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The Empathy Problem

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  907 ratings  ·  88 reviews
Perfect for fans of Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project and Gavin Extence's debut novel THE UNIVERSE VERSUS ALEX WOODS, comes a wild and witty, searing and true novel about life's ups and downs.

Driven by money, power and success, Gabriel has worked ruthlessly to get to the very top of the banking game. He's not going to let the inconvenience of a terminal brain tumour get i
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published August 11th 2016 by Hodder & Stoughton
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Erica I don't know, but I would love to see a film of either of Gavin Extence's previous books (The Universe Versus Alex Woods and The Mirror World of Melod…moreI don't know, but I would love to see a film of either of Gavin Extence's previous books (The Universe Versus Alex Woods and The Mirror World of Melody Black)!(less)
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Average rating 4.03  · 
Rating details
 ·  907 ratings  ·  88 reviews

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Jul 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up The Empathy Problem, the blurb intrigued me and the
cover is stunning, I started to read with an open mind.

A couple of hours later I looked up, I was hooked, well and truly. This writing is so compelling, and Gabriel Vaughan is a lead character that I should hate, but who has snuck into my heart and stayed there.

Thirty-two year old Gabriel is at the top of his game. He earns over three million pounds a year, his suits cost £30,000. His chauffeur driv
Rebecca Bradley
Oct 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is Gavin Extence’s third book and it’s the third book of his I’ve loved and the third book of his I’d tell you to go out and read. He has a real knack for getting under the skin of any given situation and dealing with it, without making it a parody or overly sentimental and slushy and The Empathy Problem is no different.

Set against the backdrop of the St Paul’s Cathedral protest a few years ago, The Empathy Problem follows Gabriel as he learns about his brain tumour. His office overlooks St
Sid Nuncius
Jul 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Gavin Extence is an excellent, witty and insightful writer and I enjoyed this book, but I don't think it's in the same class as his previous two.

In The Empathy Problem, Extence creates Gabriel Vaughn, an unpleasant, unfeeling hedge-fund manager who views everything in life as a series of transactions and who has no humanity whatever. Vaughn develops a terminal brain tumour and, for the first time in his life, forms a genuine attachment to a woman. The story is set in 2011-12 during the Occupy pr
Nov 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: meh, contemporary
Gabriel is a hedge-fund co-manager which means he basically gambles on the stock market and is filthy rich. Other than that, his life is devoid of happiness and he is a massive jerk whose only personality trait is selfishness. So, upon learning of his imminent death, Gabriel yearns to become a better person, since he acknowledges he's a terrible, but he does not succeed (in my opinion).

The overarching philosophy or message of this book is capitalism is bad. Not a new premise but one that doesn'
Katy Noyes
Nov 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The theme of bankers and greed reminded me of The Mark and the Void (Paul Murray), that of potential redemption made me think of Eleven by Mark Watson, but Gavin Extence has his own voice and his own theme running throughout his novels so far - brain injuries/conditions and mental illness seem to feature in each.

Here we have a rather interesting protagonist - a banker. Patrick Bateman without the psychosis, a greedy and thoughtless young hotshot rising up the ranks to be suddenly stopped in his
Maya Panika
Jul 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Gavin Extence is rapidly becoming one of my favourite authors. His style is so understated yet beautifully, movingly and perfectly expressed. He has a slow way of unfolding a story that is always engaging and completely absorbing; very difficult to put down without completely knowing why. This is not a blockbuster style of writing with a cliffhanger at the end of every chapter, yet he lures you into his lair and chains you to the lives of his characters so gently, you’re hooked before you know i ...more
Aug 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Another break from my usual crime fiction and another winner. I am so glad I am branching out more and more these days. Gabriel works in hedge funds. Basically, he makes money for people, lots of people and, of course for himself. He came from nothing, has worked hard to get to where he is today and today, he wants for nothing. He lives in luxury, works for a prestigious firm, chauffeur driven from door to door when he is not driving himself in his top range car. But that's his life. Estranged f ...more
Nov 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Let's be honest for a second.

The book wasn't a masterpiece. It didn't make me cry, and it won't make my top ten list.
Still, it was such a fun read!
I read the book in two sittings, mostly because the chapters were super short (A quality that I love in a fiction book). It was enjoyable and fun. I liked the setting and I liked how the author didn't cut Gabriel any slack. It takes daring to set up a character like how Gabriel was. The book was recommended to me by a friend, so after I was a few ch
Leilah Skelton
Aug 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Empathy. Noun. 1) The psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitude of another. In The Empathy Problem, Gabriel Vaughn has made a great success of himself partly due to a lack of it. Now a tumour the size of a golf ball lodged deep in something called his anterior insular cortex is causing peculiar side-effects…

That empathy is presented as a problem is the crux of this novel. Is it really never too late to change your life? Does that change c
Helen Kollin Fichtel
Oct 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
This started off well enough, but then just became a cliched chick-lit (even though it's not) mess. The main character was unpleasant but not exactly evil so there wasn't any need for the great reform he seemed to feel was necessary. The relationship with Caitlin was embarrassingly badly written, and all the other characters seemed to be cardboard stereotypes. The only exception was the dad - this was the only chapter that I felt was at all real or interesting.
The author's first book was truly g
Sep 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I practically inhaled this book. Loved the central character, and was 5 stars all the way to the end. Perhaps it was compounded by the fact i din't want it to end and the female wasn't really grabbing me at all, but i felt a little disappointed at the end. Still a hugely enjoyable read. ...more
Kirsten Donaldson
Nov 15, 2020 rated it liked it
Despite the content, I found this book a light and easy read. It was a nice pastime but felt it lacked depth and connection.
Sep 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Reviewed on

This has swiftly jumped into one of my favourite books of the year. It’s heartfelt without being too emotional and so well written. I started reading and was completely hooked!

The story follows hedge fund manager Gabriel, who really lives the typical rich lifestyle – and doesn’t really seem to care about anyone apart from himself. He’s well aware of this, and to be fair he doesn’t pretend to be anything he’s not, but he really doesn’t give seem to give a damn abou
Karen Keane
Feb 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Totally loved this book. The story of Gabriel, a hedge fund dealer, who is diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour and whose life and personality totally change because of this. The book is not in the least bit depressing, it's funny, witty, uplifting but also heartbreakingly moving. It's certainly one of the best books I have read for a long time. Well worth reading! ...more
Mar 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I found this laugh out loud funny in parts because GE writes brilliantly. Yes, it is a tragic theme, but he writes with such frankness and humour. Poignant, touching, engages the reader in a full range of emotions. Whilst I felt the ending was satisfactory- did leave me wondering why he dealt with his company in quite the way he did. Nevertheless, it was an entertaining read and I would recommend it to anyone.
Sep 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It doesn’t sound too promising does it - a book about a ruthless hedge fund manager with a brain tumour? However, since I’d already read Gavin Extence’s other two novels, both of which I’d highly recommend, I hoped this would be equally gripping. I wasn’t disappointed. It’s poignant but not over emotional, the characters are likeable and it’s delivered with style. I can’t wait for your next book Mr Extence.
Gillian Crichton
Oct 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Gavin Extence is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. His first book The Universe v Alex Woods was my favourite read of 2013 and his latest novel The Empathy Problem didn't disappoint. A thought provoking beautifully written book. I won't hesitate to recommend it to friends and customers. ...more
Nov 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Funny, sad and thought provoking. Written in a fluent, pacy style with short chapters that keep you turning the pages. Paints a believable picture of a world that is totally alien to the vast majority of us. One of the most enjoyable novels I've read this year. ...more
Jan 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
So, I didn't cry. But I did tear up a few times. The book started off a bit slow, with all the finance and hedge fund talk. But it picked up after all that good stuff was established and I really got into the book. ...more
Aug 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: quirky
I was very excited to realise I'd missed a book by the lovely Gavin Extence, having waxed lyrical for several years about Alex Woods! I had purchased the Melody Black audiobook, however it didn't quite live up to the wonders of Alex. Having had a quick look at (non-spoiler) Goodreads reviews of TEP, I was delighted to get this through my local library.

I really wanted to love it, to be able to give it 5 stars. But.... I can't. Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy it a lot, and it's edged into my 4* ra
Emma McAra
Feb 16, 2020 rated it liked it
A bit of a slow start with more than enough finance jargon to suit anyone. It set the tone of Gabriel’s character: a narcissistic, ridiculously rich, contrived hedge-funder who knows his mind. The writing style is dry and wonderful to read but he is the only character who actually develops and fleshes out.

Chapter 32 (27%) is where we first glimpse a turning point in Gabriel’s mindset and when we first meet Caitlin. I like her. But she isn’t a rounded character and she should be.

The ‘Catherine de
Apr 02, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Hannah Stubbs
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I thought the Universe Vs Alex Woods was a phenomenal novel and moving piece of art. But then I read this. And this is a whole new level. Maybe I'm just biased because I started typing this review half an hour after finishing the book (a half hour I spent trying to process my emotions and wipe away the tears - which is not something I usually need to do, I'm a hardass and it takes a lot for a book or movie to move me to tears). I usually wait a few hours to write reviews but I just couldn't this ...more
Alyssia Cooke
Sep 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: weird, contemporary
This is nothing like I thought it would be and yet I really enjoyed it. Gabriel as a character should be fairly detestable and yet somehow I actually found him quite engaging. A man at the top of his game, multi millionaire hedge fund banker; has no empathy for anyone other than himself. Gets diagnosed with a brain tumour; has six months to live, no cure.

Brain tumour creates emotional liability or lability if you want to get technical; Gabriel starts crying at the drop of a hat and falls for a m
Deema Albarrak
At least until 50 pages before the book ended, I felt like I could give it credit for at least going in a different route than what is expected out of a book with this premise. But nope. It went exactly like how I thought it would go.
I really couldn’t dislike the main character or the love interest anymore, even after the “redemption arc”.
Not to mention the outright racism and ignorance of the main character that (while I understand was a part of his villain thing) kept just nagging at me whil
Karen Carter
Jan 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book sort of crept up on me and won me over; the principal character of Gabriel is in many ways unsympathetic and it took a little while for him to get under my skin. I really liked the way that this book not only made me change my opinions of some of the characters but also made me question my own preconceptions of people and the way we might judge people unfairly on the basis of their jobs, dress etc. I really loved Caitlin and we could see why she had the impact on Gabriel that she did.

Isla Scott
This is very much a slow burner of a read. I was surprised that there's relatively little medical information or updates provided about the main character. Its certainly not uninteresting and I did find myself wondering if I could feel sorry for him, given his past and so on - he isn't the most likeable character but I still stuck with it and enjoyed reading it overall nevertheless. I found it to be a surprisingly quick read with short chapters. I wouldn't say its as good as his debut novel 'The ...more
Feb 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was intrigued by the reviews and blurb about this book and it didn’t disappoint. A treat to read on a February weekend in Covid Lockdown. I enjoyed the insights into the Fiancial world and the 2008 St Paul’s protest camp. The characters feel very real & the thought processes & questions they invoked in me are likely to be with me for a very long time. I love a book especially a novel that uncovers & questions my assumptions making me review my life experiences and opinions - this book certainl ...more
Gail Wylde
May 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: giveaways
I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway - thank you. The beginning of this book was all finance and hedge funds which went straight over my head, I didn't like the main character and then the book grabbed me!! I was really rooting for Gabriel and a miracle by the end (although the financial bits still went over my head). I thought that I wouldn't be able to recommend this book to anyone but I was so wrong. I will now be reading other books by Gavin. Thank you for giving me the opportunity t ...more
Patrick Carroll
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Bought this purely because i'd enjoyed Alex Underwood versus the Universe, by fluke I read it directly after another book (How To Be Happy - Eva Woods) that used the same medical condition as a plot device. I liked that Gabriel was not a "neat" character and the outcome remained ambivalent to me (no spoilers here). Building fiction around real events is a useful "hook" and assists in suspending the disbelief of the reader. A lot of social commentary "buried" within what manages to be both humoro ...more
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Gavin Extence was born in 1982 and grew up in the interestingly named village of Swineshead, Lincolnshire. From the ages of 5-11, he enjoyed a brief but illustrious career as a chess player, winning numerous national championships and travelling to Moscow and St Petersburg to pit his wits against the finest young minds in Russia. He won only one game.

Gavin is currently working on his second novel.

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  Kerine Wint is a software engineering graduate with more love for books than for computers. As an avid reader, writer, and fan of all things...
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