The Empathy Problem [review]

The Empathy Problem - Gavin Extence

[Synopsis]

Driven by money, power and success, Gabriel has worked ruthlessly to get to the very top of the banking game. He’s not going to let the inconvenience of a terminal brain tumour get in his way.

But the tumour has other ideas. As it grows, it appears to be doing strange things to Gabriel’s personality. Whether he likes it or not, he seems to be becoming less selfish, less mercenary, less unlikeable.

Once he could dismiss the rest of humanity as irrelevant. Now he’s not so sure. Women, in particular, are becoming worryingly three-dimensional. And none more so than Caitlin, the ‘unremarkable’ girl he sees busking on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral. When she plays her violin, Gabriel could almost believe that he has a soul…

But as each day that passes brings him closer to his last, has time run out for second chances?

Bestselling author Gavin Extence pushes the envelope again with another thought-provoking and funny novel about the surprises, good and bad, that life can throw at us.

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[My Review]

This has swiftly jumped into one of my favourite books of the year. It’s heartfelt without being too emotional and so well written. I started reading and was completely hooked!

The story follows hedge fund manager Gabriel, who really lives the typical rich lifestyle – and doesn’t really seem to care about anyone apart from himself. He’s well aware of this, and to be fair he doesn’t pretend to be anything he’s not, but he really doesn’t give seem to give a damn about anything apart from his own comfort and happiness. The book starts with him just having been diagnosed with a brain tumour, which gives him only a few months to live – you’d think this would immediately change his outlook on life, but as we begin the story it really hasn’t changed him… or so it seems.

The characters are SO brilliant; though Gabriel is one of those people you know you should hate, he’s got a real charm about him. Perhaps this is because we see inside his head and see the way he thinks about everything; some of his thoughts really made me laugh and others made me feel really sad. However, the novel manages to avoid swaying into overly emotional territory, despite the nature of the story. Still, I felt pretty damn emotional by the end of the book. I really loved Caitlin’s dry sense of humour and the depictions of Gabriel’s greedy workmates; they rang quite true to life – or at least how I’d imagine people like that to be!

The Empathy Problem is beautifully written and manages to avoid being cheesy or clichéd, which I feel is a real achievement. Gavin Extence includes plenty of wit and manages to avoid the novel feeling like it’s preaching at you; it makes you think without forcing you, and I hugely enjoyed it.

To me, this novel was pretty much perfect – whatever genre you enjoy, I strongly advise you to read it now!

[Rating: 5/5]

* Many thanks to Hodder & Stoughton and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review *

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