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.
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°.