on 22 September 2013
This is one of the most interesting books I have read in a long time.
The story operates on many levels: on one hand it's a boy meets girl story; on the other hand this is the story of a woman whose life has been so beset by coincidence that she has to believe that things happen for a reason. Her search for validation of this leads her to Thomas, who is statistically disinclined to believe in an authority directing coincidence.
So there is romance and there is philosophy but more than that, there is Africa. For me, the book truly comes alive in Africa, whether in the domestic rituals described, the scenes of conflict or even just the journeys. There is a vividness, a tension and a longing which drew me in and kept me absorbed.
A strong quirky interesting novel from an author I will be watching out for in the future
on 4 May 2014
Someone had said that this book was a bit like “The Rosie Project”, and so, being a huge fan of that novel I rushed to the library and reserved myself a copy right away. The bad news is, it is nothing like “The Rosie Project”, but on the flipside, I am still glad I read it.
With a name like Ironmonger (a real or assumed identity, I am not sure which), you’re probably used to standing out from the crowd. This quirky, tale, about a philosopher who prides himself on being a great authority on the subject of coincidence and the girl who comes to find him, is anything but ordinary. The girl character, Azalea Lewis, wishes to know if her life has really been a series of odd coincidences or if she is mired in some inescapable fate. The philosopher character, Thomas Post, believes that people cling to the idea of fate; seeing patterns in completely randomized events. Azalea’s tale begins to shake Post’s beliefs to their core, however, and we, the readers, are along for the ride.
Told through a series of flashbacks and remembered stories, this book definitely holds your attention. There are some laughable moments, but mostly the book presents in a serious, albeit off-beat fashion, sort of like the unraveling of some obscure black comedy.
Very interesting indeed, and above all, original.
Can coincidences always be explained, or does everything happen for a reason?
This book entertains that very notion, and the storytelling is so perfect I have no choice but to offer five stars.
I do like a 'different' read and this book didn't disappoint. It flicks backwards and forwards through various points in time, but this is handled well and it's really easy to follow. I must admit, it's quite the contender for one of my favourite books of this year.
It's not your average, run-of-the-mill book. There's hidden qualities I couldn't begin to even try and explain here. It's fresh, the dialogue has been expertly written and the ending is simply the icing on an already addictive cake.
In brief, it follows the rather unfortunate life of a young girl with the memorable name of Azalea. Her mother, it seems, had abandoned her at a fairground in Devon when she's just a child, which was awful enough, but she becomes separated from her adopted parents in Africa when she's just thirteen following a raid at their orphanage / mission...it soon becomes apparent to her that the date of the 21st June is one which she finds herself questioning, as various misfortunes just keep on presenting themselves. So, she decides to investigate this further when she realises what affect this could have on her life, or indeed death...
And no, it's not all about ramming statistics and mathematical probabilities (or even theology) down your neck, although it does get you thinking. Everything is very cleverly woven into a forever-moving story and is incredibly interesting. Mostly, everything is plausible.
If you're just a little intrigued, there's a website that's been set up to "accompany" the book at: www.thecoincidenceauthority.com
And that's a nice touch to discover after you've finished reading. Quite brilliant.
on 5 October 2013
This is a compelling page turning book, with a cleverly woven plot and a range of endearing characters, which is why I have given it a five star rating. However, for me the major shortcoming is the author's woeful grasp of English geography. Early on in the narrative we have a beach described as being "in North Devon, near Bude", which is a bit like saying Bideford near Cornwall. By page 127 our heroes the delightfully named Azalea and statistician Thomas Post taking a trip to North Devon to visit the place of Azalea's mother's untimely demise, Millook, just south of Widemouth Bay. Despite having an EX (Exeter) postcode, Bude is firmly within Cornwall, as are Millook and Widemouth. My advice to any author is: if you are going to use real places in a work of fiction, at least take the trouble to get your facts right or have an editor who can point you in the right direction. Notwithstanding this quibble, I would thoroughly recommend this book for its originality.
on 9 April 2014
COINCIDENCE is a fictional storyline intertwined with a little bit of historical reality that focuses on the mathematical probability of events, chances and coincidences shaping the life of Azalea Yves Folley Lewis. The novel is told through flashbacks, memories, recounting of and current day events from just prior to Azalea’s birth to the end of the story.
COINCIDENCE is a story about the probability that the life altering events in one woman’s life all occur on the same date every ten years-Midsummer’s Day June 21. Thirty years ago, on June 21, a young child of approximately three to four years old is found wandering the empty fairgrounds and her mother’s whereabouts is never known-until a badly decomposed body washes up on shore more than one year later-but the two events are never connected-until now.
J.W. Ironmonger pulls the reader into the search for the truth. We follow as Azalea Yves’s young life is thrown into turmoil –from the death of her mother; to a life in Uganda with her adopted parents; and a struggle to survive in a country at war with itself. At thirty years of age, Azalea will ‘accidently’ meet a man who studies the probability of coincidences and they begin a relationship based on chances and the what-ifs and whys of life. We are witness to Azalea’s struggles to uncover the past-a past she knows nothing about-but a past that is interconnected to everything and everyone in her life.
COINCIDENCE is a philosophical look at chances and probabilities. The storyline is slow to develop as J.W. Ironmonger builds on the early events that are the catalyst of Azalea’s life. Once the scenario has been established, the reader is pulled into a story where the reality of the day is played out in the life of a young teenage girl hoping to survive against the odds. Fast forward twenty years when Azalea begins the journey back as she approaches the Midsummer’s Day-June 21 and whatever it has to offer.
J.W. Ironmonger has written a story of probabilities and mystery; what-ifs and whys; and never giving up. COINCIDENCE is a story that takes a philosophical look at fate and predestination-has your life been planned out by a higher power? Or is everything that happens just a matter of coincidence and accidental meetings?
I was gifted a copy
At times I thought this was heading for 5-star territory. It's very good. Some of the writing is excellent. The idea is great, unusual and attention-grabbing. Azalea didn't really hold her own for me though, not strong enough.
It's hard to explain the plot. Centring on a woman, Azalea, who at 3 is found abandoned at a Cornish fair, is adopted and ends up in Africa, is involved with civil wars and finally ends up in England speaking to a university lecturer who specialises in Coincidences.
Is her story special? With all the amazing coincidences that have happened to her and those near to her?
It's a tangled little web of stories that unfolds as the lecturer, Thomas Post, recounts Azalea's tale to a colleague. It's very readable, and who hasn't ever thought: "That's a coincidence?! Who'd have thought it? What are the chances...?!"
I enjoyed Ironmonger's debut and think his second is a slightly more confident novel, with philosophy and mathematics woven into a timid love story.
Thomas really is a Hamlet character though, which can be annoying. And Azalea, whose story is incredible, just doesn't seem to fully live up to her promise 'in the flesh' of the present.
Saying that, I would still recommend it, as it's a book that will make you ponder the Big questions, it's sad and funny at the same time. It has scope and brains and is very quick to motor through.
Review of a Newbooks review copy.
on 27 November 2014
An interesting but curious mixed-genre book. The opening storyline keeps close to an age-old plot of a foundling of uncertain parentage trying to discover her past and make sense of her life, but finding - through what appear to be some extraordinary coincidences - that there is a very disturbing pattern emerging. Her life, as with those of her recent forebears, appears to be predetermined and heading towards a premature death. Enter Thomas Post, a gangly statistician, who attempts initially to explain away her fears through probability theory, but finds this fails to cover some of the events. The gentle romance between the two, precipitated by a pile up on an escalator in Euston station, runs pretty much along the lines of a Richard Curtis-style romcom with some nice slapstick moments as they drive down to Cornwall . Azalea vents her fury over her mother's murder on the "gods" at the cliffs' edge.
We then move back in time to her second foster-parents life on a mission in Afriica, where Azalea spent much of her childhood. The tone becomes far darker, as both parents are, she believes, massacred by the LRA, a deviant religious sect lead by a real-life thug, Joseph Coney, Quite a leap from what is in essence a fantasy tale laced with philosophy to a real-life horror documentary. The ending provides some kind of resolution to these two strands, but I'm still not quite sure what to make of this dual-genre novel.
This is a really interesting book that is quirky without being trite. The story focuses on Azalea, a girl whose life is plagued by coincidences. There are several threads that are intertwined - there are fictional and factual threads that cover philosophy, (fate and determinism in particular), Ugandan politics and mathematical probability.
It's a four-star read for me because the Ugandan politics sometimes sits too apart from the character story, there is one chapter where it reads quite densely but it's more blended later in the book. I also wasn't totally satisfied with the ending, I guess that I shouldn't have been surprised how it was left unresolved but I still expected a stronger finish.
I did enjoy the book very much, it threaded together so many interesting elements while being both serious and humorous at varying times. It was different and I would look for other books by this author.
on 14 November 2013
Having read the authors first book, The Notable Brain of Maximillian Ponder, I was disappointed at having to wait so long for this, his second book. However, it finally dropped through the letter box only for me to have to leave it un-read for a further 3 weeks while we were away on holiday. As soon as we returned I began to read.
I found the first couple of chapters a bit slow to grab my interest, but I continued on, and was soon embroiled in the life story of a little girl, Azalea, found in a fairground, through to an adult in a child rescue centre on the Uganda/Sudan border country.
As the story progressed we are not only told Azalea's life story, but also her efforts in trying to resolve the coincidences which had beset her. We are also treated to a short and informative history of the politics and violence which occurred in Uganda during the post Amin era. The story is told by Thomas Post, who Azalea `bumps' into on the London tube. Along the way, he tries to demonstrate that there are no such things as coincidences, both Azalea's and others. But it is his friend, Dr Clementine Bielszowska, who unravels Azalea's coincidences for him. The threads of the story are interwoven in a way that makes you not want to put the book down but keep reading to find out what comes next.
I can recommend this book to everyone, and also his first book if you've not already read it. The good news is the author's third book is on the way, but the bad news is it will not be published until sometime in 2015! That's too long to wait. My hope is that his fourth book will follow more quickly!
on 30 August 2014
My book arrived promptly and turned out to be hardback so, considering its excellent condition, it was a real bargain.
I enjoyed the story immensely. A window into a world we often forget, where people live their lives against the threat of mindless brutality of the Lord's Resistance Army in the Congo, Uganda, Sudan badlands. If that sounds harrowing, and it undoubtedly is for those who live it, this tale is tempered by a love story between an awkward academic and his mysterious foundling colleague. And then we have the complexities of coincidence plaited in. A bit like an Arran knit scarf, if that makes any sense.