Reviews: The Rosie Result and The Best of Adam Sharp, Graeme Simsion

These are the latest reads in my stack chosen for max reading ease and fun during this time of sleep deprivation and only being able to read in 10-page snatches (I didn’t envisage not being able to hold a book while breastfeeding a squirmy 9-week-old… why didn’t I create my stack on Kindle?)

First up, The Rosie Result, the final instalment in Simsion’s trilogy of general fiction comedy-romances about “on-the-spectrum” Don Tilman and the love of his life, Rosie. In this part, a decade or so after the events of the second book, Don and Rosie’s son Hunter is on the cusp of adolescence. Also considered – by his teachers at any rate – “on the spectrum”, Hunter’s struggling to fit in at school, so Don quits his professorial job to be a stay-at-home dad for Hunter and help him navigate all the social minefields Don himself faced as a misfit teen.

The first two in the series flirted only subtly with the topic of autism and instead focused mainly on Don’s misadventures in winning, then hanging on to, the beautiful and forthright Rosie. But while sticking with the sit-com plot, this final book really gets to grips with the elephant in the room and zeroes right in on this thorniest of subjects, autism and the choice to seek a diagnosis for it; both for Don and for Hunter. It’s a sensitive, topical and thought-provoking exploration of how autism and the “spectrum” is viewed in society today, as well as the school system’s treatment of kids who are just a bit different, making it relevant for every parent who’s ever shepherded a smart or sensitive child through school. Yet it never makes you feel like you’re being spoonfed or lectured to. The plot is as headlong as ever, the writing as sharp and funny, and the conclusion as satisfying and heartwarming as we’ve come to expect from Simsion. If you haven’t read the Rosie series, I would recommend it to just about anyone – men, women, even young adults. It’s just pure unalloyed reading pleasure, general fiction at its best.

The second read, The Best of Adam Sharp, tells the story of middle-aged software engineer and amateur piano player Adam. He’s a thoroughly ordinary man but he’s been given one sudden, extraordinary chance: to rekindle a decades-lost romance with the beautiful and compelling Angelina, the “one who got away” when they were in their twenties. This is a whisker closer to romance than general fiction, and is somewhat less comedic and compulsive a read than the Rosie novels, probably because of the large amounts of past-tense backstory introduced in the first half. They’re necessary, but they do slow it down a tad. But it’s still highly readable, and there are added layers of complexity and surprise to the plot, as Simsion builds to the climax, that keep you guessing right up until the end. A good holiday read, but if you haven’t tried Simsion before, start with The Rosie Project.

The Curing of a Bibliomaniac Part 20: Noah’s Ark (Barbara Trapido, 1984)

Books left: 6. Weeks left: 10 (home stretch!)

IMAG0637It may well be that somewhere there is a book lover who only cares about the actual content of the books and not about how they look.

 

 

I am not that one.

Part of why I turned into this raging pathological bibliomaniac in the first place is because I love the whole package of a book. I love how the judicious choice of jacket quotes on a really attractive and striking and original and appropriate cover design can combine to scream at the susceptible bibliophile PICK ME UP AND RAVISH, I MEAN READ, ME. GO ON, DO ME UNTIL I’M IN TATTERS.

I love how the collaboration between a literary and a visual art can collide in a way that communicates something entirely new and individual about the contents of the book. And when they get shabby and crinkly and old, I love that too. I love yellowed pages and cardboard covers weathered with a series of fine lines, just like an ageing face, and ones bearing illustrations so reminiscent of their era in their designs and their fonts that they are attractive just like a fifties pin-up. Such books age beautifully, like Jessica Lang, or a nice bottle of red.

A good book with a bad cover is like an important news story without a photograph or with a boring headline. It’s a shame and a waste because ain’t nobody going to read it.

I’ve loved Barbara Trapido since I was a whippersnapper but the only reason I knew to collect her titles is because I happened to read The Travelling Hornplayer when I was aforementioned whippersnapper and the Matriarch and I both read all the same books. This stage of my life followed the stage in which all my books were about ponies and improbably fun English boarding schools.

So it’s lucky I stumbled across Trapido then through the Matriarch, because I certainly wouldn’t pick up one of these books today based on their covers. Just look at those covers. They look as though the publisher’s ten-year-old offspring thought it was a great idea and no one else in the meeting dared to disagree. The colours are ugly and clashing, the drawings unappealing, the font horrendous. The designs are eyesores, to my mind.

IMAG0638

 

Some more of my Trapido titles, still with rather bad covers.

 

 

Now I’ve eaten up half my word count with a rant I’ll make the review short and sweet.

This is essentially the story of the unlikely marriage of an odd couple – but an oddly perfect one.

But Trapido is a surprising author. One moment you think of her as like a nanny who talks a lot about gender roles and the next she reveals herself as a titillating storyteller who conjures up a superlatively immediate romance, complete with the c-word and plenty of orgasms.

Her dialogue and general prose is constantly gigglesome. You are always smiling to yourself, but it’s too hard to pick a bit to read aloud to someone to share the pleasure because you need the effect of reading the sentence before that bit and the sentence after that bit and before you know it you have read out loud a whole four pages and the Ministry has fallen asleep.

Any Trapido is a great suggestion for book club: short enough that those members who balk at a book over 200 pages will not be frightened, and so easy and fun everyone will finish it for once and you can discuss the ending without anyone saying they don’t want any spoilers because they only have a “few chapters to go”. It is intelligent and literary enough to feel like you are reading literary fiction worthy of a book club and with a few discussion points, but it is close enough to general fiction that there will be no disagreements about what something Meant, and the discussion will soon end in you all quaffing more wine and gargling more cheese (as Bridget Jones would say) and saying how great the choice was and then turning to mindless gossip.

You’d have to be made of stone not to enjoy this. It’s effortless, sexy and relentlessly funny. I dragged out the last few pages, not wanting it to end, and felt all disgruntled for at least two days that I couldn’t read it any more but had to pick something else.

Keep or kill? This one is a win for the Project. I have now read all of the titles of Trapido’s I own and have pictured (except Juggling, the one with the dreadful watercolour, or whatever it is, of clowns, or whatever they are.) So I’ll keep that one to read and get rid of the rest, because let’s face it, these are not collectable editions. It’s hardly a set of matching Ian Rankins, for instance. Hurrah! Another pile bites the dust.