A Visit From The Goon Squad

A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. (Reviewed Jul '18)

Well, this was a unique book club meeting – to review a Pulitzer prize-winning novelist and find that half the group did not finish the book and that, almost in unison, nearly all rated the book as 1(or below!) out of 5 marks. So different to the Guardian review:

(Quote) The book received rave reviews when it was published in the US, and for good reason: Goon Squad is a book about memory and kinship, time and narrative, continuity and disconnection, in which relationships shift and recombine kaleidoscopically. It is neither a novel nor a collection of short stories, but something in between: a series of chapters featuring interlocking characters at different points in their lives, whose individual voices combine to a create a symphonic work. This is a difficult book to summarise, but a delight to read,

Everyone in the book is pushed around by time, circumstance and, occasionally, the ones they love, as Egan reveals with great elegance and economy the wobbly arcs of her characters' lives, their painful pasts and future disappointments. Characters who are marginal in one chapter become the focus of the next. She also shifts dramatically across times and places.

The stories circle magnetically around a few characters who recur a bit more frequently than others. Each chapter has its own distinct voice and mood, modulating from satire to farce, from melancholy to tragedy.

It is a great surprise that a PowerPoint presentation can be moving. Goon Squad becomes more fragmented, and more formally experimental, as it progresses: the penultimate chapter is written entirely as the PowerPoint slide diary.

Egan has said that the organising principle of A Visit from the Goon Squad is discontinuity; the reason the book works so well is because of the continuities she has also created: her atomised people collide, scatter and recombine in patterns that are less chaotic than they appear. (Unquote).