Review – The Coincidence Authority by JW Ironmonger

By | October 7, 2013

JW Ironmonger was a new name to me. I like to think I keep aware of prize nominations – even if I then decide they’re not for me – but The Notable Brain of Maximilian Ponder went totally under my radar despite its Costa short-listing. I’m so pleased that the same didn’t happen with this one, because it really is a beautifully crafted little gem.

THE COINCIDENCE AUTHORITY is a novel about love in a random universe, about two lost souls each with a quest to understand the secret patterns of their lives. From the windswept tranquillity of a Manx village to the brutal abduction of child soldiers in Africa, the lives of Thomas Post and Azalea Lewis intertwine as they try to untangle the mystery of Azalea’s past. A mystery that began with a seagull and four pieces of bread…

If I say this is an exceptionally clever book I don’t want that to put anyone off – the theories around coincidence that underpin it are absolutely fascinating. In essence, at its core is a love story between the wonderfully diffident professor, Thomas Post, and Azalea, the English Literature tutor with the magnificently convoluted past and an unshakeable belief in her destiny. The writing is fantastic – addressing the reader directly at times, sometimes detached, sometimes matter-of-fact and now and then beautifully – almost cinematically – descriptive. And, perhaps most important of all, it’s an absolutely absorbing and engrossing story, which kept me turning the pages until the very end.  All the characters – however briefly they appear – leap off the page, and the African scenes will long live in my memory. I absolutely loved this book – different, unusual, quirky, eminently readable, and it will fully exercise your brain and your emotions. One not to be missed.

J. W. Ironmonger was born and grew up in East Africa. He has a doctorate in zoology, and was once an expert on freshwater leeches. He is the author of The Good Zoo Guide and The Notable Brain of Maximilian Ponder, was part of a world record team for speed reading Shakespeare, and once drove across the Sahara in a £100 banger. He lives in rural Shropshire with his wife, Sue, and has two grown-up children.

He also has an excellent blog – I particularly enjoyed his story about recording the audio version of this book. This wonderful book was published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson on 12thSeptember, and is available in hardback and Kindle versions: the paperback is due for publication by Phoenix in March 2014.