Protagonist Andrew Carter’s life is impacted by two young women in David Clapham’s novel titled Odd Socks.
The story contains many plot threads that never seem to come together in a coherent fashion. London native Andrew is a young mathematician during the late 1960s. He’s offered a lectureship at a university where he will be working with a computer scientist and television personality developing home computers.
Andrew accepts and relocates to North Lancashire, where he runs into old friend Toby Morton. At this time, Toby shares his history with Sir Oliver Laine, an MP (Member of Parliament) and businessman, and someone Andrew will come to know. Toby then invites Andrew to his family’s home for the weekend to celebrate his half-sister Antonia’s 15th birthday. After Antonia’s flirting and pursuit, Andrew and Antonia become a couple.
Spring forward 30 years. Andrew’s career is established and he’s presented with an opportunity by Sir Oliver Laine, who is helping launch a pharmaceutical company. Andrew can spend half his time as a supernumerary fellow at Oxford University, and half his time in Viet Nam, assisting with statistical analysis of medical experiments and clinical drug trials. He accepts, and during his first trip to Viet Nam, he meets Cathy, a local teen. Their paths cross again, and soon he brings the girl into his life.
Vivacious Antonia and Cathy are the story’s strongest characters and outshine dull Andrew. In fact, Clapham’s novel is full of pompous British men who talk for pages about themselves or politics or religion, doing little to further the nearly nonexistent plots. The author’s aim here is difficult to discern: Is this a love story? Andrew’s journey of self-discovery? Both? No matter – either way, the purpose is eclipsed by superfluous dialogue and tedious characters.
Clapham’s story sinks under the weight of these many issues. Readers are likely to become confused and disillusioned as they go along, and many may stop reading before the novel’s end.