susan Wingate | 2/13/2014

    " OMG! This is a fabulous read. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Bonnie Parent | 2/2/2014

    " I struggled to get through this book. I thought the premise was so fascinating, but just couldn't get into it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Caroline | 2/2/2014

    " Pleasantly surprised by this book. Started off slow but once the pieces started falling into place, it really took off. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Julie | 1/25/2014

    " I had high hopes for this book when I began. It started as a charming (though sad) story set in England. I loved the characters and the idea of basing it on the life of the author of children's book. But half way through the action moves to the United States, and it soon lost it's charm. Still worth reading though. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Gillian | 1/23/2014

    " Still puzzling out what I think about this book. I liked it. Very much. Parts of it tumble around In my head, but I felt Laurie's character really soured the book. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kristien | 1/20/2014

    " Well written but not as compelling as it promised to be. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Soybean Soybean | 1/20/2014

    " The proverb Never judge a book by its cover is most apt for this book. Although supposedly fiction, it read like an autobiography in passing. Took me several jumpstarts to try keep on trudging through this literary landscape. To be fair, it was lightly engaging. It's just that i'd expected something with 'real' magic and fantastical adventure, based on the artwork on the cover and on the title itself, which had showed such promise, before i started reading page 1, whereupon my heart sank, having come to the realisation that it wasn't what i'd hoped for. It didn't even have a happy ending, so stark and somewhat disturbing, about a non-conventional family who'd got international fame due to a series of fictional books that the patriarch of the family had written right up until his accidental demise. drugs, booze, mental institution centres and messed up human psyches with all its failings played a large part in this book. All in all, i wish i hadn't bought it, and had paid more attention to the fact that it hadnt been shelved in the childrens fiction nor fantasy adventure area of the bookstore. That really oughtve given me a hint, but as i'd alluded to before, it's that damn beguiling title and cover illustration that suckered me in. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Chrissy | 1/15/2014

    " An ok read. Slow start, interesting middle, disappointing end. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Melyssa | 12/2/2013

    " Quirky story about a family of odd characters. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Dawn | 12/1/2013

    " Hate not finishing books, but after 100+ pages I just couldn't stand to keep reading this anymore. Really didn't like it - guess it just wasn't my style of humor. I found it to be dull and most of the characters were annoying to the point where I was anxious to get away from reading the book. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Sarah Sammis | 11/27/2013

    " Sort of mixed up parody / horror of Christopher Robin. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cheryl | 11/15/2013

    " Interesting plot concept, but I didn't really connect with any of the characters. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Astrid Lim | 8/2/2013

    " Not that impressive, this one. what's wrong with me and british-lit? "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Drew | 12/10/2012

    " I enjoyed reading this but am a little confused about what the point of it was supposed to be. The results of parental favoritism? Or bad parenting? The effects of wildly popular children's books? Or coincidences? It was well written but the various plot strands needed to be tied up a little better. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Jessie | 7/12/2012

    " I wasn't a fan of this book at all ... it just seemed to be a narrative of what the author hoped the book would become, and I found it a little pathetic. It was good at first, but slowly deteriorated into a boring Hollywood stereotypical story. It just wasn't for me. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Amanda | 5/9/2012

    " It managed to keep my attention and I enjoyed it, even though I really had no idea what the point of it was...hmmmm "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tracey Sinclair | 3/6/2012

    " An interesting idea let down slightly by its execution, but worth reading. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Kathryn | 12/25/2011

    " Not for me. Couldn't get into it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Alexia | 10/15/2011

    " If I could I would give the first half of the book 4 stars and the second half two. When the story moves to America I felt the plot and characters lost focus. Almost as if different people wrote each half. I really liked the first half. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Liesbeth | 10/14/2011

    " Boek blijft boeien. Plot vond ik tegenvallen, het blijft namelijk wazig "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Janet | 9/27/2011

    " After reading the very funny first chapter I had high hopes for this book. But for me, it was all downhill from there. I did find Elton's prose very readable which must be why I finished the book. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Sarah | 9/18/2011

    " I threw this in the bin. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Marguerite | 7/29/2011

    " This wasn't the story I was expecting based on blurbs and reviews. Aside from that it wasn't TOO bad...until the end. I hated the ending. It was sad and depressing and made ME want to find Mr. Toppit and kill him. Wouldn't recommend it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Robert | 5/22/2011

    " Very well written when you read where author got his idea from makes perfect sense. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Dawn | 4/21/2011

    " Hate not finishing books, but after 100+ pages I just couldn't stand to keep reading this anymore. Really didn't like it - guess it just wasn't my style of humor. I found it to be dull and most of the characters were annoying to the point where I was anxious to get away from reading the book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dennis | 4/19/2011

    " An odd little novel ... satiric, sometimes unsettling, and frequently laugh-out-loud funny. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am somewhat surprised by the lukewarm reviews it received from many other Goodread readers. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jan | 4/10/2011

    " didn't quite work. great idea. i'm mostly impressed by the marketing campaign. how does a small press book get reviewed in the new yorker? "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cathy | 4/8/2011

    " very entertaining story! the characters grab you and pull you in to their lives. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Deb | 3/22/2011

    " This book was creepy, dark and depressing. I didn't like it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Andrea | 3/15/2011

    " I really wanted to give this 3 1/2 stars, but alas, not an option "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cheryl | 3/11/2011

    " Interesting plot concept, but I didn't really connect with any of the characters. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cindy | 2/27/2011

    " It was good, different from what I would normally read, but it's good to expand your reading lists. "

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About the Author
Author Charles Elton

Charles Elton worked as a designer and editor in publishing before becoming a director of the literary agency Curtis Brown. Since 1991 he has worked in television and has been executive producer in drama at ITV since 2000. Among his productions are The Railway Children, the Oscar-nominated short Syrup, Andrew Davies’ adaptation of Northanger Abbey, and the recent series Time of Your Life.