In Danny Wallace’s novel Charlotte Street, the main character is used to the jokes about his name, and he’s good-natured enough to let it go. Well, he’ll grouse about it to himself, but Jason Priestley likely won’t say anything to someone’s face. In fact, Jason Priestley isn’t very assuming in person at all, which might be one reason his life is passing him by.
As he watches his ex-girlfriend move on, updating her Facebook statuses with upbeat and exciting news, he realizes his last status read, “Jason Priestley is… eating soup.” Yeah, that about sums it up. But then comes what could be his catalyst for change– he steps in to help a woman get into a cab with a bunch of packages, only to find that after she’s driven off, he’s still holding on to something of hers. That disposable camera, and the grateful smile that she threw his way, are all he’s got left in her wake, but perhaps it’s not the end of the road.
Jason’s friend, Dev, also unlucky in love, but filled with an admirable amount of optimism and perseverance, convinces him that this is just a beginning. If he gets those pictures developed, maybe they’ll somehow lead him to his mystery girl. As Jason sets out to find “The Girl,” he begins to wonder where the line is drawn between fanciful searching and creepy stalking. Along the way, he also discovers that there are still plenty of opportunities for him to screw his life up even more– personally and professionally.
Hope and resignation are two opposing themes in Jason’s life, and in this novel as a result. Seen through Jason’s eyes, resignation is the only option once one becomes smart enough to give up on hope. As things seem to be collapsing all around him, Jason offers this summary of his experiences thus far:
So, after a few unanswered texts and a couple of unpicked-up calls, I took to keeping myself to myself. In some ways, it was nice. I was reading more… Things were calm, I guess, and I was resigned to life. Because once again, I’d seen where hope could get me. Better to live without it, I reasoned. Better to be surprised when something good happens, than to try to make it happen yourself and fail.
Of course, we as readers also see where Jason’s simply saying what he thinks he’s supposed to say, even though we know better about his true feelings. As much as he talks about the dangers of hope, it’s clear that he’s never going to be able to stop holding on to the idea that something good is coming his way.
There are more nuances to this story than I can cover in a short review, but the many pieces to Jason’s story fall together nicely as the novel progresses. As a narrator, Jason lets readers in on these different side stories in his own time, admitting to his own faults with more than a hint of self-deprecating humor. Danny Wallace deftly conveys a lovable character in desperate need of a push in Jason, and though I’ve never been to London, I could absolutely picture the hub of Jason’s life, with Charlotte Street as the center of much of that action.
If you’re looking for a fun story of searching for love, told from the perspective of the ever-hopeful (even if he won’t admit it) boy in the boy-plus-girl equation, look no further than Charlotte Street.
Want to find out if he ever finds “The Girl?” Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Charlotte Street, U.S. mailing addresses only, please. We’ll announce the winner in our November 14 column. This giveaway is now closed.