A Visit from the Goon Squad

by Jennifer Egan (Corsair) R139, 00 ISBN: 9781780330969  


Sometimes you read a book and you wonder. In a good and a bad way. A Visit from the Goon Squad is like reading a gritty version of the film Love Actually. It is an ensemble piece. Vignettes of lives mostly threaded together by music. 

It takes a while for readers to commit when they aren’t sure whose story it is they are following. Geography, time and viewpoint are jumbled together well enough. However, it is jarring, and I think the book would have been stronger with half the characters and locations used. Egan’s strength lies in conveying her vivid characters’ emotions. You enter the lives of Bennie and Sasha and Kitty and Dolly and Lulu and so many others, and you are captivated by their mundane crises. I loved how real these people and their weaknesses were. Egan slices her way through the book, her wounding words exposing characters, exposing readers, exposing the fragile social structures of both. 

I was uncomfortable with the manipulation of viewpoint. I knew why the author was doing it, and it did work, but sometimes it was too much. When social media and texting and PowerPoint are added in line with time passing, Egan just about manages to hold it all together. I can’t help feeling that a lesser writer would have come out of this book badly. 
Read the book for the dissection of our society. Beautifully written, you will not regret pushing through to the anti-climactic end. 

Amanda Patterson
4/5 (Made up as follows: 3/5 for the general disjointedness and 5/5 for the brilliant writing.) 

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The Hummingbird and the Bear

by Nicholas Hogg (Corsair) ISBN 9781849016476 R216, 00 

‘I never understood why men went to war, why men would die in the corner of a muddy field…until I saw her at the wedding.’ 

Sam Taylor has escaped a childhood hell by the grace of his intelligence, his sporting ability and his capacity to love. Kicked out of his mother’s house by his stepfather at 16, he could have become a dropout. Instead, he escapes the haze of drugs, and the women who love him into the perfect life. 

He is a high-flyer. A London banker who dismantles banks in the financial meltdown before the last US presidential elections. He is engaged to the perfect woman, Jenni. Beautiful, blonde and intelligent. A woman with the family he wished he could have had. Jenni’s parents welcome him into their lives and into their home. 

Then Sam meets Kay, an American woman, married to ruthless New York businessman, Chris, at a country wedding in England. In a moment, in a second, a heartbeat he knows he has met the one who completes him. Sam drives Kay to Heathrow the next day and they fall into each other. There can be no other. Kay is as damaged as Sam, with a past to rival his. They are so perfectly imperfect for each other. She is the hummingbird to the bear in his dreams. 

Sam can’t stop thinking about her and leaves London two months later for New York. 

Their love is the reason for breathing, for their hearts beating. Kay leaves Chris, telling him she is going shopping and meets Sam at the airport. They fly to New Orleans, drive to Texas, heading for Mexico as her crazy husband pursues them. Jealousy kills. But even death doesn’t kill love. 

‘I feel so close to her that I can barely see her. Because she is in me, part of who I was, who I am. That I can’t escape.’ 

And if you think you know what happens, after reading that, you don’t. I read this book in a day. I fell into it. You may fall into it too – if you have ever found the one who completes you. 

Amanda Patterson
5/5

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