124 of 133 people found the following review helpful
Original and creative but not for me,
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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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 21 Nov 2011 10:03:09 GMT
Wynne Kelly says:
Excellent review - I've just completed this book and feel the same way about it as you do!
In reply to an earlier post on 22 Nov 2011 14:31:02 GMT
J. T. Rowe says:
Yes I agree, was overall disappointed , particularly with power point presentation chapter, gave up at that point, although was enjoying it until then.
Posted on 13 Dec 2011 19:14:37 GMT
Last edited by the author on 13 Dec 2011 19:16:33 GMT
Mr. Michael Sargent says:
I am in total agreement with you. The book did not flow and each chapter was almost like starting a new book but with characters we knew. I hated the powerpoint chapter as the flow of the book stopped dead. Normally as a book draws to its conclusion there is an anticipation of what is to come and a familiarity with the characters. This was missing especially with the powerpoint but also with most chapters. I'm sure the author can write well but this book did not work for me and I don't really think I know what it was about. Generally I avoid book prize winners and this has increased my resolve to avoid them in the future
Posted on 28 Jun 2012 09:25:04 BDT
V. Hannides says:
I loved the book, but I also liked your review. It was just what a review should be,you obviously understood the book but you didn't enjoy reading it. You avoided that dreadful pompous attitude of many reviewers, who seem to think that just because they didn't enjoy/understand the book that no- one else should.
In reply to an earlier post on 8 Aug 2012 16:36:35 BDT
Eileen Shaw says:
I too loved the book, it was such a breath of fresh air for a winner of a Pulitzer Prize - a woman, a YOUNG woman, and a book about today which wasn't afraid to satirize the culture. I felt H Skinner's review was a fair one, though I don't agree with all her points. If she's going to avoid all book prize winners, she's going to miss out on some good books. But not everyone likes the same things of course.
Posted on 25 May 2015 23:55:13 BDT
Gerry E. Brown says:
Excellent review, but in response to the unconventional style, this text is actually a short story cycle, not a novel. It is meant to be made of short stories that can each stand independently, but will also enhance one another in some way.
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