The Empathy Problem
By Gavin Extence
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
Available in hardback and ebook
Paperback is forthcoming
Following on from The Mirror World of Melody Black, Gavin Extence's latest novel, The Empathy Problem further explores the need for people to change their life when handed one last chance. This time Extence asks the reader to put their trust into an unlikeable character who has distanced himself from society. Can he turn his life around before it's too late?
Extence explores the effects of terminal illness through Gabriel Vaughan, an arrogant, highly successful hedge-funder and millionaire. He is ruthless and cunning, driven by power and money. His competitive nature has isolated him from his family and colleagues, leaving him with an existence which is empty with no personal pleasure. He is a modern day Patrick Bateman from American Psycho but there's not murder, blood or heads in the fridge.
Not even a terminal brain tumour is going to get in his way.
Yet, something does change. He starts feeling emotions and seeing the people around him not as an inconvenience rather than being stuck in a bubble all about him. Emotions start taking over, he starts getting involved and worrying about other people.
Caitlin busks on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral amongst the Occupy protesters, playing her violin, and grabs Gabriel's attention with her music. Not only is he mesmerized by the music but by Caitlin. Yet, she isn't like Gabriel's usual taste in women - he normally has to pay. He can not get this girl out of his head.
He starts to realise that there is more to life than work and money. His uncomplicated life starts becoming complicated, full of lies as he tries to create a dual life to make himself look 'human' For Caitlin - he even goes as far as renting a flat in a different part of London and faking his lifestyle. If anything he becomes more unlikable as instead of using his money for social good or even giving some money to his father he instead sets up a revenge plan on his bosses.
This is a book about finding second chances before time runs out. I liked this central idea of the novel and the way people can make changes before its too late.
However, I felt like I couldnt connect to the protagonist even when he starts to change and connect with society. I'm sure that readers could feel differently but for me. The Empathy Problem is available from your favourite bookshop.
I was sent a copy by bookbridgr.