As a 60-something-year-old woman who has been married for nigh on thirty years, I have never engaged with online dating, but from some of the horrific outcomes that cross my desk as an RTÉ Newscaster to the undoubtedly happy unions I have helped celebrate both here and in the US, I can see that it's a minefield and, in many cases, a matter of chance.
You would need to be in the whole of your health, as it’s a place where stereotypes abound and vulnerabilities are preyed upon, but there are many believers and the number of dating sites springing up would seem to bear that out. (Tinder has a lot to answer for!)
This is the subject tackled by Claudia Carroll in her latest novel, The Love Algorithm. The blurb tells us that Claudia likes to write about 'ordinary women who do extraordinary things’. Enter Iris, though she’s not that ordinary, she has a highly successful career, and is 'a financially independent woman; she earned well; she had credit cards; she always, always paid her own way. Particularly on any first date, where dividing bills fifty-fifty was par for the course.' (I’m on a steep learning curve here!)
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Listen: Claudia Carroll talks The Love Algorithm with The Ray D'Arcy Show
With a degree in applied mathematics, she’s good at numbers, but she also knows dating sites function on algorithms... you feed in personal information, and the dating website processes it to yield results based totally on that information.
All her dating life, Iris had trusted in these algorithms but they have all failed her, and so, after yet another stinker of a date, she decides to take matters into her own hands and create one!
'The more Iris thought about it, the more excited she grew, as her energy levels began to surge... creating an algorithm she knew, took approximately two thousand, two hundred and fifty-five hours of time... A mere matter of months. How hard could it be? Besides, Iris thought, perhaps she could actually do a bit of good here.'
So, she sets about analysing dating websites to find what they have in common, and how hers could stand out - and maybe even work. Eventually, she comes up with 40 questions, all requiring well-thought-out answers and based on the Proust Questionnaire, a parlour game popularised by the French writer Marcel Proust in Victorian times.
With the logistics sorted she now needs ‘test pilots’, roping in a younger colleague and her widowed mother, and soon we’re up and running with a series of dates, matches and love stories, with a few curveballs thrown in for good measure.
Claudia Carroll is a great storyteller, and this novel reels you in from the get-go. It’s thought-provoking but funny and smart too – perfect holiday fare.
If I have one small gripe, it’s that some of the characters are too stereotypical, but I would still recommend it.
Oh, and I want to know where Claudia did her research!
The Love Algorythm is published by Zaffre