Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Book Review: Jennifer Egan's A Visit From The Goon Squad

I haven't written about a book for a while, mainly because I made a strict promise to myself months ago to only write about books/movies/music etc that I actually liked on here. This blog has always been my own personal outlet, to write about what I want to, not a place to pan someone else's work, just because it's not of my own personal taste. So, this really means that I haven't been blown away by a book for a really long time... Until now.

A Visit From The Goon Squad

I bought this book last year in the summer, when I was in Santa Cruz with my sister. I had seen it around in every book shop, picked it up, read the back, hesitated and then put it down again. I finally bought it because it really did look like something I should read, and would possibly like. I only picked it up to read it recently because I am trying to get through my "to be read" piles of books before purchasing any new ones. As soon as I started reading the book I recognised the style and realised that I had already read another book by her a few years back (The Invisible Circus), which I hadn't been able to put down.

This is one of those books that I wish I had written myself. You know, when you are reading it, you stop and say "ARGH - I wanted to do something like this!!". Yes, that. Each chapter is written from a different person's standpoint, from a different type, but everyone is linked back to everyone else, brother, mother, sister, father, son, daughter, employer, friend, boyfriend, girlfriend. Spanning 30 or so years, and seemingly disconnected while each chapter jumps to another character and time, the storyline is held in place by a string of music. By that I mean that music is the underlying theme in each chapter and that everything is brought together by music. From the kids in the LA punk scene, via the music label guy who won't sell out to the last concert at the end of the book 10 years from now, music is literally everywhere. Of course I was going to love this book!!

I read a few reviews last night after I had finished the book, and was surprised to read that many people felt they couldn't connect with the characters as I felt a lot of affection for most of them, especially Sasha and Rob. Other people complained about the whole PowerPoint pages nearer the end of the novel - I thought it was a pretty genius way of telling a story, especially seeing as the point was to show how music and structure can help calm the symptoms of autism. Others complained that it didn't deserve the Pulitzer, but then again didn't really give any reasons for why it didn't deserve it. All I can say is that I devoured the book, and I haven't done that for a while. It's quite refreshing to say that because I've been a little disappointed by what I have been trying to read lately.

I cried in the end. I don't want to spoil it for anyone, so I won't really say anything, but the ending is pretty majestic in my opinion. High technology and simple feelings, all brought together by music that everyone knows. Brilliant.


Simay said...

We'll be reading this in my book club toward the summer, and I cannot wait.

Alicia W said...

My book club actually just read this. I got through the 1st quarter and put it aside to continue w/ the never-ending Dark Tower series, but after you review I'll definitely have to finish it!