The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion

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The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: An attempt at comedic lad-lit with a middle-aged man whose main romantic failing comes back for a second trial. Adam Sharp is about the only character in such a plot I would have no intention of being.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 384 Date: February 2017
Publisher: Michael Joseph
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780718179496

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Adam is at that stage in life when everything can change – but if he were to look back it was always thus. He's been treading water in his long-term relationship for many years, but it looks like she will move to America for career reasons, and he would stay in England and do his work – even if it is just something with computers, and contractual. All he seems to have is that, his hobby of pub quizzes (with a speciality on '60s and '70s music), and his past, which included a season working at the piano in a bar in Melbourne. But lo and behold, the biggest thing that can change in his life is he can enter a flashback – especially when the woman he was in love with at said bar gets in touch for the first time in a generation. She used to be a TV star, and married with it, but they had an affair. What kind of change will memories of that bring to bear on Adam?

I thought I was going to love this. Adam and I are quite different, but similar age at least. There is a hard-and-fast, non-apologetic love of certain styles and kinds of music, such as Nick Hornby might once have offered. There is the fact the author has put out a brace of hugely popular, and by all accounts hilarious, rom-coms-for-men, and this featured a manly man in awe of a womanly woman, so only promised more of the same. But boy, I really did struggle. And only a tiny fraction of that is down to he and I having polar opposite tastes in music.

The remnant of this being a rom-com, I think, is that Adam is patently a flawed man – a modern man, with his bullish approach to pub quizzes etc, but a flawed man. There are key times in his life here when the point of the narrative comes to the fore – that however blatantly obvious the right path to take is, Adam kicks his heels and just stares at the signpost. He has the opportunity more times than is fair, basically, to hop into bed with women, at the right or the wrong time for him, and takes none of them, and to slide in a much more measured way into a long-term relationship – again, he doesn't. The way he has it, if it's a decision that two people need to make then it should be the other person telling him it's been made for both of them.

Certainly that rings true of many men, and the potential woman reader of this will agree with my judgement there. But what they won't like is the second half of this book, which just doesn't ring true. It seems to be a bizarre fantasy, some heightened ticking-off from a wish-list, and I never believed it for one minute. Separate to its existence alone, it featured a major decision that Adam does take, and I read and reread it and never once found where and why he takes the choice – it's just to be accepted and dealt with that he has. That lack of nous as regards the character killed the book off for me, which had been mildly tolerable for certain long spells, but hardly featured real romance and never once really fell into the comedy bracket either. I think I laughed once, late on, but it was forgotten with the turning of the page. Before then the humour seems to come from how often Adam and the woman could go over the same private in-joke.

So is there a potential female reader of this? I wouldn't know the gender balance his previous books achieved, but I know they went down well with many blokes, for being honest-hearted depictions of their search for love. This is a misfire, however – Adam is a man who has the cake but needs someone else to feed him it, and in being presented in such a humourless way is just not good company. The Best of Adam Sharp? That may be – but I find it hard to believe this is the best of Graeme Simsion. Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist is much better!

I must still thank the publishers for my review copy.

A balance of a good and a bad marriage – with more likeable characters – can be had with Trust by Mike Bullen.

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Buy The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion at


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