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Book review: <i>A Man In Full</i> by Tom Wolfe

A good ol’ Southern real estate tycoon, a black mayor and a black lawyer, who just aren’t black enough for their constituents, a young follower of the Stoics, and a high profile rape case that could turn Atlanta into a racial battleground are the main features of this door stop of a novel. And, while Tom Wolfe seems to bang on a bit, some of the detail is great. The only major complaint I had with this book was the fact that Wolfe obviously decided that “gloaming” was his new favourite word, and used it five times through the story. And it stuck out. Aside from that, good for Tom! Doesn’t he compare favourably to such book exchange annoyances as James Patterson et al? Finding A Man in Full amongst the Jodi Picoults and German copies of Da Vinci Code was a rare stroke of luck, I tell you.

The content

Charlie Crocker is sixty. He has a gorgeous young trophy wife, four private planes, a plantation, a rippling back, a football injury, a towerblock bearing his name, and a multimillion dollar debt. The bank is after him. His wife resents his good ol’ Southern boy act. And he’s just made a little decision that will affect the entire course of a young man’s life. Meanwhile, Roger Too White, black lawyer who just isn’t black enough, gets called in to defend a young black football star in a rape case... because he knows the mayor. Meanwhile, Charlie’s ex is getting cosy with the banker...

Wolfe weaves a tangled story, possibly with a bit too much detail, that isn’t judgmental and exhibits an empathy with each of the different detailed characters. It’s like reading a high quality generational saga, but it’s set in the space of a couple of months. And I like it because, in my opinion, later Wolfe is far superior to earlier Wolfe and he has developed a whole lot as a writer. This one kept me involved till the end, unlike The Kool Aid Acid Test which bored me rigid after the first couple of pages. Good for you, Tom Wolfe.

Who is this book for?

Want a bit of a saga that you don’t have to put too much effort into? This is a good one. It’s a fairly universal story, not aimed at any particular readership and is, therefore, suitable for anybody with a bit of time on their hands in need of distraction.

If you like this book, you would also like...

I haven’t read Bonfire of the Vanities, also by Tom Wolfe, but I’ve heard it’s good and it is one of his later ones, so don’t take it as gospel but there’s a tentative recommendation. Also, give some of his mates a read—if you haven’t encountered Jack Kerouac, Ken Kesey, Hunter S. Thompson and the like, some of their stuff is immensely enjoyable and read together paints an interesting generational picture.

In short:

Title: A Man In Full
Author: Tom Wolfe
Publisher: Bantam Books
ISBN: 0553580930
Year published: 1998
Pages: 787
Score out of ten: 7
Review Type: