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This book follows the life of a woman suffering from the mental health disorder OCD. It follows the complexity of her obsession with figures and numbers occurring from her romantic fixation with the figure Nikola Tesla. Whilst not only documenting the difficulty of living in a life ruled by numbers and paces it focuses on the person who manages to change the pattern of her life, and show her that numbers are not as important as they first seem.
As a reader I loved the complexity of the book and how well it was thought through. The thoughtfulness of the author in presenting the characters OCD was beautifully done, from the number of orange pieces on the top of her regular cafe choice to the numbering of the chapters at the top of the pages. This was then contrasted strongly with the affect the male character has upon Grace and the compassion and love he feels for her is strongly seen and understood in an honesty than we don't always see in books.
I often find as a reader of romantic literature that the books I read merge into one with so many happy endings! But this love story had a quirky style with an unlikely Prince and an even more unlikely Princess. Although this is a 'Chick Lit' it has a refreshingly modern style that keeps you hooked to see whether Grace can finally ditch the numbers. Personally I loved pages... 167- 168 so if you're interested check them out! Overall this kept me captivated from start to finish from the introduction to the lovable Grace to to the train ride of ups and downs as Grace tries to overcome the numbers! Overall a sunny thoughtful read.
Grace is in her 30s has a problem that counts, in that she cannot stop counting. Every element in her life is determined by numbers, mulitiples and measurements. It has slowly destroyed her life, leading her to lose a job she loved as a teacher and being a source of worry for her although she remains surprisingly upbeat about the situation. The only people who seem to understand her are her misfit niece and the theoretical 'ghost' of Nikola Tesla, a scientist who appears to share Grace's obsession with counting.
Grace's life is further thrown askew when she has an embarrassing encounter at a supermarket checkout involving her obsession, a bunch of bananas and a perfect stranger. Having thought she had got away with said incident, the 'victim' catches up with her later intrigued by her behaviour. He introduces himself as Seamus, and the two begin a passionate relationship which forces her to look closely at her disorder and the events of her past that have possibly driven her to this point.
I found this book to be very entertaining. A book about a woman suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder does not exactly sound like a barrel of laughs, however this story is a real joy. Grace is never portrayed as a victim as such, she is somewhat aware of the effect of the disorder has on her life but displays the behaviour of someone who has learnt to live with it and almost attempts to persuade the reader of the reasoning behind her obsessions. She is acutely self-aware, often to the point of arrogance, in particular she sporadically mentions that she is very attractive!
Her tentative attempts at a relationship with Seamus are really quite charming and very, very funny as he seems very intrigued by her disorder and does not necessarily want to change her at a person but encourages her to get help.
The love scenes between them are surprisingly explicit but work well because they form another area of her life for her to get obsessive about.
Given the subject matter, it is actually quite surprisingly funny not least in how Grace views herself and the things that go on around her. The fact that her compulsions make her an unreliable narrator is an interesting approach which sets this book a cut above. That said there are the occasional moments that whilst entertaining, the humour becomes a little too broad and messes the tone of the rest of the story - in particular where Grace encounters the more conventionally known sufferers of OCD or as she calls them 'handwashers' where it leaps into slightly farcial areas where it becomes a little reliant on stereotypes.
All things considered, I believe this to be a very entertaining novel with an interesting and well carried out premise. It is quite a quick read which is not a criticism in any form as it does not feel rushed and you still have time to get involved with the characters. It gets the point across without being patronising or preachy or even oversentimental which is quite an achievement actually as there are some plot developments that take place that could have easily tipped it over into melodrama at any point. I really recommend this book as a solid but not overly taxing read.
Review of 'Addition' a novel by Toni Jordan
I am reviewing the paperback edition of this novel, ISBN 0340963778, Publisher Sceptre, genre:- Modern fiction, 241 pages, cover price £7.99.
Thirty five year old Grace Lisa Vandenburg is a counter. She counts everything, from the letters in her name (19) to the bristles in her toothbrush (1768). Grace is a slave to her obsession with numbers and counting. She denies that she has OCD, that is for compulsive hand-washers, not unemployed teachers with numerically planned routines such as herself.
Grace plans her day by the clock, she knows exactly how many minutes it takes to do the most mundane of chores, she knows how many steps it is from her front door to the cafe where she drinks a hot chocolate with 2 marshmallows and eats a slice of orange cake with poppy seeds daily. The cake is a trial to her as she is compelled to count the individual poppy seeds on her slice which in turn dictates how many bites she'll take to eat it.
Grace shops on a particular day each week and buys a set amount of the same items every time. She eats, organises and lives as far as possible by the number 10 and multiples of that number. She owns 10 pairs of shoes, she buys bananas in tens, she brushes her hair 100 times and even reads books 10 pages at a time. She is also consumed by a desire to measure everything and cannot manage to leave her flat without measuring the walls.
Grace is not only a slave to numbers but she is also obsessed with the Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla. Nikola was also a 'counter' and as such, he is Grace's hero. She fantasises about Nikola rescuing her from a variety of near death situations, even though he has been dead for many years.
Grace has lost her teaching job due to her counting and has had a little therapy for the condition to no avail. Her family have more or less given up hope of Grace ever living a normal life and let her get on with her self imposed routines, ringing her at set times on set days. They know that Grace finds it easier to count everything as that way there are no unpleasant surprises to rock her world.
One day, in the supermarket, Grace realises to her horror that she has only picked up 9 bananas, she is so fazed by this that she is compelled to pinch one from another shopper's basket. Naturally this leads to a verbal exchange with the other customer and so Grace meets Seamus Joseph O'Reilly, (also a 19).
Once the banana incident is sorted, Seamus is attracted to Grace and the pair form a relationship, Grace then has to juggle love with counting, a recipe fraught with disaster and confusion.
******About the Author******
Toni Jordan was born in Brisbane, Australia, in 1966. After leaving school, she enrolled in a Bachelor of Science at the University of Queensland. She has worked as a research assistant, molecular biologist, quality control chemist, door-to-door aluminium siding saleswoman, marketing manager, shop assistant and copywriter.
In 1996 she moved to Melbourne, and in 2004 quit her job to study professional writing full time at RMIT University. While studying, she began writing her début novel, Addition.
Toni still lives in Melbourne with her husband and works as a freelance copywriter.
Addition was one of the books on the Richard & Judy 'Summer Reads' list in 2008.
******Availability and Cost******
The jacket price on my copy is £7.99. A quick web search brought up the following prices for the novel. Naturally, these prices are only relevant for the date I conducted the search!
www.amazon.co.uk £5.99 New or from 0.01p used.
www.ebay.co.uk £0.75 used
******My Thoughts and Conclusion******
As I had not come across this author before and Addition is Toni Jordan's first novel, I had no preconceived expectations of the book.
Addition is a strange novel and to be honest, I found this book a little hard going at first as the constant references to number sequences, numbers and mathematical equations was bizarre and somewhat off-putting. However, once I became used to the writing style, the plot flowed and became thoroughly enjoyable.
Toni Jordan has taken a difficult condition, OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and woven a novel with a real spark. The central character, Grace, is wacky, quirky and very likeable. Her condition is ruling her life and she doesn't really like the way she is, yet feels safe and comfortable with her routines and habits. As the plot progressed I found myself rooting for Grace and urging her to combat her obsession. The author has injected humour and empathy into the storyline without belittling or trivialising the condition her character is facing.
I particularly liked Grace's habit of delivering one liners which she felt drew the attention away from herself and her disorder and focussed on the irony of her situation. The result is a fast moving, funny novel with a very strong female leading character. This is a novel that I would actually like to see made into a movie, something I can very rarely visualise, as I tend to prefer the written word to a film.
The author has obviously researched her subject thoroughly, particularly where the life of inventor and 'counter' Nikola Tesla is worked into the plot. All in all, I found this novel to be an excellent read and would recommend it to others.
Thank you for reading.
©brittle1906 March 2010
N.B. My review may be found on other review sites under the same user name.
I was first attracted to this book by its cover, a cheesecake over a background of graph paper - quite original, it made me want to find out more. With a name like "Addition" I was sold; I am quite a scientific, mathematically-minded person and the opportunity of reading a work of fiction that covers those topics was just too good to miss. The author has a pretty varied CV including molecular biologist and sales assistant and I have always believed that an interesting person makes for an original book.
The main character (Grace), an ex school teacher, has been long-term unemployed through suffering from OCD (with numbers and counting). She meets Seamus, a laid back Irishman (who fancies her) who tries to help her overcome her obsessions. As the story develops, you are taken into the bittersweet world of an obsessive-compulsive's daily struggles and her fight to ultimately function normally in the outside world.
Toni Jordan has a unique style of writing from any other book I have read. It is written in the first person and you find yourself living the story from Grace's point of view - almost like reading someone's diary. She also adds interesting snippets of biographical history of a famous mathematician called Nikola Tesla (Grace's idol) throughout; this helps break up the story, is also educational, and left me wanting to find out more. Small comical one-liners help the story flow without distracting from the main plot.
For someone who is obviously new to the writing scene, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed "Addition". I truly hope that Toni Jordan will be writing plenty more books in the future.
"A comedy that counts."
Thus is Addition dubbed - an allusion to its protagonist Grace's tendency to count. She would deny that she's an Obsessive Compulsive; she derides 'handwashers' and 'germphobes', but has an uncontrollable urge to add wherever she sees numbers - she knows how many characters make up her full name (19), how many brushes she gives her teeth each evening (160) and how many steps separate the café and her front door (920). The numbers shape and define her life, providing a routine that is as reassuring as it is restrictive. All is well with Grace and counting until that troublesome entity that is love makes an appearance in the form of Seamus, a patient, easy-mannered man from whom our heroine steals a banana (for she just has to have ten).
So far, so standard light-hearted romance with a twist. That said, it is rather a good twist; full of potential to shape character and plot, a promising weapon in the hands of a gifted author. So is Toni Jordan that author?
If she is, it's one in a considerable list of entries on her CV. Previously a sales assistant, molecular biologist, chemist and marketing manager, Addition is Jordan's first book, and is one that makes a generally good impression. Obsession is an angle often explored in fiction, and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) provides a good base for the kind of fine-tooth comb literature that writers such as Nicholson Baker have used to pore over the various curiosities of being human. It feels as if this is the road Jordan is going down at first here, counting and referencing everything in reach. However, at least in the opening chapters, where such a pattern is thickest, this doesn't really work - the narrative is too heavy on listing numbers and objects, and while this is undeniably a facet of Grace's nature, it doesn't make for good reading, shifting between the gimmicky and the downright irritating.
That said, as the heroine's personality starts to come through, the numbers seem to find a place in this book. Alongside the wonderfully neurotic and idiosyncratically lovable Grace, there is a context to the obsessive side of things which was initially absent, and suddenly everything falls into place and starts to work. The characters are frequently the highlights of Addition; the main character notwithstanding, her family and new-found boyfriend are fleshed out with great affection and provide fitting figures for Grace and her oddities to bounce off and be reflected in. A more pedestrian plot is not such a strong point, but it's effective, and is story enough for the characters to excel in.
One aspect of the storyline which is interesting is that which addresses questions relating to treatment of disorders such as that which Grace suffers. For some of those afflicted, the disorder is so overwhelming and all-consuming that a course of treatment is the only option; but for others, a relatively full, if not especially 'normal' life is possible, with the sufferer living with the condition. What role, if any, does treatment have here? Although it might be preferable to rid someone of their problems, how far should one go? Is it too far if the medication involved changes their character in other ways? These kinds of questions are raised by parts of Addition, and while the sections of the narrative dealing most closely with this are a bit hit-and-miss in terms of the story, it's nice to see a novel which is for the most part fairly light-hearted ponder a few more serious issues.
Jordan has created a book which is largely an enjoyable read, with the odd thought-provoking moment along the way. As someone who suffers from relatively mild OCD (nothing quite on Grace's level, mercifully), I was able to empathise with the character depicted, and felt the imagining of her problems to be handled pretty skilfully and with some accuracy. Addition doesn't stand out in any real way; there are almost certainly novels which deal with the themes followed here better - however, it is an excellent all-rounder, which does a good job of balancing its constituent parts to produce a thoroughly readable, engaging effort which should make its author one to look out for in future.
Addition by Toni Jordan has one great marketing point - that good old Richard and Judy sticker on the front cover, which I am guessing makes a book fly out of the shops and the internet stores.
I bought this book as part of the Jan 2009 www.thebookpeople.co.uk offer of 5 Richard and Judy books for £10. I find that actually some of the selected books are very good, and at £2 it wasn't a huge risk.
The book is about Grace Lisa Vandebury and is a boy meets girl light read with a twist. Grace counts everything, the steps to the cafe, the seeds on her orange cake (the author is Australian so I assume orange cake with poppy seeds is a typical dish down under), and the letters in people's names. When she meets Seamus she soon has to reveal the confines of her world and tries to change.
I went through enjoying this book as a light read to becoming quite annoyed with it. I had no problem with the heroine of the book suffering from OCD, or the concept of the main character suffering from mental illness as often it can be enjoyable to see the world through someone else's eyes. I liked the humour of the main character too - some of the dialogue rang very true and the therapy scenes were quite amusing. I did just end up finding the heroine just too self obsessed and two dimensional - though the dialogue was believable something about her just wasn't. For a supposedly 35 year old heroine even though part of her condition maybe was supposed to be a childlikeness that made her get on well with her young niece Larry, she just seemed too immature and egocentric to be likeable.
I don't know if this was me just showing my age but I felt it really hard to have any sympathy for her at all, even when the reason for her condition was revealed. The heroine herself wants to escape the confines of her ruled by counting life which has dictated that she has no job and no real spontaneous moments in her day - the problem is I ended up kind of feeling the same way.
The hero seemed to materialise out of nowhere and even though for the sake of a good old chick lit book I am prepared to suspend belief I did find myself muttering "oh please" to myself a few times. I wasn't terribly suprised by any twist the book took - again totally acceptable in a lighter read but the key thing to me was I wasn't sad when the book ended and I didn't speculate as to how the story would have carried on.
As a light read I found this book quite average, but not up to the glowing reviews and I am not in any hurry to read anything else by this author. It was a nice idea to try and paint a real heroine who is not classically perfect and is a little quirky and still finds love but there is not enough humour in this to make it an amusing enough read to excuse the frustration I felt with the heroine.
Ok so, they say you should never ever judge a book by it's cover. Which as awful as it sounds, is precisely what I did when choosing this book. Usually my judgements are correct and so I trusted myself and I believe I found a winner. It starts off a bit slow, and the amount of numbers per sentence is quite over bearing at times but it's all tied into the novel so if you can see past it, you'll be duly rewarded. I never imagined that it would turn into a really great romance novel, I thought it would be more of a humourous book but it was a good read. I got hooked and actually managed to finish it within 3 days.
I loved Grace's personality in the book, she's slightly strange but it just adds to her likeability. It's such a surprise when she finally admits the reason behind her obsessive counting, it's something you would not have expected and is slightly shocking. I also though that when she was on the medication and her mind started to change, that the author did a very good job of describing how she felt she was in two minds and that neither were actually 'her'.
I would definately reccommend this book to anyone. I can see why it was chosen for Richard and Judy's book club.
The only reason I started reading this book was because I received a set of all the 'Richard and Judy Summer Read' books for last year, and it had an interesting cover, so I decided to start with it. Well, they say you can never judge a book by its cover, but this one met my high expectations.
It's the story of a quirky young woman named Grace Vandenburg, and the quirkiest thing about her is that she is completely obsessed with numbers. She is compelled to count everything, from the number of steps it takes her to reach the shops, to the number of bananas she puts into her shopping basket, and the number of minutes she allows herself to do anything, including eating. You would think it might be boring to read a book that describes things in such minute detail, but the great thing about Grace is that she is a charming, funny, sassy person despite, or perhaps because of, her obsession, and this is really what the book is all about.
Grace meets a man named Seamus at some point in the story, and as you might expect, she begins a relationship with him. In fact, you might wish you could meet him yourself one day; he seems like the perfect man!
You'll find yourself willing Grace to find happiness and seize the day all the way through this book, and her wit and unique perspective on life will have you running happily alongside her. The scene where she goes to a meeting with other sufferers of OCD is particularly funny, though I won't give too much away.
Toni Jordan was shortlisted for Best Fiction Book and Newcomer of the Year 2008 at the Australian Book Industry Awards for this story, and she also won a Medical Journalists' Association Book Award, and in my opinion she deserves these for a quite original story.
The only thing I have to say against this book is that some of Grace's counting, and the way in which it comes to rule her life on occasions, can have you wanting to tear out your hair in frustration, so be warned!
This is actually quite an odd book and I fluctuated between how I felt about it. Overall, it's not quite 4 stars for me as I feel it went on too long. As there isn't much product description the plot revolves around Grace Lisa Vandenberg who has an obsessive compulsive disorder - for counting. Naturally this consumes her life, from the simplest things like the number of bananas in her shopping trolley through to things like keeping the speedometer level when driving. She doesn't work, she can't drive and isn't in a relationship with anyone, nor does she have any friends.
As the book progresses we know when and where the counting started and we are actually informed early on in the novel, but it didn't make sense to me initially. The first chapter is quite difficult to read. If you can get past that then you are in for a decent read. It isn't brilliant but it is certainly different. She has an admiration for Nikola Tesla, the inventor of electricity and this is where the novel fell down for me. We spend far too much time reading about him and his life, how he made his discoveries etc, whereas I'd rather have been reading about Grace.
Her family have done their best to support her but the only one who really gets her is her niece Larry. She's actually called Hilary, the rest of the family call her Hilly but for some reason Grace calls her Larry. Early in the novel (the first chapter) in walks Seamus Joseph O'Reilly who could play a big part in her life if it wasn't for the counting. This was more interesting than Nikola Tesla but still more information was revealed about electricity and its uses, it just wasn't interesting but it might be for someone. A novel I'm pleased I've read, one that's certainly different from the norm but one I won't be shouting from the roof tops about.
This book is great. I bought this book as a joke after my boyfriend mocked my love of maths, but to my surprise it was a fantastic read. I had never read any of Toni Jordan's books before but I might just read more after enjoying this one so much. It follows the life of Grace Lisa Vandenburg who counts everything in her life in order to feel in control. Then her world gets out of control when she meets Seamus Joseph O'Reilly and she thinks she'd be better off without counting. Grace's love of inventor Nikola Tesla taught me alot of history about electricity, and I even used this know found knowledge in a pub quiz! So it's not just a good read its a lesson too. Graces need to count is quite serious but the book remains light hearted and really works well as a comedy. It was also in Richard and Judy's Summer Reads 2008 list, and rightly so too.
The Blurb on the book reads:
"Grace Lisa Vandenburg counts. The letters in her name (19). The steps she takes every morning to the local cafe (920). The number of poppy seeds on her orange cake, which dictates the number of bites she'll take to eat it. Grace counts everything, because that way there are no unpleasant surprises.
Seamus Joseph O'Reilly (also a 19) thinks she might be better off without the counting. If she could hold down a job, say. Or open her cupboards without conductin an inventory, or leave her flat without measuring the walls.
Grace's problem is that Seamus doesn't count. Her other problem is ... he does.
As Grace struggles to balance a new relationship with old habits, to find a way to change while staying true to herself, she realises that nothing is more chaotic than love."
Being an avid reader (as you can tell!), I do like it when the Richard and Judy book lists are released twice a year, once for the summer and then again for autumn/winter. They have recently released the Summer Reads 2008 list, so I couldn't resist having a look. Out of the selection, only 4 books appealed to me, and one of those I have already read. So I decided to go to the library and get the other 2 which I rather liked the sound of, and the only one available then was this one, entitled Addition, and was labelled as a "Comedy that Counts". I was intrigued and set to reading it when I got home.
Grace Vandenburg counts. She counts everything from the steps it takes her to get the local shop, to the items of clothing she has, to the letters in her name. Grace is obsessed with numbers and lives her life by them, so much so that she can no longer work as a teacher. But when Grace meets Seamus O'Reilly, a happy-go-lucky individual and the two form a relationship, Grace realises her counting is holding her back. Seamus wants to help her but is Grace ready to accept the help? Does counting and numbers mean more to her than love?
I haven't read this sort of book before, and to be honest, a novel about someone with a specific type of OCD didn't realise interest me - I much prefer light-hearted book of the chick-lit genre really! But I was determined to give it a go, and from the off it made me laugh and I was really enjoying just the first few pages! I think the fact that Grace is a witty and funny narrator helps the enjoyment of the book enormously, as you warm to her quickly and the book has quite a fast pace, not leaving you bored or wanting to skip any of the book, which has happened to me in the past.
The book really delves into the world of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, in this case all to with numbers and the obsession with counting absolutely everything. Grace's obsession is quite extreme, so much so that the number of poppyseeds on her cake determines how many bites she has to eat the piece in. The way the counting was written about was fascinating, it didn't seem too odd and Grace really brought across why she was obsessed with them and why this made her feel safe and secure to the reader well. The narrative from Grace is so funny and this helps you to understand her obsession and empathise with her. Also, the fact that the book is set in Australia adds a different perspective from most books I read which tend be set either in the UK or the US, so this made a nice change too.
But the book isn't entirely about OCD and Grace's counting. As well as this, this book is also part-romance too, due to the introduction of Seamus. Seamus doesn't have any OCD tendencies, and he certainly doesn't count anything, which makes for an interesting dynamic between he and Grace. Seamus is a very likeable character, one you immediately like and I rather hoped that he and Grace would hit it off well enough for a good relationship to form between the two. I was surprised with the way the author has written their relationship, certainly not how I expected how it would pan out. But it was lovely, and very heart-warming. Seamus didn't mock Grace for her obsessions, instead he tried to understand and come to terms with her condition. It did make me question how much people should change for other people, as at times I wasn't sure if Grace was trying to change for herself or for Seamus, but it does make you think about things in that way.
The book was a real joy to read, it was funny, warm and a very entertaining read. It wasn't the sort of book I thought I would enjoy, but I very much did. It isn't an incredibly long book so it won't take you a long time to read, but I feel the author has got the length just right, allowing you to think about and embrace Grace and her obsessions, but not too long that it dragged on. Grace's narrative is witty, funny and very likeable and as a lead character, she was superb, the author has done a great job creating a character who is likeable. I can see why this was chosen as a Richard and Judy Summer Read for 2008, it's a light-hearted book with great comedy moments, but also very touching with real human relationships and a wonderfully touching story. Highly recommended.
ISBN:978-0340963777. Published by Sceptre which is a division of Hodder Publishing, in June 2008. The paperback contains 256 pages, and is available on Amazon for £3.86. This is the debut novel of Australian author Toni Jordan.
For more information on the other Richard and Judy Summer Reads, visit their website at www.richardandjudybookclub.co.uk.
Thank you for reading!