At Least the Pink Elephants are Laughing at Us is a novel by Chris Westlake about three down and out comedians who are gathered together by one journalist so he can document their journey for his book. They are a varied bunch from a variety of backgrounds but all living in Wales. They journey through the ups and downs towards the goal of performing in Edinburgh Scotland for a massive comedy festival.
My favorite aspect of the book are the characters. Each person in the book has his or her own personality. Even the minor characters are unique and easily identifiable. They are also a varied bunch of characters as well. There is the overweight, single, and most experienced Mandy who is the baby of the group. Then there is Conner, a mixed middle aged male who is coming to grips with his mother mental health issues. James is the senior member. While the father of a three year old he is also the one who is approaching a more advanced age. Herbert, who is mildly successful at being both a journalist and a human, is both their leader and their punch line.
The plot was also well thought out and very developed. If anything too much of it was given to the reader. The first of the four sections in the book could have very easily have been cut and introduced as segments within the rest of the book. Some if it was worked into the rest of the book even after being presented in the first section. The history of each of the characters is fascinating. The back stories are varied and complex. The only real commonality they have is that they are all broken in some way, but then most humans are. I think strong characters are very important to a novel, and this book will not disappoint.
I really enjoyed that the plot was not obvious. I haven’t read a book recently that I had figured the ‘mystery’ aspect of it out wrong. It is even better that one of the main characters had it all wrong also. The author did a brilliant job of leading the reader to the wrong conclusion and then twisting it. I really liked the ending as well. It was the perfect combination of reality and happy ever after.
The writing overall is really strong. The start of the book feels more like a collection of short stories that do not really stand on their own. Once you reach the second section, and the heart of the story, it flows more like a narrative. If you are torn at the beginning of the story trust me keep reading. I do not read a book to proofread it, however some of them were extremely apparent. It was easy to catch “Las Angeles” since I live in Los Angeles. There are a few words that the wrong word was inserted during a spelling revision. However, it is also apparent to remember that if you are American the English has Welsh spellings. It is easy for me to not even notice this since I hate paying attention to spelling at all. You can tell from the beginning that the author has talent, however the skill of his writing shows forth more at the end of the book than the beginning.
I am really curious about the characters calling each other “butt”. My first thought was that it was an autocorrect gone bad. When it kept happening I realized that it was probably a cultural difference. The usage of the phrase went right over my head, but it has me curious.
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