Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Graeme Simsion - The Best of Adam Sharp

Adam Sharp met the love of his life on the other side of the world. He was playing in a bar in Australia when Angelina requested a song. It was the start of a relationship he's never forgotten - but not every duet ends on a high note.
Two decades later and half a world away, Adam is stunned by Angelina's message. He thought he was happy. He thought he had everything. Now all he can think about is her.
Adam has sung about second chances - but does he believe in them? And is he prepared to risk everything to find out if they ever come true?

Comment: Graeme Simsion is the author best known for his Rosie Effect books, featuring a hero who has, apparently, Asperger's syndrome. The books have been very successful and many readers were delighted by them, especially by the unique voice of the narrator. This book is the one the author wrote after the hype with the Rosie books and, to be very honest, I don't think it was a well thought book.

In this book we meet middle aged Adam, a British man who has lived in many different countries due to his work but who currently lives in the UK with his partner Claire. Adam's life seems to be pretty much simple, always with the same routines, even in how he and Claire deal with one another.
One day Adam receives an email from Angelina, one of his part lovers, the woman he thinks of as his Great Lost Love, whom he met in Australia when they were in their 20s. Now in their late 40s, Adam is again thinking of her and everything they shared. When she asks if he wants to live dangerously, will Adam accept the invitation? He has a partner, Angeline is married but the spark still seems to exist between them. What will happen if they meet face to face again and nothing changed after all?

I'll include spoilers!!

What a frustrating story. It read, for me, like a train wreck about to happen and I still watched to see it and the question was not if it would happen but how it would happen.
I confess I feel very disappointed with this novel. I assume many readers were, especially on goodreads, considering the average rating.

This book is divided into two parts. Although throughout the novel we have 48 year old narrator Adam telling us about his thoughts, the first part is more centered on his experiences when he was in his 20s and met Angelina who, despite having been married young, was not happy and a chance encounter proved they were perfect for each other.
The second part of the novel is when Adam accepts Angelina's invitation and their present selves meet and deal with what was left behind.

I don't conscientiously look for books with unfaithful characters but the first part of the novel was not only bearable but emotional because I could see the connection between Adam and Angelina and the effort they both did, even when saying they wouldn't, to accept the other and to be happy.
I was more than ready to accept Angelina's decision to end things with her husband, who we could see didn't make her happy, because the emotion and the narration by Adam (the whole book is narrated by him in he first person) were key to make me defend them and hope they could be together. There was a date that could be the end of things for Adam had a temporary job and would need to move on to another place as part of a program. At this point I imagined they could still be together but the emotional separation was touching and not that unexpected really, because of the second part of the story.

Until the second part, I was thinking about grading this as a little more than average, say four stars if one uses the 1-5 star grading system.
However, I can't understand what the author was thinking when he went the path he did with the second part and half of the story. He presumably wanted to be realistic with how couples might be with one another after years together but I was thinking of this primarily as a romance, secondly as a fiction tale of second chances or - naively - I wanted Adam and Angelina to acknowledge they were great but their lives did change too much for them to let go of what they have now to be together.
I don't think it would be such a surprise to discover this is the conclusion they achieve by the end but, sincerely, I can't accept at all how they acted before they got to that decision.

Angelina is married, still living in Australia with her husband and three children, and she travels with her husband to Paris, where Adam, freshly separated from his partner after a misunderstanding, meet them. They will spend two weeks in a house the couple has near Paris, reconnecting and sharing memories.
I thought this would be very difficult, emotionally, for them because of their shared history and the fact that, obviously, Angelina's husband was with them. I really thought this would be the point of the whole book: for them to talk and remember but to finally accept their time had passed and sometimes second chances aren't meant to be despite the good or painful memories.
I did assume this!

However, it was not what the author had in mind. Many readers have commented on this and how the end was too open, too much lacking real closure considering Adam and Angelina's story. Unlike some, I was actually glad they didn't end up together, that they didn't let go of everything to be once more in love. I liked the realistic aspect of the decision they took instead, she had a life and children, he had someone who, we are told, was not really ready to end their relationship so it was realistic they would settle with what they had instead of going back to a youth romance, no matter how deeply felt it had been. 

What bothered me so much was how Adam and married Angelina were sexually intimate with the knowledge and acceptance of her husband. They acted as immature people who wanted to see if the spark was there yet but even though there are reasons why the husband "allows" them to have sex, I just cannot accept this as smart, as a necessary action for Adam and Angelina to know their minds. I disliked this immensely and for me, it turned off every positive feeling the couple could have shared now, as they met again in their 40s. How easily the three people could play with each other's feelings!
Thinking on this, I just disconnected and didn't really appreciate the way things happened.

The author includes songs in the book, which are meant to "guide" the reader through the characters' experiences and this might help to convey the feelings readers should get while reading. I can accept this idea and the feelings supposedly associated with what the characters do or feel but in the end of everything, Angelina disappointed me terribly despite her life and why she wanted to be with Adam now and the amazing Adam from the first part was no better either, after all.
Grade: 4/10

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