Gavin Extence – The Empathy Problem
- Yasmin Sulaiman
- 14 September 2016
Compelling, touching story with a poignant message
Like his previous hit novels, The Universe Versus Alex Woods and The Mirror World of Melody Black, Gavin Extence's new work is remarkable for its strong voice. In this case, it's something of a hindrance to begin with: the central character, Gabriel, is so unlikeable at first, that it's occasionally hard to keep reading. But persistence pays off: The Empathy Problem evolves into a compelling story with a poignant message.
Gabriel is a disgustingly wealthy, emotionally shallow hedge fund manager, embedded in all the excesses of The City of London. He's just been told he has a terminal brain tumour, and it's doing weird things to him – like, quite possibly, making him a nicer person.
Extence excels at rich scene-setting, and the metamorphosis of Gabriel's life takes place in 2008 against the backdrop of the Occupy camp at St Paul's Cathedral. It's here that he meets violin-player Caitlin, and their relationship evolves into a sweet, mesmerisingly complicated affair. Sure, the plot is a little far-fetched but it's a touching story with an ending that will leave you unexpectedly teary.
Out now, published by Hodder & Stoughton.