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Exciting Times

3.39  ·  Rating details ·  15,707 ratings  ·  1,744 reviews
When you leave Ireland aged 22 to spend your parents' money, it's called a gap year. When Ava leaves Ireland aged 22 to make her own money, she's not sure what to call it, but it involves:

– a badly-paid job in Hong Kong, teaching English grammar to rich children;
– Julian, who likes to spend money on Ava and lets her move into his guest room;
– Edith, who Ava meets while Jul
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 16th 2020 by W&N (first published April 1st 2020)
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Average rating 3.39  · 
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 ·  15,707 ratings  ·  1,744 reviews

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Where to even begin.

Well, I suppose I will begin with the Lofty Assumption that most of you reading this review have not read this book, because the only reason I even justified myself finishing it is because I very much wanted to be the top review of this and give it one star, and I only validated my own belief in my ability to do so by threatening all of you who TBRed it with grievous bodily me-yelling-at-you. (Goodreads admin, this is not a threat, just a possible scolding.) (Don’t take down
Anna Luce
2 ½ stars (rounded up to 3)

“I felt I had hitherto woefully misdirected my energies in attempting to cultivate a personality. If you didn’t have one then that left more room for everyone else’s.”

With so many professional reviewers hailing Exciting Times as one of the best debut novels of 2020, praising Naoise Dolan for her wit and her razor-sharp social commentary, or describing her book as being “droll, shrewd and unafraid”, this promised to be an intelligent and compelling read. Sadly, as with
Dec 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ireland, 2019-read
I can see why Sally Rooney is endorsing this! Debut novelist Naoise Dolan tells the story of 22-year-old Ava who just moved from Ireland to Hongkong, trying to figure out what to do with her life. She holds a poorly paid job as an English teacher and befriends Julian, a rich English banker six years her senior. Lonely and broke, Ava moves in with him, Julian pays for pretty much everything and they start having sex. But when Julian is sent to work in London for a few months, Ava falls for Edith, ...more
Apr 18, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ew
2.5 stars

So dreary... definitely not exciting... Exciting Times is told from Ava’s perspective. Ava is an Irish expat living in Hong Kong, where she teaches English. The story focuses on Ava’s inner tortured thoughts and feelings as she feels the pull between relationships with English expat banker Julian and local lawyer Edith. Ava does all the wrong things. She can’t commit to the one she loves and she sticks to the one she knows treats her poorly. It’s well written but I have no patience righ
Jul 13, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This novel is a tedious account of one girl’s romantic flings during a year of living and working in Hong Kong. Heavily influenced by Sally Rooney’s ‘Normal People’ in terms of the tiresome indecisiveness about committing to a relationship, it’s as if ‘Exciting Times’ is just ‘Normal People’ set in China with some extra LGBT content packed in.

Told from a first person narrative of the main character Ava, who is very vague in terms of personality, and who constantly interrupts her own train of th
Apr 14, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Naoise Dolan has been trying to distinguish herself from Sally Rooney. The problem is, 'Exciting Times' is essentially a queer novel in the style of Rooney. The prose is spare and frustrating and the book itself kind of makes me just want to shrug and say 'So?'.

I'm starting to hate the term 'millennial fiction'. Because what this term actually represents is what generations behind ours consider to be the classic 'millennial'; casual sex, privilege, nihilism, pretentiousness, rather than the eve
lark benobi
May 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, ecco, ireland
Oh my goodness. This book is incredibly fine. Now I know what the phrase ‘razor sharp wit’ really means. On a sentence level the novel delivers one perfect zinger after another. Dolan is particularly good at capturing the way men talk to women whom they mistakenly think are not as smart as they are. The dialog is brilliant throughout. You have to understand that this is the kind of story I have very high standards for because the plot is an evergreen plot: young person at loose ends making her w ...more
The times, in fact, were not exciting.
Oct 13, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Dolan excels in sharp and fun sentences, but that’s not enough to carry a novel revolving about the unexciting travails of an indecisive and indolent millennial
I wanted other people to care more about me than I did about them

At the start of Exciting Times I was wowed by the snappy sentences Naoise Dolan pours over the reader in a rapid succession.
We meet Ava, new to Hong Kong, drifting as a teacher to the new elite (drilled by tiger moms). She is trying to find out how she wants to live her lif
Imogen Kathleen
Jul 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: lgbtq, 2020, irish-author
If you think this book is going to be like Normal People, it isn't. 2.5 stars.
Having seen the comparison floating around, I was excited to give this book a shot. I also knew that the main character was bisexual, so that was another element that drew me to this story. Whilst I don't regret reading it, I probably won't be recommending it too often.

The Good
- The bisexual representation in this book made me feel happy.
- Something about Naoise Dolan's writing style made this very easy to fly thr
Exciting Times is the most Sally Rooney book to have not been penned by Sally Rooney.  In a way that statement is overly reductive of Naoise Dolan's fresh and distinctive voice, but still, the fact remains: if you don't find Sally Rooney to be much to write home about, steer clear of this debut about Irish socialist millennials overanalyzing their messy and self-destructive relationships.  But if you're like me and that's sounds like a recipe for perfection, you'll probably love this.

Shown thro
Jun 06, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5, rounded down.

I think my reaction to this debut novel is both a question of being the wrong audience ('it's not you, it's me', in other words), and also being the wrong book at the wrong time. The first is because it's a book about and FOR millennials, and Ava, the narrator, being a 22 year old girl, and myself a male 3 times that, meant I had almost nothing in common with her. Not only couldn't I relate to any of her 'problems' (issues would be a more apt appellation, since she is one of th
Gumble's Yard
May 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
Now longlisted for the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize.

I found this book to be on one level a blend between Ottessa Moshfegh and Caolinn Hughes.

The author is I believe a fan of Ottessa Moshfegh – this book draws on some similar ideas and psychological themes to “Eileen” and “My Year of Rest and Relaxation” but without the grotesqueness and scatological details. This month the author tweeted “What I love about Ottessa Moshfegh is that we are think we’re Eileen when Eileen’s sole theme, bas
Apr 21, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, 香港
The more I think about this novel the more it suffers in my estimations. Sigh. Here goes... apologies if this review gets a bit ranty.

Exciting Times follows Ava, a 22 year old from Dublin who on graduation from uni moves to Hong Kong to work as a TEFL teacher. Ava soon meets Julian, a British banker, and not long after she moves in with him (mostly to escape the awful Airbnb she's living in) and they start sleeping together. Julian then has to travel abroad for work, and Ava starts spending time
Eric Anderson
Oct 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Multiple friends of mine who’ve read Sally Rooney’s phenomenally popular novel “Normal People” have asked me for suggestions of what they can read that is “just like Normal People”. I think “Exciting Times” by Naoise Dolan might be the answer. Of course, to say that this debut novel is “just like” Normal People does a disservice to the originality of Dolan’s tale and the uniqueness of the authorial voice. But there are several similarities. It’s a contemporary novel about young people new to adu ...more
Skyler Autumn
3 Stars

A thoroughly enjoyable book in the moment that quickly turns forgettable shortly after read.

Exciting Times follows 22 year old expat with a diamond encrusted vagina cause I don't know how such a mediocre woman seems to be getting the attention of all these successful and wealthy people? So I'm guessing its a diamond vagina. This book is basically a compilation of a lot of sitting and talking and walking and talking and thinking and eating. The story is just a bunch of nothing moments c
Do you marvel at clever sentence structure when encountered in a book? Do you take delight in words like "gormless"? Do you re-read witty comebacks to try and bake them into your mind should you ever need them? If you, like me, answered yes to all three of those questions, then you're in for a treat.

Exciting Times is a clever and biting story following Ava, a young woman in a foreign country trying to figure her life out - and maintain a semblance of coolness while doing so. It's also a story o
Jessica Woodbury
This is the kind of book that people are going to have vastly different opinions on. Some will find Ava absolutely intolerable and insufferable and won't be able to finish the first 25 pages. Some will declare Ava sharp and wise and funny, a hyper-relatable protagonist. And others will find that not much happens and it's just meh. None of them will be wrong, really, it's just one of those books. Ava herself would give much the same impression, which is a sign the book is successful even if it do ...more
Jaclyn Crupi
This book is very clever and very busy being very clever making it tiring to read but being a millennial seems pretty exhausting so perhaps it’s captured a lived experience. The style is detached and detaching in an interesting way but if you like sinking teeth into a narrative this is not for you. I like cool detached styling, I like complex unlikeable protagonists, I like dissections of class, I like explorations of sexuality. But did I like Exciting Times? Not so much. And damn I wish I could ...more
Barry Pierce
this is just really fantastic.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jul 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: lark benobi
I was really looking forward to this book because it had been compared to Normal People (please don't compare books like this, it sets the wrong expectations) but this was far from my experience. Where NP is angsty and violent, Exciting Times is reserved and full of feelings and thoughts almost expressed, but instead expressed only to the reader through drafted-but-never-sent text messages.

Obviously there is the old blessing, "May you live in exciting times." Halfway through the book I was prett
Anna Avian
Sep 12, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Vague. Mundane. Pretentious.
The plot is practically non-existent. The main character is very unlikable and never really evolves throughout the book. If the description didn't point out that the story is taking place in Hong Kong I might not have noticed. There are very few Asian characters and almost no references to Chinese culture and traditions. Every conversation between the characters basically circles around their social status, who has a bigger salary, politics and colleges. The love tri
Nomadic Reader (Baba Yaga)
The fact that Naoise Dolan is being touted as “the new Sally Rooney” is nothing short of an insult to Rooney’s work. In fact, Exciting Times (talk about a misleading title) reads like a dry, emotionless version of Conversations with Friends without the subtle characterization and psychological realism that made Rooney a household name. Oh, and the story is supposedly set in Hong Kong, even though the city is merely a backdrop to the protagonist’s supremely uninteresting love life.

Speaking of our
Claire Reads Books
a strong 4.5 ⭐️
Alva McDermott
Not for me. I’ll leave it there for fear of getting “dragged”.

Other reviews include:

Apparently all that is needed to become the next rising star in the Irish literary world is to write about self-loathing narcissists; and

There were no exciting times here

Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Ava teaches English in Hong Kong, Julian is a banker, Edith is a lawyer. Somehow they all find themselves entwined in each other’s lives – although none of them are really willing to be open about their feelings.

The comparison to Sally Rooney is definitely not far-reaching. Unfortunately, imitation isn’t always the sincerest form of flattery when it comes off as pretty much a blatant knockoff of Rooney’s trademark style.

The comparison to Crazy Rich Asians????

Because one of the characters hap
Exciting Times didn't elicit any excitement, it stayed somewhere in the middle, I found myself threading the line of boredom and it's readable until the end.

Dubliner Ava, twenty-two, moves to Hong Kong to teach English. She meets another ex-pat, Julian, a well off banker. Their relationship is somewhat peculiar. Maybe all relationships are strange.
I had no qualms and made no moral judgements towards their arrangement.
But I did find Ava and her paramours uninteresting and boring. When I read a
Mandy White (mandylovestoread)
I finished Exciting Times last night and I am still trying to process my feelings about it this morning. It may well be one of those books that I grow to like more over time. It certainly was a different take a on a love triangle that is for sure.

The characters in this story are not the most likeable. The 3 main characters are all a bit pretentious and self absorbed. It was frustrating at times. Overall though the story was interesting and funny but I did want to slapped all at one point or ano
Katie Long
Hmmm, I’m trying put my finger on what didn’t work here. My problem isn’t that the characters are annoying, self absorbed twenty-somethings (I’ve loved several books about characters like that) so I guess it’s Ava’s particular brand of annoying that put me off. Her inability to face any problem and need for others to save her, is hard to warm to. She made me laugh though, so it’s not all bad.
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Naoise Dolan is an queer, autistic, Irish writer born in Dublin. She studied English literature at Trinity College Dublin and Oxford University. Her first novel Exciting Times had an excerpt published in The Stinging Fly by Sally Rooney and became a Sunday Times bestseller. ...more

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