Addition by Toni Jordan

Confession: I set my alarm for a number ending in a two or a seven every morning. My alarm goes off and then I lie in bed for another five minutes until a two or a seven rolls around. On days I don’t have an alarm set, I wait for a two or seven before getting out of bed. Naturally, my ultimate get-up time 7.27am – unfortunately that would be considered a sleep-in these days… Anyway, before you start thinking that I am completely OCD, know that if the house was burning down I wouldn’t wait for my digital clock to click to a two or seven. I’m obsessive but not compulsive (or is it the other way around?).

There’s safety in numbers, as Grace Vandenburg, the main character in Toni Jordan’s Addition, knows. Grace’s life is ordered by numbers – how many bananas she buys, how many steps she takes to the café, what time she cooks her dinner, how many strokes it takes to brush her teeth.

“I had measured the dimensions of my world, and I knew them, and no one could change them…. In time, counting became the scaffolding of my life.”

You quickly realise that Grace’s counting habit has become somewhat detrimental (but is also the thing that holds her together) – no longer working as a teacher, she’s surviving on disability benefits and is socially isolated. But then Grace meets Seamus O’Reilly and although it defies all of the safe, mathematical systems that rule Grace’s world, she falls in love.

Can we just pause a moment and consider the various covers this book has been given? They’re all terrible (the one I used at the bottom is the best of a bad bunch). My edition came with the photograph of the legs. Urgh. It’s probably why I kept bypassing it on my Kindle, thinking “How did this ‘women’s fiction’ get on here?” And the suggestive toothbrushes…? Give me strength…


Anyway, that’s the only downside to this book. If you’re looking for something light – edging toward the chick-lit or rom-com end of the spectrum – Addition is a great pick. It’s not all fluff. There’s a deeper message but not one that you might expect. There’s also a plot twist that breaks the traditional chick-lit mould.

Jordan’s writing is funny without being forced and her observations are ever-so-slightly pointed –

“At 8.45 on Saturday morning in January in Glen Iris the supermarket is deserted – everyone is still asleep in their beach houses at Portsea or Anglesea or Phillip Island, dreaming about whomever it is they dream about while they lay beside their spouses.”

Melburnians will appreciate just how delightful that quote is and it’s bits like this that ensure Addition is never schmaltzy.

3.5/5 Sweet.

Each day Grace orders orange cake – the number of bites she takes to eat it is dictated by how many poppy seeds are sprinkled on the top. My very favourite orange cake recipe comes from Claudia Roden – this cake never fails.


As part of the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge, I’m comparing the Belfast summer and Melburnian winter – the results for the day I finished this book (June 21): Belfast 12°-18°, Melbourne 10°-14°.

27 responses

  1. Pingback: 20 Books of Summer (except that it’s winter) | booksaremyfavouriteandbest

  2. Why is the lady on disability? Over at Read Diverse Books, Naz started a meme that gets readers to examine how diverse their reading really is by looking at various categories, one of them being books with a protagonist who has a disability.

    • I’ll check that meme out, thanks. The character is on disability support for a particular reason but I didn’t say what it was because it would be a bit of a plot spoiler!

  3. 1. Whoever came up with the “suggestive toothbrushes” cover needs to get a new job, because they’re terrible at this one (as are whoever came up with all the other covers, except for the one at the bottom).
    2. This does sound pretty good. While I don’t dislike chick-lit, it’s not usually something I gravitate towards, unless it’s based in a world war or something.
    3. I can’t get out of bed unless the time ends with an even number, but funnily enough it’s nearly always 6:12 that I get out of bed (but never on purpose, I don’t lay there waiting for 6:12 to roll around). That’s probably the latest I can get to with enough time to get ready, but it also ends with a ‘2’, so it works for me.

    • See 6:12 is a good number to get up on because 2 x 6 = 12… Don’t ask me why that makes it good but to my mind, it does!

      The suggestive toothbrushes ranks as one of the worst covers I’ve seen in years (the main character counts toothbrush bristles which is why they feature but no one buying the book would know that…).

      I’m not big on chick-lit either but this one is different enough to be worth a read.

      • It makes perfect sense to me too!
        I might see if Addition is at the library – I suspect it might not be a book that I want to read over and over again. I don’t know why, but it reminds me of The Portable Veblen – I think you read that too? They seem to have the same sort of vibe, and I didn’t really enjoy Veblen that much.

  4. Sounds reminiscent of The Rosie Project, which I enjoyed. If I hadn’t read this review there’s no way I would even consider the novel with those covers – what were they thinking? They’re all complete yuck.

  5. Oh wow, you’ve reminded me how much I LOVED this book. (My cover was the middle one!) She was coming to speak in Brisbane just after I read this and I bought a ticket to the breakfast as I was smitten and then my bloody boss required me to come into work early that day… (damned Premier was travelling somewhere and we needed to finalise some stuff). Thankfully a colleague mentioned to her that I was upset about the breakfast and she gave me the money for the ticket (out of her own pocket). I thought about saying no, but she was the sort of boss who expected A LOT so I took it!

  6. Funnily enough, I get up at the same time but it’s the sport report that kicks me out of bed. I’m completely with you on the cover issue – so important to get this right for both writers and readers, and so rarely happens.

  7. The covers really are terrible, aren’t they? And why so many different ones? I had to laugh at how close your winter temperatures are to our summer (I’m in Glasgow, which is about the same as Belfast usually). Wearing a fleece at the moment… but at least I’ve been able to ditch the blanket over the knees. 😉

    • No knee blanket? You’re practically sweltering then 😉

      It’s extraordinary how many terrible covers they managed to produce for one book!

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