The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion


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The best of Adam Sharp is about a middle aged man (you guessed it – Adam Sharp) working in a dull but well paid IT consultancy role. His relationship with partner Claire is also dull but functional, in an I’ll-cook-tonight-can-you-take-the-bins-out type way. Adam and Claire seem to be blandly plodding through life when a blast from the past gets in contact to reconnect with Adam. What happens next is possibly the most unemotional assessment of what would happen if… that I’ve ever read. There’s some sexy bits, some intrigue and lots of game playing, which make some parts of the book interesting but ultimately… yeah. The word that springs to mind is just, you know… dull.

Let’s start with the characters. Adam Sharp is a boring middle aged man. He builds IT databases. He’s in a pub quiz team. He has a dull partner who is in a walking club. He says himself that he’s not especially good looking. He lives in Norwich. AND YET WE ARE LED TO BELIEVE THAT HE MANAGES TO PULL AN EXTREMELY ATTRACTIVE AUSTRALIAN ACTRESS – because he can play the piano. I think the author may have wildly overestimated the effects of pub singers on women. Yes, it’s not completely beyond the realms of possibility but really? We’re also expected to believe that after a brief relationship in their early twenties, this glamorous, clever woman – who lives, let’s not forget, half way around the world – gets back in contact to pick up where they left off. Despite having a sexy husband and three kids. And living in Australia.

Then there’s the female characters themselves. There’s poor dull Claire, passively letting Adam drift out of her life (after 20 odd years) because her job keeps her happy. Then there’s Angelina, the sexy actress with the great life, loads of cash, husband, kids etc. And Adam gets to choose between them. In real life, I suspect both of them would have ditched him long ago. Instead, Adam selfishly meanders into a bizzare love triangle where he weighs up his options based entirely on what is best for him. There is literally no thought given to what the women are thinking or feeling – only a brief bit of guilt that he might break up a marriage and this would make him like his dad, who he hated/idolized in equal measure. This utter selfishness made me really dislike him – by the end of the book I wanted him to end up alone and living with his mother.

As far as the story goes, there’s an awful lot of Adam thinking about songs that express his emotions, but literally nothing about him actually feeling anything. A lot of the songs are pretty mainstream (Beatles, Stones, Bob Dylan etc.) but I wasn’t familiar with some of them so the meaning was lost on me. There’s a lot of technical waffle about playing the piano in b minor or whatever which again was lost on me.

Throughout the book, the author mentions that Adam and Claire DO NOT HAVE CHILDREN at least ten times. I have no idea why this is such a massive deal, especially as we’re told that they’re both ok with the fact. Is the author saying you can’t have a happy lasting relationship without kids? Does that somehow make it ok to go off with other women? I’m not sure.

In fairness, the middle part of the book was quite interesting. Again, there was far too much technical detail about what wine was being drunk (who cares) and nothing about emotions/thoughts/feelings but once the story finally got going I found it could be quite enjoyable. Yes, there are some bits which are so middle aged man fantasy as to be almost a pastiche (short red see through negligee anyone?) but there was at least a bit of suspense. Unfortunately, this didn’t last long and concluded with a terrible ending but for a while I thought the book showed some promise. Case in point – the torrid love affair is interspersed with whole days devoted to logging on to the wi-fi to get some database building done. Whilst sat next to the woman that you’re passionately in love with. Who is also working away on her own laptop. Who said romance is dead?

Overall, I found this book quite boring. It picked up in the middle (where there was some actual action) but for the most part it was just a story about a man dithering between choosing one passive woman over another, with no concerns for their emotions or the fact that they might not want him. The sex scenes were more factual than passionate, there was far too much technical detail and I didn’t think the use of music to convey emotions worked particularly well. In fairness, the songs chosen were not the type that I would usually listen to so perhaps there was a layer of subtlety that was lost on me that other readers would have enjoyed – but I couldn’t find it. Not terrible, but not for me, I’m afraid.

Rating: 5/10

Please note that I read this book for free via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks, Netgalley!

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