I wonder, as I write these reviews, if I am not overly demanding. I do read other people’s thoughts about the books I review and find often that they are over-enthusiastic about the contents or the quality of the writing. What I am trying to say, I suppose, is that you should read my reviews with a certain filter, one knowing that I might be slightly more critical than your average reviewer. But enough of that, here is what I thought of The Best of Adam Sharp, by Graeme Simsion.
Adam Sharp is in his late forties and lives a comfortable, if not overexciting life. He works where and when he needs to as an IT consultant, enjoys pub quizzes and is a music connoisseur. He lives with his partner, Claire, a very successful business woman. On the surface, he is happy, but he sleeps in his own room and hasn’t played the piano, other than to practice scales, in years. This routine, though, satisfies him, until Angelina Brown reappears into his life. His great love of twenty-five years ago walks back into his life and throws it all upside down, even more so when she invites him to spend some time with her and her husband in their holiday home in France.
Graeme Simsion, with whom (yes, again), I wasn’t familiar with, is the author of this and another two novels, as well as a number of short stories and micro fiction. As I always do when I write my reviews, I went onto his website to find out some more about him. His interests and participation in artistic endeavours are quite varied and extensive, and in them I recognised many features that I found in the novel. Their non-artistic job, for one thing. Simsion also has a taste for wine, which is prominent in the French part of the novel, and there is something about a duck, but I’ll admit I’m not sure what that’s about. His website offers quite an interesting read and you can find it here. But back to the review.
As I try to think about how to best define this novel, I am struggling. One could say it’s a romantic novel, I suppose, as far as the main subject is Adam’s feelings for Angelina and, to some extent, Claire, but it is not a classic storyline. Adam has wondered all his life what would have been with Angelina if he had stayed in Australia, where they met, or if he had fought for her harder yet never did anything about it. Only now that Angelina contacts him, does he start thinking of having a chance with her. Even if she is married again. Don’t judge me too harshly, I know these things happen, but I suppose I’d have liked him to have a bit more of a moral dilemma about it.
There are several unsettling things for me in this story, but I suppose some of them are part of what makes the characters more real and tangible. Adam, for one thing, has no issues with his online flirtation with Angelina at first, even though he is still with Claire at the time and, although they split up before anything really happens, his willingness to jump into a plane to meet with Angelina as soon as she asks and determination to get her back without a second thought seems just, well, wrong. I suppose what I am trying to say is that I find it difficult to root for this character in this specific situation. There are other things in the story, while in France with Angelina and her husband, that make it equally hard for me to have an invested interest into Adam’s success.
I am not saying, though, that the novel is bad. I’m not even saying I didn’t like it. I did enjoy it and it keeps your attention enough that you do want to know what happens at the end, which is really all you can ask of a novel. The resolution satisfied my need as a reader for a happy ending and, although the journey was less than smooth, Adam gets there at the end.
Another highlight of this novel is the importance of music through the narrative. It is rare for a book to have a soundtrack, at least for the reader, as most writers will listen to specific music while they work on their stories. The book offers a full playlist at the back, with all the songs that are mentioned, played and sung by Adam and others. It is almost a history of modern music in itself and it does bring to the novel an extra layer that makes all the difference.
I suppose this is the story of a man in a mid-life crisis, carrying a number of unresolved issues, both in his love-life as well as his personal life, since he can’t disentangle himself from the issues his parents had, his father having been less than faithful and separated from his mother for a long time. His death is an experience that lingers around Adam throughout the narrative and feels very much like a core issue that is driving Adam’s overall behaviour.
I am unsure, if I tell the truth, whether I would recommend this book to many of my friends. Anybody with a true, deep interest in music, would find something in this novel to carry him or her along. The story is good and keeps you interested, but I don’t feel that I, personally, have gained much from its reading.
I did tell you I might be overly critical.
The Best of Adam Sharp is now available for purchase.