AUTHOR: JENNIFER EGAN
This book reminds of a quilt. A quilt is made up of several patches which each individually are lovingly made and beautiful in and off themselves. Put together though they create a much bigger and more intricate picture.
The same is the case with this book.
The chapters in this book each provide a snapshot, a moment in time as narrated by a different person each time. As a whole though the book gives the story of Benny Salazar, an aging music mogul and Sasha, his young PA.
The chapters provide insights into episodes in their lives, loves, loses and careers spanning from the 1970’s to the near future (202?) as told by themselves and by people who were involved with their lives at the time in question.
Since the chapters are not arranged in chronological order and it is not always immediately clear how the person narrating a chapter is linked to either Benny or Sasha, the reader is at times second guessing the author and kept on her toes.
The characters in this book are varied, from all walks of life and placed in a variety of settings while the book deals with a host of emotions and personal circumstances. From success to failure, from happiness to despair and from troubled to serene, Benny, Sasha and those who touch on their lives are spared none of the events and feelings that will occur in a lifetime.
This was a fascinating book. It could easily have turned into a concept novel, with the set-up of the story, including the chapter printed as a PowerPoint presentation, coming at the cost of the actual story. The fact that the story didn’t suffer at all, but was more than filled out enough to cope with the way in which the novel is constructed shows how talented an author Egan is.
This week I read an interview with Jennifer Egan on Shelf Awareness and I would like the share what she said about the PowerPoint chapter here:
“ Once I finally had the hang of it, I finally understand why I had wanted to work in PowerPoint so much – it is a short of microcosm of the way Good Squad works, which is these vivid moments with big gaps in between, each one different from all the others. The book is so much about pauses, and somehow writing this chapter let me figure out those pauses.”
“If it were written as conventional fiction it would be the schmaltziest bore anyone has ever looked at. It only works because of the cold container. So it ends up being this very emotionally honest chapter, but structurally, it feels like the heart of the book to me, and I think the book almost didn’t have a heart.”
This was a fascinating and completely original book and story and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a new and surprising reading experience.