Just after hitting the big three-o, I read Mike Gayle's novel Turning Thirty and sniggered as I recognised myself and my state of mind in his writing. It was a really funny, well-written novel that really appealed to me in the same way that Kathy Lette does, because he was writing about exactly the way I was feeling in a hysterically funny way. When I was given the chance to review The To-Do List, I jumped at the chance to see if I'd enjoy it just as much.
Well, it wasn't at all what I was expecting but I loved it. Gone is the serious(ish) novellist and in his place is the latest member of the lovable loons gang ! I love reading stories about people (ummm it's just occured to me that they're all men actually - I guess us women have too much on our plates to actually follow through on the brainless ideas !!) coming up with a totally ridiculous idea (often involving several pints of beer and a dare !) then following it through with hilarious consequences. Danny Wallace is a total genius (actually no, I really shouldn't encourage him, should he ever read this review !) - er let's say buffoon then, in the madcap antic stakes, as Yes Man, Friends Reunited and numerous other books have shown. Dave Gorman went around the world looking for people who shared his name (we can blame that one on Danny Wallace and copious amounts of beer too !). Tony Hawkes went around Ireland with a fridge. Alex Horne went on a mission to get spoof words into the dictionary (and is now on a new mission to become the oldest man alive !). They all have me laughing and rolling my eyes at them, just like their long-suffering wives in the books. But I never thought respectable novelist Mike Gayle would join their ranks !!
He does do it very well though. I'm sure he must have shared a flat or at least a drunken evening with Danny Wallace at some point because he shares a lot of personality traits with him - he is just as determined and goes to any lengths to complete his slightly deranged missions. Although Mike Gayle's starting point may sound sensible - writing a To Do List of all those things that keep getting put off and that you really should do to enter the "serious adult" world - it soon descends into silliness and hilarious OTT-ness when he comes up with 1277 items that need to be ticked off before his next birthday. But the thing that makes it even more hilarious is that I frequently recognised myself in his tales. We too have an appliance - an oven, as opposed to a DVD player - that has been showing the wrong time for the last 3 years and I laughed and empathised with the AOL "helpline" (I use the word loosely) story.
Mike Gayle writes a hilarious tale but does offer moments of tenderness, notably when he talks of his relationship with his wife, kids and parents and has a few "welling-up" moments. He is more in touch with his emotional, feminine side than, for example, Danny Wallace who is just in touch with his silly side ! You'll roll your eyes and shake your head at his antics but ultimately feel all warm and snuggly inside and think "awww he's such a lovely guy".
The most amazing thing is, Mike actually did manage to complete his challenge. He deserves a medal - but his wife (who, I might add, had their second baby just after he started his mammoth mission) deserves an even bigger one for putting up with him and even supporting him all the way !
It's a really great, light read that will have you giggling all the way but, surprisingly, taking a few moist-eyed moments to ponder on the important things and people in your life too.
star rating : 4.5/5
RRP : £6.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (8 Jan 2009)
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