Margaret H.'s Reviews > A Visit from the Goon Squad

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
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May 07, 11

bookshelves: book-club, classics-deservedly
Read on May 05, 2011

I want to be careful not to spoil anything here, because I know not everyone in my book club has had a chance to read this yet. That said: I really, really enjoyed this book, and I wasn't entirely expecting to. I have a hard time with literary fiction, because I feel so often "literary" means "deliberately free of plot/engaging characters/clear language." And while I can appreciate a good turn of phrase, I generally need something a bit meatier to really hook me into a novel and keep me feverishly turning pages. And, it turns out, that a series a gem-like vignettes, brilliantly observed, flowing rapidly from one section to the next, and connected by an intricate but not constraining web of mutual relationships is just the kind of literary fiction I can get behind. Discovering the links between one characters' chapter and another's delighted the mystery-novel fan in me that likes novels to be economically and deliberately constructed, that likes feeling her attention to detail rewarded. The carefully nuanced relationships between people and Egan's elegant diagramming thereof satisfied the part of my brain that will spend hours analyzing social interactions, trying to ferret out the reasons people behave the way they do. Some sections work better for me than others, but there was only one that I found off-putting, more because of the link it made between a really unpleasant character and one of my personal heroes that because it was--strictly speaking-- bad, or poorly-written. Pieces I thought would be gimmicky, specifically the chapter written in PowerPoint, turned out to be really beautiful and moving; it was possibly my favorite part of the whole book. And finally, despite the huge number of characters included in the book, most of the stories included had actual ENDS; Egan honors your connection to the characters she's created and rewards it by letting you know how things turn out for them. I don't know if I agree with her vision of what the future holds, but I liked how her characters fit into it. I started this book at the beginning of a 6-hour bus ride, and finished it in a single sitting, so I can definitely say that I found it to be an engrossing, quick-reading book. If you're curious about it in light of its recent prize-winning spree, or the news that it will be adapted into an HBO TV series, I definitely recommending giving it a read.
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