Review – Deborah O’Brien – The Trivia Man

I blame Jane Austen. Or maybe it’s human nature – when we find a book we enjoy, we want more. If not more by the same author, then books which are similar but, of course, also different. Alas, Austen was not as prolific as Dickens or Trollope and yes I know it’s not her fault.

I was a bit wary when Deborah O’Brien’s The Trivia Man came with the recommendation “If you liked The Rosie Project….” I loved The Rosie Project (less so The Rosie Effect…) and I worried that The Trivia Man was a copy-cat book and wondered whether it would suffer in comparison.  The two cover some similar themes, but they are very different – one laugh out loud, the other more charming and insightful.

Kevin Dwyer is a 48 year old forensic accountant who loves trivia competitions. Kevin knows himself, but other people seem to have trouble understanding him, including his sister Beth. His best friend is his eight year old nephew Patrick. Kevin struggles to make sense of the social cues around him – unfortunately people are not very logical. Kevin believes that “trivia is a serious business, not a social occasion.” When he joins the Clifton Heights Sports Club trivia night he enters as a one-man team but his win in the first round means the other teams start lobbying him to join them.

Maggie Taylor teaches Latin and is a music buff. A work colleague has dragged her along to the trivia competition to meet new people and to contribute her movie knowledge to the team. She and Kevin bond in the back stairwell and Kevin ends up joining her team.

This is a terrific book with lots of comedy, great insight into people and relationships and some heartbreaking moments. Plus trivia questions! (but not answers – grrrr.) The story takes place over the ten weeks of the  trivia competition, with flashbacks that help us get to know the characters in more depth. The relationship between Kevin and his nephew Patrick is beautifully written, very warm and at times very moving.

It’s interesting to follow Maggie and Kevin’s growing friendship. On the surface, Maggie would seem to have a better grasp of social cues, but for many years she has been held back by her feelings for a man who consistently treats her badly. Maggie is a slow learner, at least when it comes to relationships. Their friendship could be the fresh start they both need.

(I would have thought that Maggie’s attachment to Brad was an annoying plot device – such an intelligent woman! – if I hadn’t seen so many intelligent women fall for narcissists and ignore the warning signs when they show up again. No!!!!!!!! When Maggie finally – oops, spoiler alert. Let’s just say I gave a little cheer at a particular point of the book. You will too.)

I would happily recommend this book. I think the book’s message is get out there and meet people. Not because you might meet “someone”, but because, in mixing with other people, you might get to know yourself better. Maybe that will help you make better choices. My only real criticism is that the trivia answers are not given at the back of the book!

Deborah O’Brien is a writer, teacher and artist who divides her time between Sydney and the country cottage where she does most of her writing.

Deborah’s website is

More about The Trivia Man can be found here:

Thank you to Random House for providing a review copy. The book is available in bookshops now.

2 thoughts on “Review – Deborah O’Brien – The Trivia Man

  1. Deborah O'Brien June 23, 2015 at 2:32 pm Reply

    Thanks, Karen, for a very generous and insightful review. Sorry about not including the answers! I had them in an end-note in my first draft, along with some extra trivia questions arranged thematically. I pondered long and hard about whether they should be there and finally removed them! You’ve given me food for thought if there’s ever a second edition. Thank you!
    Best wishes,

  2. luvzalkemy July 12, 2015 at 2:33 pm Reply

    You’re welcome Deborah. I think you made the right call by not including the answers in the body of the book. Maybe on your website? Don’t you think trivia competitions bring out the best and the worst in people? I can imagine a whole series of books set around them!

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Claire Varley

writer, consultant & practitioner

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