3 out of 4 stars
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This is a review of the book Odd Socks by David Clapham. The book is a contemporary fiction novel.
Andrew is a research student at the Cambridge University. He wants to work on the practical aspects of Mathematics. He accepts an offer as a junior lecturer at an obscure university in Northern England to pursue his career interests. In the same town, he meets his school friend Toby and his family. He grows fond of Toby’s sister Antonia and marries her. After Antonia dies while giving birth, Andrew stays single. In his late 50s, he meets adolescent Cathy on the streets of Vietnam. The reader is inclined to find out what transcribes between Andrew and Cathy in this captivating, beautifully narrated story.
The story introduces the mathematical problem of ‘Odd Sock’ to the readers. When we wash our socks using the washing machine, irrespective of how careful we are, we always end up losing one sock of the pair. More often than not, we end up with more lost socks than the ones that we could use, according to the probability theory of Mathematics. Many human beings feel that they are the ‘odd sock’ in their life situations, and this story exemplifies this through some characters in the story. The reader would get curious about what Andrew is going to do when Toby’s mother often prods Andrew to find a mathematical solution to the ‘odd sock’ problem.
In the initial chapters, there are pretty interesting narrations about Mathematics. Facts like how one can focus and concentrate only 2 or 3 hours on the subject without mental exhaustion are noteworthy. Mathematics’ importance in solving practical problems is stressed. The importance of the ability to explain complex mathematical problems in simple terms is also highlighted.
Andrew’s character is developed well and continues to raise the interest and curiosity of the reader. Toby’s character brings the artistic dimension to the story. Expressions like ‘an artist’s eyes are searching and sympathetic’ would be enjoyed by the artistic people. Antonia’s character exemplifies how a young adult would revolt against a domineering parent and cautions us to deal with adolescents and young adults carefully at our homes.
In the second half of the book, the story moves to Vietnam. There are detailed narrations about Vietnam’s culture, language, religion, society, work culture and the environment for the reader to know about Vietnam. While narrating about medical testing through trial runs, the author sheds light on several key characteristics of greedy multinational companies; such as, downplaying the side-effects of their upcoming medicines, using developing countries’ citizens at much cheaper compensation rates, using power and money to coerce medical organizations and associations to get positive results on the medical trials, tampering with demographic data, etc. The bond between Andrew and Cathy has been handled very carefully and with great care.
It is interesting to know that marrying outside the family from a different social stratum would help the family members stay potent. Though no data or information is provided to check this, it makes sense as a general concept. For the philosophically inclined, there is an interesting discussion about whether believing in God is compatible with being a scientist. There are several witty instances of Andrew’s classmate Freddie making fun of their professor, which the reader would enjoy.
Commas and periods are missing in several places; for example, after ‘put in Andrew’ on page 92. There are spelling mistakes (‘sucked him up’ spelled as ‘sicked him up’ on page 91) and wrong capitalizations (‘He goes down well’ instead of ‘he goes down well’ on page 174). There are several pages that are left blank without any explanation.
I found this story an intricate yet pleasurable concoction of various topics like Mathematics, Art, Science and foreign culture. It is a pleasant story that can be enjoyed by all audiences. There is no vulgarity, violence or goriness involved. The writing style is free-flowing and the pace is steady without any sulkiness. The interactions between the characters are pretty lively. To me, this book is a great weekend fiction read. This book is a candidate for a 4 out of 4 stars rating; but considering the mechanical errors in the book, I rate this book a 3 out of 4 stars.
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