“Roth’s remarkably funny, tender book is much more than one code-writing kid’s success story. Roth writes in a gently self-mocking, utterly disarming style that gives The Unknowns an unusual type of tension.”

 

NO MAJOR SPOILERS

I chose Gabriel Roth’s The Unknowns for the summer reading list this year solely on the recommendation that it was ‘like One Day rewritten by Woody Allen’. It’s Roth’s début novel and I opened it thinking I was going to get light romance and humour but actually I got so much more.

The Unknowns has great pace and Eric Muller is possibly the most neurotic man I have ever stumbled across, fictional or not. The first few chapters are a switch between his adult self, full of self doubt, witticisms and dry commentary as Roth’s crazy coder attempts to set up a date with Maya and his childhood, nerdy, obsessive about computer games, and not very popular with the girls.

The date eventually happens and the book continues with more depreciative humour, funny turns and critical self analysis, but about half way through it takes a more unusual turn, dealing with issues I wasn’t really expecting.

Though rooting for Eric I found myself pretty gobsmacked by his behaviour, even though I could hear his private most thoughts and justification. I’m not sure I liked him very much, or Maya for that matter, but I did enjoy the book. It’s an interesting turn on what we should know about others, what we can expect to know and why sometimes we just have to take things on face value. I suspect many a relationship has been destroyed with misunderstandings and critical analysis but will Eric and Maya come through it?

Insightful, witty, easy to read and a very different twist on the usual contemporary romance novel.

 

Reviewed by:

Kath Cross

Added 28th July 2015

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Kath Cross

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