Saturday 13 August 2016

BLOG TOUR: The Empathy Problem - Gavin Extence

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?

What did I think?

This was actually a bit of a wake up call for me as I saw so much of myself in Gabriel - not his power and success but definitely putting work before health.  Getting the work life balance is something that many people have off to a tee but for the small number of workaholics out there it's something that is very difficult to do, even when you have a health scare.

Gabriel simply doesn't have time for a brain tumour, it will involve taking too much time off work.  Gabriel will allow absolutely nothing to interfere with his work, not even any treatment that might extend his life or make him more comfortable - treatment can be done on a Saturday, can't it?  (Anyone who knows me will be seeing the similarity to me right about now).  The brain tumour, however, does not love work as much as Gabriel.  As the tumour grows, Gabriel begins to experience emotions he didn't know he possessed and it causes him to make some very surprising decisions.

All of this is going on at the time of the anti-capitalism Occupy protests in London in 2011 to 2012 as thousands of people took to the streets to protest about inequality and corporate greed following the banking crisis.  Gabriel's luxury office overlooks the Occupy camp and he is in effect one of the bankers that they are protesting about.  As Gabriel's emotions start to change, he takes a walk through the square and hears the most beautiful music.  He is inexplicably drawn to Caitlin, a talented busker, who he then scarily stalks.  You could really feel him losing control of the rational part of his brain at this point.  His stalking actually proves useful when Caitlin is mugged and Gabriel, lurking behind in the shadows, challenges her attacker.  Caitlin and Gabriel strike up a friendship that is both hilarious and despondent as Gabriel tangles himself into a web of lies.

I'm not a big fan of politics and there's a large part of the storyline that's dedicated to the anti-capitalism protests, however, it wasn't overbearing.  There's enough going on with Gabriel's rainbow of emotions to hold the reader's interest.  It's so intriguing to see the experiencing of emotions that you or I may see as ordinary being shown as completely alien to Gabriel.  It's powerful and fascinating to see that, as human beings, we're all capable of feeling the same emotions but for some more than others they're buried so much deeper.

Having previously read The Mirror World of Melody Black, I find Gavin Extence to be a completely unique author.  His writing is so thought-provoking, engaging and witty that his books are impossible to put down.  I read The Empathy Problem in less than 24 hours but the story within will stay with me for a lot longer than that.  

I received this book from the publisher, Hodder & Stoughton, in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

About the Author:

Gavin Extence lives in Sheffield with his wife, children and cat. 

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