Quirky. In her debut novel Addition, author Toni Jordan presents enjoyable women’s fiction melded with an exploration of obsession and compulsion.
Narrator and protagonist Grace Lisa Vandenburg is a single woman in her thirties who has a peculiar appreciation of numbers. She believes it is numbers that hold the world together and that if she stops counting, her world and the worlds of the people she loves will fall apart. Her obsessive compulsive behaviour is to such an extreme that she counts the number of bristles on her toothbrush and has a formula for the number of bites she must take when eating a piece of food. The reader is introduced to Grace at a point in her life when her obsession has become debilitating in the eyes of the broader community, leaving her unable to hold down a job and living as a recluse.
Where is the enjoyable women’s fiction read amongst this sad state of affairs you might ask? First of all, Grace herself does not believe she is the one that has a problem and she is forthright in expressing her confidence in the value of her beliefs. Then, enter from stage left the quintessential love interest Seamus Joseph O’Reilly. What ensues is a battle of sorts in the mind of Grace – a battle between her love of numbers and her love for Seamus.
This novel does not necessarily fit in the dark humour genre, but as a reader I was at times thrown off guard by the humour gained from the protagonist’s thoughts and behaviour that were fuelled by her obsessive compulsive disorder. But I enjoy a novel that keeps me on my toes, and that certainly made it an enjoyable audio book to listen to (narration by Caroline Lee). Jordan has boldly presented a different slant on mental illness and poses the question, at what point does uniqueness become an illness? At the same time, this dark exploration is wrapped up in what is essentially a very sweet love story that explores the classic questions of how much must one compromise ones individuality to form a lasting relationship and can the benefits of a relationship outweigh the independence lost?
Australian author Toni Jordan came to writing later in life. Jordan first gained a Bachelor’s Degree in Science and worked as a research assistant, molecular biologist and quality control chemist before at the age of 38 changing her career path and beginning to study professional writing full time in 2004. Her first novel Addition has been published in Australia, the United Kingdom and The Netherlands. She has also written articles for newspapers The Guardian, The Courier-Mail and The Age.