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Review: Jennifer Egan – A Visit from the Goon Squad

In this witty, sophisticated, postmodern (more on that later) tale, Egan provides us with a cast of flawed yet lovable characters that span time and space, much like the music that ties the disparate threads of this novel together. Cleverly moving between past, present and (occasionally) future, and even while giving away what happens to the characters at the end of each chapter, Egan manages to keep us involved with them. This is mainly because despite their flaws, limitations and foibles, we care about them so. Egan uses each chapter to introduce us to a new person (or people) mentioned in passing in the previous one, and by switching between first- second- and third-person narrative, has us guessing who “we” are, where “they” are, and “what” time-period we are in. (While this sounds distracting, it is in fact, much like the music from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s that frames this book, strangely reassuring). Egan’s postmodern posturing could have been taken as no more than literary fireworks (one chapter is even written in powerpoint), but in fact it all works seamlessly together. This is largely because by showing us the funny, sad and occasionally tragic choices made by young and old alike, Egan shines a mirror on our own foibles and hypocrisy. I didn’t start out wanting to like this novel, but ended up not being able to put it down. (My only criticism is that Egan didn’t incorporate more of the musical flourishes earlier in the narrative!)

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