by Jennifer Egan (Corsair) ISBN: 9781780330969
Sometimes you read a book and you wonder. In a good and a bad way. A Visit from the Goon Squad is like reading a gritty version of the film Love Actually. It is an ensemble piece. Vignettes of lives mostly threaded together by music.
It takes a while for readers to commit when they aren’t sure whose story it is they are following. Geography, time and viewpoint are jumbled together well enough. However, it is jarring, and I think the book would have been stronger with half the characters and locations used.
Egan’s strength lies in conveying her vivid characters’ emotions. You enter the lives of Bennie and Sasha and Kitty and Dolly and Lulu and so many others, and you are captivated by their mundane crises. I loved how real these people and their weaknesses were. Egan slices her way through the book, her wounding words exposing characters, exposing readers, exposing the fragile social structures of both.
I was uncomfortable with the manipulation of viewpoint. I knew why the author was doing it, and it did work, but sometimes it was too much. When social media and texting and PowerPoint are added in line with time passing, Egan just about manages to hold it all together. I can’t help feeling that a lesser writer would have come out of this book badly.
Read the book for the dissection of our society. Beautifully written, you will not regret pushing through to the anti-climactic end.
(Made up as follows: 3/5 for the general disjointedness and 5/5 for the brilliant writing.)