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Emerald City

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  2,673 ratings  ·  263 reviews
The theme of longing in all its forms—for change, for redemption, for travel outside the bounds of daily life to realms where anything seems possible—unites this master story collection. In the extraordinary "Why China?" a man drags his family to the Xi'an province in a desperate attempt to reclaim his lost integrity, only to find himself more remote and mysterious than th ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published March 15th 2007 by Picador (first published 1993)
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Average rating 3.75  · 
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 ·  2,673 ratings  ·  263 reviews

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I officially have to reread "A Visit From The Goon Squad". Finished reading "Look At Me" not that long ago and it was an all-time-favorite. "Emerald City" shocked me in its caliber, style, and restraint. Short stories are difficult. Egan writes equally amazing novels and short stories. That is something to be commended.

Each of these stories, like her other novels, shine in their characters. Characterization is the secret to a great short story; character depth and effective sentences. Egan has a
Mar 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With every book I read of Jennifer Egan's, I become a bigger and bigger fan. The one flaw that plagued some of her novels was clumsy plotting, but the short story form fits her style well and these masterful stories are beautifully rendered. Her keen eye for the glow of moments and how they resonate in our lives is at the center of each of these tales, and Egan draws much wisdom from the lives she observes here. Most poignantly, Egan hones in on economics in a way that most fiction writers shy a ...more
Fiona MacDonald
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-books
I picked this book up purely because I was attracted to the cover and nothing more. Finishing it has made me feel like I have been on the most exhausting journey of my life around a collection of vibrant and powerful places. Each story is set in a different country regarding a different relationship within a different group of people and it's really fascinating. Each story took me out of myself, pushed me further than I expected and entertained me to boot. This is a author to watch.
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Beautifully written, sophisticated stories usually featuring Americans abroad (China, Spain, Mexico etc.). About half are from an adolescent's viewpoint as they come to realise their parents (or more often than not step parents) are not the flawless characters they once thought, or how they try to fit in with idealised friends. The other half are from the step-parents' PoV, as their marriages break or they move on to new relationships or perspectives. All are rich (or rich-ish) and privileged, o ...more
Mattia Ravasi
Oct 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Video review

Insightful stories focused on crucial moments in the lives of well-rounded characters, showcasing Egan's gift to say the unspeakable. That they mostly feature a plot too is just as exciting as a 2-for-1 offer on hand soap at your supermarket of choice.
Jan 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
It's a nice surprise when going to a bookstore to purchase a specific book (and they don't have it) and you end up grabbing a nearby book instead - and it turns out to be terrific. Although with Egan it is a pretty safe bet that you're going to get quality product, it was still great to experience a book of well crafted short stories.

"Why China?", the opening story of the collection, was my favorite. I don't want to spoil the plot, but suffice to say that it hit all of the right notes in creatin
Jan 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Not a big fan of short stories, but my love for a visit from the goon squad led me to this
That being said-
I really enjoyed it, the stories didn’t feel incomplete like many do in short stories. They were all interesting and full of heart. Lovely book, you killed it again J Egan ♥️
Trixie Fontaine
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love the route of cultural & critical ignorance I'm taking through her books, starting at Manhattan Beach, then Look at Me, and this collection of shorts as the third. I love the differences in energy and locations between these three books, and the similarities between the characters (with a few actually being the same people). I love looking at America, Americans abroad, and the fancy people and places of glossy magazine dreams through her Midwestern lenses.

"Spanish Winter" and "Sisters of t
I had high hopes for this because even though I found A Visit From the Goon Squad to be uneven, I liked how it was basically at its heart a series of vignettes and anyone who could write a decent book around that concept should be able to write the heck out of some short stories, right? But this is just going nowhere, I'm three stories in & I've found nothing all that interesting, and since I currently have 61 items checked out on my card (all of which are books except for season one of Orphan B ...more
Feb 28, 2018 rated it liked it
In the past few months I've read Egan's new novel Manhattan Beach, her famous novel/ interconnected short story collection Visit from the Goon Squad, and this story collection, Emerald City. Reading so much of a writer's body of work at one time, I started to notice funny things. For instance that Egan often describes people, particularly women, as smelling "bready," or once "oatmealy." Coincidental sightings and encounters between people who haven't seen each other in long stretches of time a ...more
Emma French
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant - each one a little beauty! Well crafted, depth and character in each one. Loved it!
Feb 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I only write a few reviews on goodreads, but Jennifer Egan always inspires a few words from me. These stories are phenomenal. They have a specific point of view, while at the same time being generous and thoughtful about characters who may not share that point of view--meaning, they star a lot of upper-middle-class women or girls who are experiencing existential terror in struggling marriages and distance-making travel experiences, but you don't need to be an upper-middle-class woman or girl to ...more
Aug 11, 2010 rated it it was ok
At first I was quite taken by Jennifer Egan, but as I read on I discovered her stories all relied on the same contrived devices, bordering (no, relying) on the formulaic. These are parlor tricks, not authentic portraits of the human condition. In addition, story after story concerned only wealthy, privileged characters, with larger moral issues/themes altogether absent.

Ultimately these stories aren't about anything - hollow, device-laden vignettes that get worse as you go rather than better.
Feb 04, 2013 rated it liked it
I've read three novels by Egan, beginning with her debut Look at Me, and most recently, A Visit from the Good Squad, which I absolutely loved. This short story collection underwhelmed me a bit, as many of the stories felt like treading water, revisiting the same themes and the same characters over and over again. It earns three stars thanks to a few of the stories which thematically and stylistically seem like precursors to Goon Squad, so they won me over. It's a slim volume at 146 pages and if ...more
Mar 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This blew me away. Egan is a powerful yet delicate writer. I can't say enough about how beautiful this book is! READ IT!! And be moved by how fragile and damaged humans are but how sublime it can be as well. Stories of the human experience captured so perfectly is something I love. It connects us all and we can breathe easier.
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english-canon
I absolutely loved this one. I know some people really disagree with me, which is completely fine obviously, saying that Egan's stories are all the same etc. However, I like the sameness in this short story collection: it combines them and creates a narrative.
My favourite stories were "Sacred Heart", "One Piece" and "Letter to Josephine".

The score is technically 4,5/5.
Catherina Zhecheva
I enjoy this author so much! She knows how to make you care about her characters in less than 10 pages... :)
Arnie Kahn
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4 stars? 5 stars? These are wonderful stories, often taking place on vacations in foreign lands, frequently told by adolescent girls. Some stories are so outstanding I'll give the book 5: “The Stylist” involves the relationship between a 30-something female stylist of teen fashion models and their male photographer; in “Puerto Vallarta” a teenager discovers the lies and cheating of her beloved father; in “Sisters of the Moon" a 14-year old girl decides not to follow her delinquent girlfriends, w ...more
Aug 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Second short story collection I read by Egan. She is able to spin of such strong characters and makes me grow to love the characters in less than ten pages - talent. I have no idea how she does it and makes me empathize on such a deep level with the individuals to the point that I need to stop reading the stories from getting too emotional about the disparities of those on the page. I will be reading something lighter after this because I am emotionally spent from fictional characters.

The short
JQ Salazar
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Strong collection with distinguished writing and story structures. Hard to dislike.
Sep 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2012
This collection of short stories written by Jennifer Egan reads very well after reading her award-winning novel “Visit from the Goon Squad”, as you can clearly see how certain motives and topics that were explored in the stories “fed” into the formation of the subsequently written novel.

The literary bouquet of characters and the topics is really striking – I kept thinking how the author can write with equal authority about teenagers taking drugs and painting their graffiti marks on the walls of
A.C. Collins
Feb 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
After just reading the genre bending A Visit from the Goon Squad, I enjoyed Egan's first collection of short stories a little more, if only for the classic structure of 11 short stories, first published elsewhere and collected post-first novel under the third story's title, "Emerald City".

Favorites were "Why China?", "Sacred Heart," told from the perspective of a ninth grade girl with a fierce crush - that kind we all suffer from and feel every degree of torture while it lasts (always unrequited
Jennifer Egan’s Emerald City is a wonderful collection of eleven short stories, each finely crafted. The stories were set in culturally diverse places, some exotic (e.g., Lamu, Kenya or Bora Bora, Tahiti), yet the experience of being human and staying alive seemed strikingly similar everywhere. The stories told of loneliness, homesickness, regret, and a quest for betterment or self identity. Egan depicts the distinctiveness of the worlds inhabited by photographers, stylists, models, bankers, wiv ...more
Dec 04, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
Meh. This is the kind of collection people call "promising". In this case, promising is code word for "frustrating" or "exceptional in unsustained bursts". Egan does so much well that it's hard to understand why nearly every one of these stories is flawed. Often, I just can't be brought to give a damn about the wicked-rich people in exotic locations that seem to dominate this collection, but even when she's nailing it, there's a wobble somewhere--an unnecessary eccentricity, a strained plot poin ...more
Aug 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jess by: Authors short course
I've been a fan of Egan's writing for years now and I'm glad I finally read some of her short stories. My favorites in this collection by far were "One Piece," "Emerald City," and "Letters to Josephine."

I'm taking an authors short course on Egan and not only has it heightened my enjoyment of her fiction, it has allowed me to make connections to her other works. I love how there's always something squirming beneath the surface of the beautiful images Egan gives us of yuppie families in China or
Aug 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
These are all pretty much classic-style, note perfect short stories. Lots of beautiful catharsis in upper middle class settings, usually involving a big reveal about some dark backstory, featuring a combination of an extra-marital affair, money laundering, and international travel. Set side by side, it all seemed a little cheaper, and none of it floored me quite like "The General" (in the last "Best Non-Required Reading" book). All the stories were rather amazing in their own ways. Baubles, real ...more
May 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
When I first heard of Jennifer Egan, I couldn't get past her dating history (she used to date Steve Jobs). I was reminded of this when reading the title story, which is about an aspiring model with all-American looks who struggles to be taken seriously in a New York where all the models seem to have exotic looks and names like Anoushka and Brid. For a first short story collection, the stories are masterful and assured. The first story, "Why China?", about a disgraced bond trader who travels to C ...more
Nov 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
I've become a rabid Jennifer Egan fan this year and am reading my way backward through her catalog. Emerald City is her short story collection, and like many short story collections there are stories that speak more to me than others, although all of them have something to recommend. The story that stands out the most is the title story, Emerald City. I also enjoyed Why China? and Letter to Josephine. All the stories were worth the time to read them.
William Koon
Jul 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
If an angel put words to paper, she would write like Jenifer Egan. This collection of short stories collected from twenty and more years ago shows she should continue writing her short fiction. (She argues that her novel is also a collection of short fiction.) Each story is perfect in its own way. Moreover, each is a complete work of art. Most short stories just end or stop. Hers move and finish. Some of the stories presage her magnificent A Visit from the Goon Squad.
Astrid Lim
3,5 stars from me! This is the kind of book that I wish I could write. Beautiful story telling with flowing words, limbo plots and unfinished endings. I love how Egan used some settings perfectly as the crucial part of the story. The stories are gloomy and a bit depressing, just like other Egan's books. But they are suitable with my mood most of the time, so all's well :)
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Jennifer Egan’s 2017 novel, Manhattan Beach, has been awarded the 2018 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. Egan was born in Chicago and raised in San Francisco. She is also the author of The Invisible Circus, a novel which became a feature film starring Cameron Diaz in 2001, Look at Me, a finalist for the National Book Award in fiction in 2001, Emerald City and Other Stories, The Keep ...more

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