Thursday, April 28, 2011

Review: A Visit from the Goon Squad ~ by Jennifer Egan


visit from the goon squad pb

Review by John for:  A Visit from the Goon Squad ~ by Jennifer Egan

A complex time-jumping novel following the intertwined lives of a record executive, a woman he employs, and various people they have encountered throughout their lives.

Synopsys:   Bennie Salazar is an aging former punk rocker and record executive whose career has cratered. Sasha is a troubled young kleptomaniac who worked for him for many years and who he came to rely on. The book goes back and forth in time, delving into aspects of their lives and the lives of significant people that they have interacted with over the years – with each chapter written from the perspective of a different person.

John’s Thoughts:   It’s a complex story for sure, and the reader is convisit from the goon squad hbstantly challenged to keep connecting the dots and to grasp the various relationships, interconnected story threads and timelines. Indeed, it borders on being a collection of short stories rather than being one coherent novel. But within this complexity, Egan has created some really interesting (and mostly flawed) characters, and it all just about hangs together.

The writing styles in the individual chapters vary too, with the most extreme example being a teenager who writes in PowerPoint slides. Actually this worked really well and was one of my favorite chapters, being a touching description of the somewhat strained dynamics of a family with an autistic son.

If there is an overarching theme, it seems to be the impact of time and aging on relationships and behavior, with all of the key characters undergoing dramatic changes as visit from the goon squad uk pbthe timeline progresses. Egan is trying to achieve an awful lot within a fairly short novel and I can’t help feeling that she’s trying to be just a bit too clever for her own good.

Call me a traditionalist, but I kind of wish she’d reduced the scope of the plot a bit and focused more on a tighter cast of the main characters. There are lots of connections and plot transitions that feel underdeveloped that I’d liked to have read about in more depth. But clearly she has made some conscious decisions about the style of the book and the structure of the storyline, and I guess my views are in the minority as the book has won a variety of awards.

Overall I did enjoy the read, and it was certainly out of the ordinary compared with everything else I’ve read recently - I guess that was Egan’s objective. I’d rate it 3.5 stars.

US|UK|Canada; paperback; 352 pages; Anchor (March 22, 2011)

The top cover picture is for the paperback edition in the US and Canada, the blue cover is of the hardbound, and the orange is for the paperback in the UK.

John had this one on his pile next to the bed but decided to read it right away due Egan winning the Pulitzer Prize for it last week. I was hoping that this book would be his first 5 star review. It will be interesting to see which book it will be.

As always he will be answering all comments on his review, so don’t forget to click the follow up box to get his reply.

Happy Thursday!


Laurel-Rain Snow said...

I read this one awhile ago, and it was not one of my favorites by this author.

I found the changing perspectives a bit too confusing at times. And I hated the Power Point chapter...

Which goes to show, we all have different takes on books. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Short Story Slore said...

I'm glad to hear you enjoyed the PPT story because I really liked it. I had no idea how that would work until I was halfway through and discovered that I was picking up on this story. I also really enjoyed the character of Sasha. I attended one of Egan's readings and she said her goal with this was that each story had to focus on a different character and have a completely different feel from the other stories. Unfortunately, it does make some people feel the disconnection like yourself.

John D said...

Hi Laurel,

This book on its own wouldn't cause me to seek out others by Egan. Would you particularly recommend any of them?

I can imagine how many people will hate the PowerPoint chapter. It's funny; at work I often work in PowerPoint so this medium must have appealed to me on some non-literary level.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


John D said...

Hi Ashley,

It was Sasha that I really wanted to read more about. She was such an interesting character. The more that the story diverged from her, the more of a distraction it felt to me.

Thanks for commenting.


JoV said...

I really like to read this but now I heard so much ambivalent reviews about this that I am not so sure anymore... to read or not to read, what do you think?

John D said...

Hi JoV,

Well, it is a very quick read so it doesn't take a big investment of time; and it won a prestigeous award so clearly some folks think it's great. It just didn't quite hit home for me.

Perhaps this is one yiou should loan from your library and see if the first chapter grabs you or not


@parridhlantern said...

I love the sound of this, especially the powerpoint chapter. I like the idea of playing with techniques, one of my favourite books last year was Ilustrado & this sounds vaguely similar.

John D said...

Hi Gary,

It's definitely not a book for everyone - but there again, what is? If everyone liked the same things the world would be awfully boring.

I think you'll get a kick out of the PowerPoint chapter. It's very well done - so few words, but those words and the way they are presented convey a lot. Clever.


Matthew Selwyn said...

I've just finished reading this and really didn't enjoy it greatly. The style was interesting, but messy overall, and the characters were so loosely drawn that I really wasn't particularly interested in any of them.

My Review: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

John D said...

Hi Matthew,

Thanks for stopping by and commenting. My views weren't quite as extreme as yours, but definitely heading in the same direction.

I got to the end of the book and pretty much didn't care about most of the characters.

Nice review and blog by the way. But only two days of summer in England during August - surely not!


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