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The Echo Chamber: John Boyne

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Speaking as a mother’ (one of the novel’s in-jokes) this is the most devastatingly accurate ‘current state of the nation’ novel that I have read so far this year - so spot-on in fact, that it almost risks being banned by the Woke crowd that it satirises - luckily they are beyond understanding satire. But, in recent years the monster that is social media has invaded their lives and the family dynamic has fractured a little. In fact, I think not many people would enjoy it as it is a bit courageous for this decade which I think was the whole point here.

You can change your choices at any time by visiting Cookie preferences, as described in the Cookie notice. Packed full with non-PC comments that could upset some readers, John Boyne has come out fighting from the outcry surrounding his 2019 book My Brother’s Name is Jessica with a lively, and blatantly exaggerated, depiction of a family caught up in the whirlwind of likes, blue ticks, ratios and the cancel culture. On one level it’s simply a pointed attack on the role overt political correctness has had on modern society.

Without giving away any spoilers as the story progresses each family member is used to demonstrate the downfalls and absurdity of social media. Neville, the oldest is a frustrated teacher who dives into speed dating and in the process discovers he's gay. A rather different book from his previous works that is definitely worth reading, but more of a marmite affair. Both have been having affairs, George with a therapist, Angela, who is pregnant, Beverley with a SCD sex addict dancer. When George tweets something meaning to sound supportive of a person transitioning from male to female, he botches it so badly that he is hauled over the coals by his boss, the Head of Entertainment, Margaret.

Then I would just like to state that I have been a big fan of Boynes previous works and as a result I was VERY excited when I received this copy. As a Buddy read with Ceecee and Beata, we struggled to connect with the genuinely dislikeable characters, and we almost had a game to determine who we hated most. At once, a gateway to other worlds - and a treacherous weapon in the hands of the unwary, the unwitting, the inept. But George gets his wording very, very wrong and Twitter literally explodes, with the vitriol jumping off every form of media available.The Cleverley family were absurdly magnetic, the loop of six degrees of separation bouncing between them and the extra cast of characters was hilarious and really reinforced just what a small world it can be in certain circumstances, particularly when are you are up to no good or just simply making a spectacle of yourself. 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.

Ripping into the ludicrousness of the criticism that has been levelled at him (“My own son is named after Nelson Mandela, for Christ’s sake”), he saves his most lethal venom for those levelling the criticism: “Every person vying with everyone else to see who can be the most affronted, who can show that they’re the most woke … Well, eff Twitter, Sophie! Elizabeth dreams of being an influencer possessing THAT longed-for blue tick and is prepared to go to any lengths to fulfil her ambition. The characterisation is the strongest element of the book as all are depicted with sharp and startling clarity but it’s hard to connect with characters that are so revolting although that is entirely the authors point.If you’re at all oversensitive about your phone usage and/or your social media interactions, this is not the novel for you. It hinges on five members of one family, brilliantly created, distinctive characters, coming a cropper for one reason or another as they try to navigate the absurdities of the modern world.

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