Thursday, 15 February 2018

A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan

Since its publication last year this novel has generated extraordinary praise, not least being included in Time magazine’s top 10 books for 2010 and this year winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Even Oprah endorsed it. (Is that good or bad?) I approached it with trepidation: was it too great for mere mortals to read? ( I have been caught before). Oh me of little faith: All the reviews are true.

This story fully deserves every accolade lavished by the literary pundits – and anyone else who wants to have a wild ride through time with Ms Egan as she explores through her characters the various selves we become at different times of our lives. Through a dizzying series of flashbacks and leaps forward, the reader follows Bennie Salazar, failed music producer and his personal assistant Sasha, ‘capable in every way but for her kleptomania’ as they are moulded and buffeted by the forces of time, and the influence and effect they have on their world through the connections they make, both intimate and tenuous, with the people they meet.

There is a host of different characters here, and sometimes it takes the reader a little while to connect the dots, but when that happens, a wonderful pointillist portrait emerges of our flawed and ailing contemporary society, and an irrevocable truth that time rules us all: the onrush of it; its implacability; and how peoples’ lives are helpless before it and the inexorable changes it brings. In Ms. Egan’s novel time is a Goon, and no-one escapes a visit from the Goon Squad, but Bennie, after a lifetime’s vicissitudes is no fool: he knows the score – ‘ Time’s a goon – are you going to let time push you around?’ No, sir! This is a great book!


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