Cover of book: The Best of Adam Sharp

Graeme Simsion
The Best of Adam Sharp

Graeme Simsion’s first two novels, the sparky and quirky comedy romances The Rosie Project and its sequel The Rosie Effect, have been the biggest Australian literary success story in recent memory. So expectation is high for the author’s latest, The Best of Adam Sharp.

Having banked a couple of multimillion sellers, Simsion chooses, as well he might, to go in a different, more personal direction with his third book, perhaps also in an attempt to cast off the Rosie shroud. It doesn’t work out so well.

The premise is simple. Adam Sharp is a reasonably happily married IT consultant living in Norwich. He is contacted out of the blue by Angelina Brown, a TV actress with whom he had a brief affair some 20 years prior in Melbourne. He was only in Australia for a short time as a young man, and amused himself by playing piano at a bar on Melbourne’s Victoria Parade. This provides Simsion the means to expound on the importance of music in life, especially the classic tunes of the 1960s and 1970s. The first half of the book is mostly an extended flashback, chronicling Sharp and Brown’s affair, before leaping forward to the present day, and the rekindling of their love.

Simsion is a gifted comic writer, but his trademark wit is largely absent here. The Best of Adam Sharp is a strangely bland book, with its initial promise quickly reverting to a by-the-numbers rom-com, with sadly little of the com. The second half, set in the French countryside, is especially trying, as the plot descends into melodrama.

Simsion hits his marks by tapping into the daydream of a do-over, where the person you once loved is still smoking hot and becomes available for you to jump into bed with again, but there’s something naive and old-fashioned about it all. The audience for Simsion’s wistful romantic fantasy might be white baby boomers stuck in loveless marriages who listen to Gold FM and lust over “the one that got away”. Fortunately that is a large book-buying demographic, because there is nothing here for readers under 50 to identify with or enthuse about.

Adam Sharp is Adrian Mole meets Mills & Boon, a blast from the past. Still, if its intended demographic is in the mood, it might be the best-selling Australian fiction title of the year.  JD

Text, 384pp, $29.99

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Oct 1, 2016 as "Graeme Simsion, The Best of Adam Sharp ".

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Reviewer: JD

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