Archive for November, 2009

Book Review: One Red Paperclip

Monday, November 16th, 2009

One Red Paperclip has a fantastic premise. It follows the journey of a Canadian, Kyle MacDonald, who barters his way from a single red paperclip to a house in the space of just one year. The book charts Kyle’s entire journey—from placing the initial advert online and making his first trade, to reaching his ultimate goal by attaining a two-story farmhouse in Kipling, Saskatchewan.

Kyle sets out to trade each item for something bigger or better, but his initial success is only made possible by the generosity of those with whom he arranges to make a trade. One of the early trades, for example, sees Kyle swap a pretty worthless doorknob for a fully functional portable stove, and this sets him up nicely for the next swap. And so it continues.

Whilst the concept is undoubtedly ingenious, the book falls down in a few key areas. The dialogue is often flat and perhaps stays too true to the actual conversations that took place along the way. More riling is MacDonald’s attempts at humour. He constantly falls back on the same lame jokes, such as when describing what people are doing or thinking:

“I wondered if my parents would mind a big white cube van on blocks parked in the driveway. Probably not. But then again, I had no idea. I wasn’t my parents.”

Furthermore, MacDonald manages to irritate the reader with his words of wisdom that conclude each chapter. It’s patronising and hard to take serious from a guy who brings his parents with him on just about every trade and lets his mammy cut his hair. I’m all for close family relations, but parts of the book read like a script from The Brady Bunch.

Despite its glaring flaws, One Red Paperclip’s premise is strong enough to keep you turning the pages until the end. It’s an accessible, easy read that is testament to the power of the internet in helping one man realise his dream.


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