Mike Smith's Reviews > A Visit from the Goon Squad

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
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's review
Jul 28, 11

bookshelves: fiction

This unusual novel is about time and how you can't go back. It opens with a quotation from Proust about trying to recapture your younger self by visiting a place you used to live. Then it launches into a tale where each chapter focuses on a particular character and the following chapter focuses on a minor character from the preceding chapter. But each chapter is set in a different time, some earlier, some later, than the preceding chapter. Many characters recur throughout, sometimes as the main character in a chapter, sometimes in a supporting role.

Slowly, we get a sense of how the lives of several of them unfolded. And how those lives didn't always turn out as their younger selves expected. Towards the end, some characters are reflecting on the goals they set for themselves when they were young and and how seemingly chance encounters turned them onto unexpected paths.

The book is also about music, as many of the characters work in the music industry or have an interest in music. And of course the flow of time is important in music, and these themes weave together. I suspect that repeated readings of this book would reveal a deeper structure than appears the first time, especially once you know where some of the characters have been or are heading to.

Overall, a lightly humourous yet thoughtful novel.

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