The Echo Chamber by John Boyne

I have to say that it is not what I was expecting. Not at all. That is not to say that this was a bad thing – it’s just different to other Boyne books that I have read. It’s all in the tone.

The book is centred around a family built on celebrity: George Cleverley is a venerated BBC chat show host of some years, a well-known face; Beverley Cleverley (I know), his wife and love of his life is a writer of some popularity, currently looking for her next ghost writer; Nelson, suffers from anxiety and social awkwardness and is visiting a therapist; Elizabeth has a public and a veiled presence on social media, one of which delivers comments like a poisoned dart; and then Achilles is a beautiful teenager who has found the perfect way to acquire funds by preying on the insecurities of confused middle-aged men.

This book is funny. There are moments where I laughed out loud at Boyne’s narrative and the things that he had his characters saying, and that is something that you should know: that this book is very heavy on dialogue and I, for one, loved this about it. The novel deals with the decline of the Cleverleys from the nation’s darlings to scandalised shamefaced individuals over a very short period of time and all really as a result of a society that shares everything that it possibly can with everyone else who could possibly want to know it through social media, most specifically Twitter.

The Cleverleys are not particularly nice people in the main, although Nelson is the one for which it is easy to feel the most sympathy. However, Boyne is masterful at treading the writing tightrope and creating balance in presenting to us, as readers, characters who are unlikeable but who are also very entertaining in their antics.

I felt like this was a novel for our times – Boyne shows that it is a minefield out there, in terms of “terms”, and by that, I mean, how we address others or “label” them, their differences to us and their individualities.

Great satire and great fun to read.

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