2 out of 4 stars
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Simon Potter’s Losing It All is a fictional novel set primarily in Scotland and England. The book starts off with a short chapter titled "The End" that briefly mentions a crime and a great loss. The next chapter goes back to the beginning, with our protagonist, Anthony Crepwright, receiving his first train set for Christmas in 1963. The Hornby-Dublo set included an engine of "good weight" named Crepello. This prized gift was from Anthony’s wealthy grandfather. It helped start a long obsession with trains, memorabilia and his grandfather’s home in Scotland, Glenturret.
The rest of the book is comprised of excerpts from Anthony’s life from 10 or 11 years old until, I believe, his middle age. There is some jumping around in the timeline but the stories generally flow in chronological order. The anecdotes explore Anthony’s approach to life throughout the years. They include events that may have led to the great loss mentioned at the opening of the book. Included, are Anthony’s times at Glenturret as a child, student, teacher and eventual owner. Also covered, are some of his time at school in London and a motorcycle trip with his brother.
The stories are well written and engaging. The tone of the book is sharp and witty. I found the descriptions/commentary of the various time periods to be amusing and interesting at times. However, even though I did appreciate some of the stories, I did not enjoy the themes of revenge and sociopathic selfishness. Several of the stories included cruelty to others, a great lack of empathy and an apparent lack of remorse. Two of the incidents described resulted in victims being hospitalized. I cannot even begin to imagine the impact of the incredibly misogynistic and vicious song “Christine Comes Around” on the poor Christine in question. The young woman made somewhat creepy advances on Anthony’s long-time friend Peter. In retaliation, they wrote and recorded a song of all the extraordinarily violent things they would like to do to stop Christine from coming around. Even after being banned by the BBC, it became a cult hit.
The lack of responsibility and empathy of the main characters became rather tiresome. I don’t appreciate stories that aim for their humour in cruelty to, the condescension of and the dehumanization of other people. So many movies use this type of humour; I am just not a fan. Anthony shows some of his condescension for others when he says that his grandfather “had never learnt to laugh at foreigners, but simply found them irritating.” At least by finding them irritating, they were being acknowledged as human beings with their own culture. The same cannot be said when one is laughing at another.
I rate Losing It All by Simon Potter 2 out of 4 stars. Anthony and Peter seemed to waft along doing exactly as they pleased with very little thought of how their actions would impact others. However, the writing is done well. I did find myself wondering how they got to the end. A hint of humanity was shown here and there throughout the book. Also, some slight moral understanding was wrapped up in a single paragraph at the very end. For potential readers, there are a number of sexual jokes, one sex scene, some profanity and a fair sprinkling of minor typos in the book. This novel will appeal to readers of the “old boys’ club” mentality who enjoy pranks, tricks and revenge and don’t mind if these result in the physical, mental, emotional or spiritual anguish of others. If you are unaware of the definition of empathy and couldn’t care less, this just may be the book for you.
Losing It All
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