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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed it, but didn't find it as amazing as others have
Recently published in paperback in June, A Visit From The Goon Squad begged the question of me 'When is a novel, not a novel?" because it is a novel, and it isn't. It reminded me of a game of tag, or a relay race. The novel opens with a chapter focusing on Sasha, jumps from Sasha to her boss Bennie, then from Bennie to Rhea, who knew Lou through Jocelyn, then to Lou's...
Published on 30 April 2012 by R. A. Davison

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124 of 133 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Original and creative but not for me
I'm not sure how to begin describing Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad to you, but I'll do my best! I'll start by saying that it's an original and imaginative novel which revolves around a large number of different characters, most of whom are involved in the music industry in some way (be it as musicians, producers, record label owners, publicists, or music...
Published on 24 July 2011 by Helen S


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124 of 133 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Original and creative but not for me, 24 July 2011
By 
Helen S - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Visit From the Goon Squad (Paperback)
I'm not sure how to begin describing Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad to you, but I'll do my best! I'll start by saying that it's an original and imaginative novel which revolves around a large number of different characters, most of whom are involved in the music industry in some way (be it as musicians, producers, record label owners, publicists, or music lovers). The main theme of the book is time and Egan uses her characters to explore what happens to us as we age and how life doesn't always turn out the way we hoped it would.

I don't know exactly how many characters there were in this book, but it felt like hundreds! Two of the most important are Bennie Salazar, a record executive, and his assistant, Sasha. Most of the other characters are somehow connected to either Sasha or Bennie, whether directly or indirectly. We meet new people in almost every chapter and I found I needed to pay attention to every new name as even someone who seemed completely insignificant could reappear later in the book.

Each chapter is written in a distinct style and has its own unique feel. One chapter takes the form of a celebrity interview; another is presented as a PowerPoint slideshow. Some chapters have a first person narrator; others are told in the second or third person; we move from past tense to present tense, from one country to another and backwards and forwards in time. I don't think I've ever seen an author incorporate so many different styles and ideas into one novel - which could be either a good thing or a bad thing depending on your personal preferences. If you like books that are adventurous, innovative and different, then you're probably going to love A Visit from the Goon Squad. If not, you might find it all a little bit confusing and overwhelming like I did.

Many of the chapters seemed more like self-contained short stories than part of a novel and although each one is linked to the others in some way, I thought the book felt too disjointed. For me this made the experience of reading it quite uneven - there were some parts that I really enjoyed and some that just didn't interest me at all. The air of experimentation, along with the PowerPoint presentation and the futuristic world portrayed in the final section, made the whole book feel very `modern' and this is maybe another reason why it didn't really work for me. I suppose I just prefer novels which have a more conventional structure, less jumping around in time and place, and a stronger plot.

A Visit from the Goon Squad sounded fascinating and I can see why a lot of people would love it - it's a very unusual book which sparkles with originality and creativity - but it turned out not to be my type of book at all.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed it, but didn't find it as amazing as others have, 30 April 2012
By 
R. A. Davison (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Visit From the Goon Squad (Paperback)
Recently published in paperback in June, A Visit From The Goon Squad begged the question of me 'When is a novel, not a novel?" because it is a novel, and it isn't. It reminded me of a game of tag, or a relay race. The novel opens with a chapter focusing on Sasha, jumps from Sasha to her boss Bennie, then from Bennie to Rhea, who knew Lou through Jocelyn, then to Lou's children and then to Jocelyn and then from Jocelyn to Scotty, who also knows Bennie, to Bennie's wife Stephanie, and so on and so forth. Each character only gets a single chapter but through their connection to each other act like pieces in a jigsaw to build up a portrait of music producer Bennie and his assistant Sasha, to whom every character is somehow linked, if not to each other.

It is very well done, and I liked it. Not only does it jump from character to character, Egan treats time in a non-linear way, so, often, when it leaps to the next character, it also leaps in time, and is a bit like a bouncing ball. Rhea's chapter for example covers the time period when she and Bennie were teenagers, her best friend Jocelyn is sleeping with a man named Lou. Then we go on safari with Lou and his children, Jocelyn is in the past and he has a new girlfriend. Then we bounce again and Rhea and Jocelyn are visiting Lou on his deathbed before throwing the ball on to the next person.

Though it is set against the backdrop of the music industry and to a degree media and showbusiness, that wasn't really what interested me, it is, essentially 13 interconnected short stories, I enjoyed the way in which it became character rather than story led. Some stories are better than others, I liked Dolly's and Stephanie's section Rhea's Sasha's and Ted's. But, occasionally I found parts of it flashy and hollow like the world in which it is set. Though the final story brings the novel full circle, I was annoyed by both it and the previous chapter which takes place as a series of Powerpoint slides, which proved to be difficult to read on Kindle for iPad.

Despite the strangeness of form of the chapter however there was a lot expressed in a small amount of writing, a father struggling to connect with his borderline autistic son, a mother haunted by her past and a little girl observing it all. Overall, it is very accomplished as a piece of work, and I was absorbed by the 'Who next? When next?' angle.

I wondered why it was called 'A Visit From The Goon Squad' and I had to look "Goon Squad" up basically it means "gang of thugs" and in the novel, two characters say "Time's a goon". The feeling Egan has put into words is that moment when the realisation of the passage of time jumps up and smacks you in the face and you wonder how you got to where you are, be it suddenly old or leading a life terribly distant from the one you expected to lead or once led. Stephanie, particularly is a good example of this, a former drug using punk with tattoos and rings suddenly finding herself a professional career woman playing tennis with Republicans in a country club and wondering how the hell she came to be there. It's also about the connections we lose, keep and renew and how sometimes, another person can be the architect of your story. And Egan has put this into words well, and in a way having just turned 30, I can appreciate. The music scene aspect is almost incidental, its all about well life, really, and how sections of time, become your story. I would recommend it, the more I think about it the cleverer it gets, but, it's proven to be a very Marmite book in Amazon reviews so I would tell anyone interested to bear in mind that this book largely dispenses with the traditional style of the novel. If you can get over that and take it as a character led piece about time and change and relationships, you may just enjoy it. 8/10
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my top ten reads of 2011, 29 Dec. 2011
By 
Mrs. K. A. Wheatley "katywheatley" (Leicester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Visit From the Goon Squad (Paperback)
I've just finished this book and I'm so glad I squeaked it into the last week of 2011 as it has definitely made my top ten books of the year. It is a wonderful book which kind of journeys through the world of post 9/11 America through the lives, loves, memories, failures and achievements of a bunch of characters whose lives cross and recross from chapter to chapter. It is not always clear as you are reading, which character relates to which character and you never know if they will pop up in someone else's story later on. I loved the thrill of recognition coming across someone you have already read about but finding out about their past or their future, and piecing together all the disparate lives. It is dark and sometimes funny, often sad and wistful and always totally engaging. I absolutely loved it.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Ending as often in disappointment as in success", 14 Jan. 2012
By 
Antenna (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Visit From the Goon Squad (Paperback)
This is likely to divide opinion sharply since it rejects the convention of a clear plot, and flits back and forth in time with a variety of viewpoints and sheer number of characters which may prove confusing.

It is a series of short stories rather than a novel, focusing in turn on different members of an amorphous group who have in common only some kind of link to the music industry - they know, or know someone who knows, either Bennie the driven music manager, or Sasha, his light-fingered assistant whose kleptomania may have some deeper emotional cause.

I enjoyed the quirky incidents and offbeat humour of the first seven chapters, and the game of anticipating which character mentioned in passing would turn up as a key player in the next episode. I liked the way the author always managed to overcome my irritation at being dragged away from one group of characters, by skilfully hooking me in to the next one, only to be disappointed again at having to leave the new story with strands left unresolved, perhaps forever.

Some of the relationships are genuinely moving, such as the hard-bitten, selfish, corrupt Lou's love for his sweet, gentle son, whom he cannot help inadvertently damaging, just through being the bastard that he is. I was impressed by the study of Scotty, mentally ill but managing after a fashion, who convinces himself half the time that being a failure is as good as being a success.

My good opinion suffered a blow in Chapter 8, an over-farcical account of a disgraced PR manager trying to make ends meet by advising a genocidal dictator of some unnamed country, which was an annoyingly unconvincing mixture of Arab desert too close to lush African jungle. The there are two sections I grew too bored to read properly: an intentionally bad , I think, parody of a journalist's interview with a movie star, followed by an attempt to relate to an autistic boy, and to show his thought processes, through a PowerPoint presentation - a novel idea, but it goes on for 74 pages - has the author not heard of death by OHP? After that, the return of the final chapters to some of the original characters lacks the power to engage me, in a work which seems to have lost its way - perhaps because the subjects are essentially rather uninteresting and underdeveloped players in an artificial and shallow world.

On one hand, this book is unusual, often creative and original, with what you might call brave experiments (but shouldn't the author be clear-eyed enough to see where they may have fallen short?), yet there is too much that is contrived, gimmicky or glib for me to rate this as an indisputably worthy Pulitzer winner.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not sure why's the fuss?, 8 Dec. 2011
This review is from: A Visit From the Goon Squad (Paperback)
Chose this because it was a Pulitzer Prize winner, and it has a chapter written as a slideshow which sounded interesting. It starts like an unadventurous holiday read as we follow a group of young wannabe musicians in the late 70s but gradually it becomes more interesting as their futures are revealed and we bounce forward and back in time. The writing styles change with some of the characters, and the slideshow presentation is surprisingly poignant - it makes for an interesting story. However I still found the subject matter a little shallow, I've read enough about the consequences of following a career in music and though there are other themes that are more stimulating, I'm surprised it has been put in the company of other 'Great American Novels' by the likes of Roth and Updike. Ok, but for me, i could do with some more substance.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unorthodox, 23 Jun. 2014
A Visit from the Goon Squad is a difficult book to review. I can see why it won the Pullitzer Prize for Fiction, but I can also see why it collects its fair share of one star reviews.

The book is almost a collection of short stories or scenes linked either directly or tenuously to the two main characters, Sasha and Bennie Salazar. It tells the story of various lives in the music industry, whether musicians, producers, publicists etc. The stories have a chronology to them creating, rather than a rondeau where circular stories end up back at the beginning, a spiral that shows the evolution of the key characters and the worlds they inhabit. It tries to show this through the use of different techniques – a seventy page powerpoint presentation and text language for example.

I enjoyed the character development, but found the book frustrating. The writing was in places quite poor, but in others imaginative and fresh.

Some books fall in to an avant garde category that either seizes you or not. In my case I grew to like the book, for all its quirkiness, but I can’t say it ever took fire.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dazzling in patches, dull in others, 30 Aug. 2012
This review is from: A Visit From the Goon Squad (Paperback)
Finally got around to reading this and it's an odd one. At times, Egan's verve is thrilling as she negotiates her way through the hipsters, hangers-on, hypocrites and has-beens who go to make up the music scene in the States. It reads like a mosaic of tales with loose threads linking them together and a time-scale which bounds around merrily across an entire lifetime.

Some of the chapters are superb : one describes what must've been a harrowing experience for the victim but Egan chooses to let us see it through the eyes of the perpetrator and the droll recollection is wickedly funny.

Other chapters are pretentious beyond belief : the 70-odd page one consisting of a power-point presentation is tedious. Yes, we know you're clever, Jennifer but this section is there purely to demonstrate this and merely detracts from the novel.

Overall; good, worth reading but something more linear and less experimental would actually make for a more audacious read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time is a Goon., 5 Feb. 2012
By 
David Balfe (Bedfordshire UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Visit From the Goon Squad (Paperback)
This book is a deeply insightful and wonderfully written exploration and evocation of time. It artfully captures the myriad painful and joyful nuances of growing up, its tragedies and inevitablities. Structurally it treads the line between a collection of short stories (all of which would be a great read by themselves) and, by interconnecting a web of characters, a unified novel (in a way that's similar to Cloud Atlas, which I'd also highly recommend, except the short stories in that went across centuries, this jumps around betweene decades from the 70s to, I think, 15 years in the future.)

It's about us and the poignancy of old connections and fractured memories - maybe because I'm 53 the passing of time seems to me the most profound and strange thing we have to deal with. But that's maybe because the theme of time includes everything else.

Anyway - buy it - it's intelligent, amusing, enlightening, moving and a joy to read. I only wish it lasted longer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lives in time, 17 Jun. 2012
By 
J. S. Dixon "Jeremy Dixon" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Visit From the Goon Squad (Paperback)
I'm often disappointed by modern prize-winning fiction, but I really loved this book. The plot centres on a number characters involved in the music buisness at several points in their lives. The plot does require you to make the connections betwen characters which is made more complicated through the way it moves backwards and forwards in time. However, this device generally works and isn't needlessly complex.

The thing that I liked about this book is that it gives an original overview of the way in which people have happy and unhappy periods in their lives and how one point in your life may have a consequence on the next. Quite often, the author portays people at unhappy periods in their life but manages to suggest how their actions led to others without spelling these out explicitly. I found this book touching and original and would strongly recommend it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 27 Dec. 2012
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This review is from: A Visit From the Goon Squad (Paperback)
I tend to buy books on the basis of reviews that I have read in the press. The reviews for this book were excellent. I found that It was just an OK read neither hilarious nor uplifting nor hugely entertaining. It filled in a few hours on the sun lounger on holiday. I would not recommend it to friends because frankly I thought it just run of the mill.
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A Visit From the Goon Squad
A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (Paperback - 9 Jun. 2011)
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