A Visit From the Goon Squad is another novel I am reading as part of my MA. That said, it was on my ‘to read’ list anyway so having it on the University reading list just moved it too the top. I’m glad it did and here’s why. (And yes, the review is more like 120 words, but the book is so good I hope you’ll forgive the breaking of the rules).
100-ish Word Review:
Egan’s novel/short fiction collection (delete as applicable) is that rarest of beasts the accessible prize winning novel. Much has been made of the innovative structuring of the novel to reflect the key theme, time’s passing and its effects, the use of a different narrative style for each chapter, perspective shifting focus across the ensemble cast as the reader moves through the book and the chapter in powerpoint elsewhere. All I wish to add is this:
A Visit From The Goon Squad is the best book I have read this year thus far, engaging, powerful and thought-provoking at every turn. So good, in fact, it’s gone straight back on my ‘to read’ pile for re-reading soon.
Meanwhile, here’s the chapter in powerpoint:
There’s also a brilliant comic book style review of the novel over on the excellent Horn!
Also, the iTunes app has the full novel and audiobook included for £2.99 – bargain.
6 Responses to 100 Word Review – A Visit From The Goon Squad
Added to my (ever-increasing_ to-read list! Thanks, Dan!
There’s some lovely character stuff in there that should be right up your street Nik. The iTunes app is incredibly good value if you have an iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad. The whole text, audiobook and author notes on each chapter for less than three quid.
Dan. I tried this one earlier in the year and didn’t get past chapter two. Maybe I couldn’t see the book for the hype. I might have to give it another go!
It is certainly well worth your attention and I hope a second attempt proves more enjoyable for you. I can see that the jumping from character to character might be off-putting and I had to start the book twice myself, though that was due to my reading the first chapter while up in the night with my youngest and being so tired that the next day I had no memory of what I had read. There has been a lot of hype surrounding the book but, unlike some, it manages to mostly live up to expectation.
As someone who writes short stories, I’m always a bit sensitive to the kind of book where a writer finds a way of stringing together a bunch of short stories and selling it as a novel. It’s not that I mind on principle; that kind of book can work. But I like to know what I’m getting up front. I picked up the book after reading several collections of shorts thinking, “I really fancy reading a novel now.” After chapter two I realised that wasn’t what I was going to get.
Talking about living up to the hype, I recently read Gerard Donovan’s Julius Winsome after Tom Vowler kept on recommending it. I thought it was brilliant: the kind of book you buy and give to people knowing that, when they’ve read it, they’ll thank you.
I take your point about the dressing up of short fiction as a novel and the problems with some writers needing to do that as if a short fiction collection is somehow less worthy. The stories in Egan’s book, set across a span of forty years are something different though. The structuring of the novel, and it is a novel, is as it is to fully explore and reflect the key theme of time and our place as human beings within it. Having distinct chapters with a variety of voice allows her to show characters from different perspectives and also to have the narrative style reflect the time in which the story is set. By the end of the book you do get the sense of the piece as a whole and it feels like a novel, though it may not appear so at the start.
I’ll check out the Donovan book. Just finished Tom’s collection and on the quality of his stories I am more than happy to trust his judgement and try out his recommendation.
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