The Echo Chamber: John Boyne
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JB has a really remarkable track record for nuanced characters and writing, but this is an over-the-top rant. Then we have Mum, Beverley, an ‘author’ of many books, and their three dysfunctional children, Nelson, Elizabeth and Achilles.
There are great, laugh-aloud moments of social satire, but the characters are unsympathetic, and the book is too long and becomes repetitive. And then there are their 3 children - Achilles, Nelson and Elizabeth, all of whom have their own issues. A middle child at 20, Elizabeth is all about social media followers and like most is glued to her phone. I feel the same as George about his producer, “Ben Bimbaum, whose full name George always struggled to pronounce.John Boyne is the author of thirteen novels for adults, six for younger readers and a collection of short stories. When that time come, you'll no doubt be in the best hospitals and receiving the care that I, and most working class people are denied. I liked this, a lot, the representation of their unravelling as a family unit as more social media platforms became available. I read The Heart's Invisible Furies and was blown away but this felt like a departure but the blurb was irresistible and I believe he has hit another home run. I wouldn't wish a Stroke on any, but there could come a day when you, Peter Kay and (worse of al), Jimmy Carr, find out that there's nothing to laugh about.
If you want a break from the nonsense that is what our culture has created with Facebook and twitter and instagram and snapchat and tiktok this is the book for you. A fan of humor, this was by FAR the funniest book I've read and will definitely be reading it again.And as a white male of a similar age, I confess I have some sympathy with him, particularly when it comes down to matters of gender identification. It may not be factual, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there are people who are, shall we say, ‘inspirations’ for some of these characters. It is not particularly funny, the characters are well drawn and you will know their likes/dislikes deeply.
For most of the book I was going to award 4 stars, but am bumping that up to 5 just for the ending and where they all end up, close to my heart. A sprinkle of post-pandemic references provides a frisson of nowness, but Guardian Soulmates seems still to be flourishing and No 10 comes out furiously against George’s anti-woke expostulations when we know full well that Oliver “Culture Skirmish” Dowden wouldn’t have broken sweat before rushing to George’s aid. The phrase 'Lose Lips Sink Ships' is one that will come to mind as you make your way through the labyrinth.They are all guilty of self deception but George in particular thinks he’s ‘Woke’ but in fact he’s in non-REM sleep as he demonstrates with breathtaking effect.
This is highly mischievous, farcical, and fun, and is a great modern satire on the social media obsession of the past 10 or so years. Furthermore copies are now scared of these people so when someone voices an opinion that is ‘wrong’ that person may be out of a job as that company does not want their reputation tarnished. As the book is a satire, there are a lot of laughs but if one digs a bit, one can see that The Echo Chamber is about a lot of serious topics, ranging from sexism in the media, the lack of education in younger generations, being an authentic author to politics.Powered by John Boyne's characteristic humour and razor-sharp observation, The Echo Chamber is a satiric helter skelter, a dizzying downward spiral of action and consequence, poised somewhere between farce, absurdity and oblivion. And what an unexpected departure this is from the author’s previous novels, none of which prepared me for this complete change in style - and so much for the better, in my opinion. George and Beverley are at a crossroad in their relationship and also with their repugnant offspring.