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The Coincidence Authority

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  729 ratings  ·  96 reviews
One seagull and four pieces of bread decide the course of one person's life. But is the rest just coincidence? THE COINCIDENCE AUTHORITY combines the ideas of David Mitchell or Hanif Kureishi with the warmth of David Nicholls or Marina Lewycka.

Thomas Post is an expert on coincidence. He's an authority. Every coincidence, he says, can be explained by the cold laws of chance
Paperback, 304 pages
Published October 9th 2014 by Phoenix
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Average rating 3.81  · 
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Sometimes, I need a feel-good book. The weather has been cold and crappy, and a belligerent, narcissistic tangerine just took the oath of office, so I figured I was due for a hopeful book, a big oatmeal cookie, a cup of tea and a hot water bottle.

John Ironmonger writes quirky, clever books. He is an unusual novelist but he knows human nature. "The Coincidence Authority" asks a simple question: is everything that happens to us a series of coincidences or is everything pre-determined by a mechanis
Sep 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.

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 fasci
Margaret McCulloch-Keeble
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
What a lovely book. Profound and quietly thought provoking, with a tale that spans time and countries and civil wars. Original and poignant. I've had this on my wish list for ages. I'm pleased to have read it. ...more
Jessica Hinton
Oct 17, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 stars...
I wanted to like this more than I actually did (does that make sense...?) All the elements for a fantastic tale were there - great characters and extraordinary circumstances. The central character has been dogged by 'coincidences' her entire life... or is some greater being trying to fuck with her? She takes her tale to Thomas, a mathematician who has devoted his life to disproving the idea that anything is fate, or happens by coincidence. Instead he's convinced that life is just tha
Jim Puskas
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Further thoughts, on just having re-read this: The book can be seen as many things -- a mystery, a romance, a philosophical argument, a commentary on the wreckage left behind after colonialism. It's all of that and more. And by the way, a darned good yarn. It features something that has always greatly appealed to me: a story where people's lives intersect at long intervals in unexpected ways, where seemingly unrelated events conspire to change the direction of the story, resolve unanswered quest ...more
Oct 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2015
I loved all the stories within the greater story. But the big premise, is everything that happened in Azalea's life coincidence or is there something else at work, it's never really resolved and it let to an unexpected ending. Not the ending that you don't expect, but more the point at which the book ends. It was very suddenly, which felt not resolved at all. Something more should have happened. But all in all, interesting novel. ...more
Oliver Clarke
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wasn’t sure about this at first, it felt like it might end up being nauseatingly whimsical, but once I got into it I really enjoyed it. It’s a tightly written, nicely constructed puzzle of a book with some lovely prose, vibrant characters and a subtle charm. Interesting, fun and really readable.
Nicola Pj
Sep 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best book I've read this year, I couldn't put it down! From the first chapter it had me hooked and I found the chapters set in Uganda particularly absorbing. Highly recommend! ...more
Jun 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
It's actually called The Coincidence Authority...get it right Goodreads! ...more
Kitty Kilian
Well written, but the plot seems a little contrived.
Marc Sedgwick
Mar 25, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Destiny of free will? That's the fundamental question at the centre of this delightful and sometimes tragic story. Another great read from one of my favourite authors. ...more
Anthony Dickinson
Apr 07, 2015 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Natalie Sorrell
After reading and thoroughly enjoying Ironmonger’s latest novel Not Forgetting The Whale – the review of which you can find here – I snatched up his previous two books (The Coincidence Authority and The Notable Brain of Maximillian Ponder) from the library.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Not Forgetting The Whale as I’d never heard of Ironmonger before, but I was entranced by his writing style and his subject matter. He somehow manages to combine really important issues of why we’re here a
Aug 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Won this on a Goodreads giveaway.

I don't really know what to make of this book, it is a cunning mix of comparisons and contrasts with all aspects of the human condition coming together in the two main characters, the rational and scientific Thomas Post and the irrational and fantastical Azalea Lewis. In Post we have a staid and contented scientist who lives his life rationally and logically, giving little credence to the alternative options and realities of those who believe in something or some
Sep 06, 2014 rated it liked it
The Coincidence Authority tries quite hard, and does quite well, but could do better.
The two protagonists, Thomas Post and Azalea Lewis, have their lives intertwined with one another. Post studies coincidences, and for all intents and purposes begins analysing Azalea's life for the coincidences that pop up on a semi-regular basis. Azalea's life is interesting, I'll give it that much.
The dynamics of the various character pairings (including Azalea and Thomas, but also Azalea's mother, the medical
Lucy Perry Griffiths
Before I even begin I’d like to say this has to be up there with my books of the year. Informative, touching and extremely memorable, it got my mind moving more than most books manage to.

The book starts the discovery of a little girl, abandoned at a fair ground and goes on to follow her life through adoption, growing up on a Mission in Uganda and adulthood as a lecturer. But the most interesting thing about this character is that her life is blighted with coincidences. Coincidences so strong tha
Katy Noyes
Sep 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Review of a Newbooks advance copy.

At times I thought this was heading for 5-star territory. It's very good. Some of the writing is excellent. The idea is great, unusual and attention-grabbing. Azalea didn't really hold her own for me though, not strong enough.

It's hard to explain the plot. Centring on a woman, Azalea, who at 3 is found abandoned at a Cornish fair, is adopted and ends up in Africa, is involved with civil wars and finally ends up in England speaking to a university lecturer who s
Oct 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Saffron by:
Shelves: favorites
I find myself wondering how this has not been nominated for book prizes.

This is an original story that moves from the quiet shores of the Isle of Man, through Cornwall, London and Uganda. The locations are narrated well, all have their own feeling, you are walking the paths with the characters, the descriptive writing is sublime.

It has been a while since I have felt my heart racing whilst reading but the scenes set in Africa did this on a number of occasions. I have to admit had I known that th
Valerie Pate
May 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Someone had said that this book was a bit like “The Rosie Project”, and so, being a huge fan of that novel I rushed to the library and reserved myself a copy right away. The bad news is, it is nothing like “The Rosie Project”, but on the flipside, I am still glad I read it.

With a name like Ironmonger (a real or assumed identity, I am not sure which), you’re probably used to standing out from the crowd. This quirky, tale, about a philosopher who prides himself on being a great authority on the su
Michael Rumney
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: war, friendship, mystery
Looking at the cover at first this was a love story, it is in part but it's more about coincidence and asks the question is everything in the universe pre-determined or is there free will.
The coincidences revolve around Azlea, who is a foundling discovered as a 3 or 4 year-old at a Devon fairground, at this point the book feels quite quirky but there is a change of tone when the novel is set in war torn Uganda.
There is a lot of tension at this point especially when the African I R A turn up and
Dec 11, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Reasonable read, good to have maths mixed into the novel with contemporary civil war characters." A review from 2013, from me!

Not only do I not remember reading the book there are no "contemporary civil war characters." so I must have read a different book! Just listened to this and enjoyed the maths and logic conversations which definitely are included. Necessary for the plot and educational for helping the reader better understand and come to their own conclusion of where on a spectrum their
Joy Finlayson
Nov 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'll admit that I picked up this book based on its cover. Bright and with an intriguing title, I didn't even read the synopsis to know what it was about. Thankfully, this risk paid off!

Moving between mainland England, the Isle of Man and Uganda, The Coincidence Authority is a mixture of romance, philosophy, psychology, whilst being factual in places too. I knew of the name Joseph Kony, but nothing of the horror he has brought to Uganda and so reading this aspect of the novel was both insightful
Sep 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a really interesting book that is quirky without being trite. The story focuses on Azalea, a girl whose life is plagued by coincidences. There are several threads that are intertwined - there are fictional and factual threads that cover philosophy, (fate and determinism in particular), Ugandan politics and mathematical probability.

It's a four-star read for me because the Ugandan politics sometimes sits too apart from the character story, there is one chapter where it reads quite densely
Rebecca Altmann
Aug 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book.
It was on the row-end display shelf at the library, just as you walk in the door, and my local librarians do a good job of picking out some interesting books for that shelf. Often I don't look any further.
I really had no idea what to expect as I started reading and had no idea how the story could move from a lost-child investigation through to a setting in Africa (based on the blurb on the back) but it did, and it hooked me while doing it.
It is a quite different type of story
Nicky Foster
Jan 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed The Notable Brain of Maximilion Ponder and couldn't wait to read The Coincidence Authority. Glad to say that it was just as good. I like the author's writing style - slightly surreal but completely believable and the characters have their peculiarities which just seem to make them more endearing. The story follows Azalea through her difficulties and the coincidences in her life. The part of the story involving the relationship between Azalea and Thomas didn't come across as part ...more
Brian Boyle
Apr 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Highly readable and (yes) enjoyable novel of love, statistics, existence of free will and terrible crimes. The "Englishman/woman abroad" style reminded me a little of cross between Evelyn Waugh, William Boyd and Paul Torbay. With much less cynicism, however. J.W.Ironmonger bring a lightness of touch and subtle humour to what is essentially a tragic story. Rather than diminishing or trivialising, it served to increase the poignancy of the tale. Many of the themes could easily have been explored m ...more
Jayne Charles
Nov 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With his themes of Africa and philosophy this author has got all dressed up in Alexander McCall Smith's clothes, and they fit him really well. In fact he bulks them out somewhat with a plot you can get your teeth into, and writing that is clear, readable and informative. I admired the way the story began close to the end - when many of the mysteries seemed to have been cleared up - and also the way the narrative skipped around in time while never leaving the reader confused. The only bum note - ...more
David Baker
I wanted to like this book, and in some ways I did. But there were two disappointments for me: firstly, the story itself is, well, to be honest, in the end a tad disappointing. I came to the end and thought, "Oh, is that it? Ok." I had feared a rather more climactic ending and think in fact I would have preferred that. Secondly, I felt the book was a tad polemical. Clearly John Ironmonger is not a fan of God, providence etc, and everyone has their views as they are entitled to, but I felt (a) th ...more
Oct 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was probably one of the best fiction books I've ever read. So relevant to life, and makes you think of how lives so away from a continent away in Africa are affected by things we don't seem to know much about. It also makes you think about what you think of fate, and helps you put things into context. I've never met anyone like Thomas in my life who can rationally explain coincidences with numbers and statistics, and I've been brought up in a country where 'kismet' is how your life is defin ...more
Blue Mountains Library
I loved this quirky book and had a good binge read. The delightful book discusses some philosophical concepts (chance and random theory as well as probability) in a really accessible way through some delightful characters. Worth the read.


Thomas Post, a lecturer in applied philosophy at the University of London, is an authority on coincidence. When he meets Azalea Lewis (coincidentally) he is drawn into the web of coincidences of which her world seems composed, and which then challenge him
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