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3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4 out of 5 stars
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Showing 1-10 of 60 reviews(5 star). See all 185 reviews
on 12 July 2017
Intelligent, accessible, contemporary - fast paced rollicking tales of the other lives we've all lived, unknown to our closest friends, family, lovers - the layers of inter-connection, near misses and surprising hits. Egan writes confidently with truly delightful, spot-on descriptors, fresh metaphors and cultural insight. It's an easy read, and one to read again, perhaps more slowly, in the future. Will deffo pass on to my brighter mates.
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on 13 May 2017
Compelling funny clever engaging page turning novel easy read full of characters that link the story line in a web of delight and wonder.
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on 7 October 2015
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on 5 February 2012
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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on 17 June 2012
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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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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on 26 September 2012
I'd heard a lot about this book, and was excited and a little nervous about reading it. Excited, because of the hype; nervous, because something that is so hyped often disappoints.
It didn't.
"A Visit From The Goon Squad" is an ambitious and profound book. It's a number of disparate but loosely connected stories, set across several decades (including the future), and written in different styles. Egan is not scared to break the rules, writing in first, second and third person, moving suddenly from straightforward linear narrative to, as an omniscient author, tell us about a character's future, breaking off to wax philosophical, even (famously) writing an entire chapter in the form of a PowerPoint presentation. It's easy (indeed, several readers on this site have done so) to level the charge of being pretentious at a book like this. Easy, and lazy. This is not a pretentious novel. When Egan writes in the second person, she does it in such an unshowy way that I was well into the chapter before I noticed. The PowerPoint section, which could have been horrible, was brilliant, a bitter-sweet portrayal of an unhappy marriage, and a father's struggles to relate to his (presumably) autistic son, told from the point of view of a teenaged girl.
Egan has the ability, as gifted writers do, of making even peripheral characters real; the most memorable, for me, is Dean, a vacuous, pretty-boy actor suddenly given a sinister aspect when showing slightly too much interest in an underaged girl. The connections between the characters are subtle but strong, highlighting the themes of the book; time, interconnectivity, music, common human experiences through changing times. And that stories do not end. Several times, we meet a character at a low ebb - a failing marriage, a drug habit, illness - only to meet them later with a revived career, a stable relationship, or (brilliantly) a dairy farm. It's wise, affecting, a reminder that there are always second chances.
Reading "Goon Squad" was like listening to a great album. Breathtaking chapters come thick and fast, like barnstorming tracks, interspersed with quieter, more reflective pieces, equally essential, if less glittering. Not a single track wasted. And a witty, intelligent stream of dialogue runs throughout, jangling like brilliant guitar riffs.
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on 24 July 2012
You just know from the first ten pages that you're going to be in for a treat and the novel never flagged, never failed to deliver even within its tricky and tricksy structure. The novel almost reads like a la Ronde, as the two main characters of Independent record mogul Bennie Salazar and his PA Sasha are connected to each of the other characters who are granted centre stage for each chapter. Though the novel nips back and forth between three generations, with characters reappearing or being alluded to in an earlier incarnation from when they were introduced to us, the reader doesn't require a power point document to keep a grip of them. Which is just as well, for Egan provides a daring chapter in a power point style and you know what? It really works too.

Each chapter works as a short story in itself. The fare is the normal human stuff, of loves, both thwarted and consummated; of foibles and missed opportunities; of starting over and reinventions. But each voice is amazingly distinct and the writing effortlessly lush and incisive. In the first story, Sasha is struggling with her kleptomania while out on a date. The tensions within her as she fights the impulse and throws her therapist's counselling against the impulses, are matched by the events themselves. There is a story set against the backdrop of an African safari with wonderfully drawn intersections of relationships between people gathered together in a strange environment.

America seems always concerned with who is writing the next "American" novel in the wake of Roth and Delillo's epic works. Egan's characters, based around a rock and roll milieu, may just be too subcultural to represent the whole of the nation, but it is instructive that what starts out in youthful rebellion, pose, energy and thrill, ends up commercialised and marketed to children. The book is a sly and clever take on the defanging of ideals and ideas. The power point chapter and the final chapter tilt at language itself. The power point works so well, because the child utilising it employs power point graphic speech bubbles and arrows of directionality to represent (and inevitably simplify) her feelings and web of connections to other people. The final chapter, set in a notional near future, sees language further stripped down, through marketing buzz words annexing the power from words that used to hold true charge and meaning "English was full of these empty words - 'friend', and 'real' and 'story' and 'change'. And thus does Egan delightfully subvert her own rich arts demonstrated so expertly through the preceding chapters. The final guillotine stroke, is the centrality of a future version of txt spk, which strips words down to just their basal phoneme letters. A book so rich in metaphor and turn of phrase, ending up with a language that can embody neither.

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on 22 May 2012
There are novels written to tell a story. And there are novels written that get to the heart of being human.

This novel is most definitely the latter, without being pretentious or tedious. In fact, the most wonderful thing about Goon Squad is that it manages to take you deep into the heart of matter with a prose style that zings along.

Her writing style never lapses into cliche and it tells you things about life and memory (memory is a big theme) that you always knew but never put into words. And - this is something about her technical ability I can't get to the bottom of - she tells you these things without ever feeling you're in the midst of a 'clever' authorial aside a la Jonathan Franzen or British writers such as Martin Amis or Will Self.

In other words, she weaves in the most profound observations beautifully.

I think a lot of it is due to her skill in characterisation. You believe in her characters. Their voices take charge of the story and you never for a minute feel you're being lectured to by a writer.

A slightly haphazard, random review (the bath is running) but a truly beautiful book.

And, yes, be warned, it resembles much more a series of short stories than a novel. But don't let that put you off or you'll really miss out on something very special. :)
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on 11 October 2011
I came late to this, basically because I distrust books that are hyped on all sides (I can't get on with Jonathan Franzen, for example, try as I may) - but Egan is an empress in full regalia. I have never read anything like it and yet it doesn't feel forced, calculated or contrived as the characters zoom in and out of each other's lives and the time shifts backwards and forwards. The link character is Sasha, troubled subject of the first section and sought for in the last, and the music industry is the loose link theme, finishing with a sort of post 9.11 Glastonbury, though obviously time, the mobster 'goon', is what it's all about. The final paragraph took me straight back to Gatsby - it's not a single, beautiful sentence but the thrust is the same, except perhaps there's more acceptance here. The whole thing is so damned clever it's annoying, there's even a section written by Sasha's daughter on Powerpoint or some computer setup that works absolutely brilliantly in describing a whole family life and history in under 60 pages (and told me something about the Zombies I hadn't thought about before!) It's beautifully written and very funny too - so, here I am jumping on the bandwagon with alacrity and looking forward to her next.
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