Cover Image: The Candy House

The Candy House

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The key concept of  a human mind with all its memories being copied/uploaded is an interesting concept.

Being Egan this is only one ambitious theme to explore and it becomes a book about identity, truthfulness and searching..

Being a Goon Squad fan I was looking forward to this novel. I'm still in admiration of the scope of Egan's ambition but the polyphonic voices and the differing time frames just became disorienting. I would rather have had fewer threads that were explored in more depth.

The satire on current Social media etc and the Frankenstein elements were intriguing but seemed buried under the accumulation of "stuff" generated by the ambitious scope of the book..  There were no characters that I cared about or who made me want to return to their story

For me "less" would have been "more".
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Didn't quite hit the emotional sweet spots of Goon Squad for me, but I did enjoy the ideas being wrestled with here.
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Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book. A totally different each from the normal with futuristic ideas that in 2022 are becoming more possible. A very different story telling structure that works very well. A totally compelling read that confuses, confronts and also entertains. Well worth a read!
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Much like the earlier A Visit From The Goon Squad, I found this loosely related novel interesting and intriguing, episodic way it is written makes it hard to pin down and will make it hard to remember. And it is hard to say what it’s about too, though perhaps that isn’t the point. 

It is set in a nearby and terrifyingly imaginable future, where technology has been developed that can capture memories and make them shareable, allowing individuals to revisit events not only through their own memories but also through those of others who were also present. Most people have embraced this unthinkingly, much as we have done with social media in our current time, but there are voices of caution and those of rebellion, afraid of the loss of individuality and real connection in this brave new world.

The various chapters are only loosely related, which a cast of characters (some of whom also appeared in Goon Squad) drifting in and out of focus and coming together periodically in tangentially related timelines, depicting the psychological effects of living a technologically-dominated life increasingly devoid of meaningful connections with real people.

It’s a book I enjoyed, but that I find hard to describe - I personally prefer a stronger narrative drive to this series of vignettes, although it was undeniably absorbing. Definitely worth reading, but I somehow don’t think I’ll be coming back to it in future.
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This propulsive, inventive follow-up to A Visit from the Goon Squad centres on a social-media visionary who invents a way to externalise consciousness and pool memories – so instead of mindlessly scrolling apps, people can explore their loved ones' memories. Naturally there are consequences, including a reorganisation of the social order. Brilliant.
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An interesting concept, which works well with some non traditional narratives that Jennifer Egan writes so well. 

I loved A Visit From The Goon Squad because of how different it felt to other books I had read. This book features some of the same characters and takes place in the same world that Egan has created. However, I remember no details from the previous book and still enjoyed this. 

I loved the interwoven stories where you have to take a moment to realise how each one connects to the previous one. Although it is a collection of different narratives that feel like short stories, it also feels like a novel because of the recurring theme, shared world and characters who reappear throughout. Some of the "stories" were more enjoyable than others but I still really enjoyed this book overall.
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This is an expansive, detailed, breathtaking novel that deals with age, family, memory and technology in startling and refreshingly new ways.
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I'm intimidated by the thought of attempting a blurb of this book because 
1) it's so different from anything I've ever read
2) it is not one but many stories.

Having said that, I'll try to put up a review as coherent as possible. My initial response to the novel was one of exhilaration and curiosity. Nothing in the world of this novel was alien and yet to see the world we inhabit and its possibilities in such an ingenious light, it was indeed quite an experience. The story is narrated by a diverse array of characters and it hinges on the personal histories and memories of each of these characters who grapple with a world being rapidly altered by a technology that externalizes human memory and creates an archive accessible  to the public. Three characters particularly stood out to me, namely, Alfred, Lincoln and Lulu, whose narratives interested me to the same degree as they disturbed me. Authenticity, quantifiable existence and transferrable consciousness-- did I have to take frequent pauses to do some introspection? Yes. 

All in all, a memorable novel that weaves itself into a network of stories reminiscent of how our World Wide Web works. Although I would have liked a more detailed description of how the new technology actually works and more elaboration on the new social categories like eluders, etc., I can safely say it is one of the most original novels I've read in a while.
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This is one of my favourite books this year so far. The timeline is both non-chronilogical yet completely linear and perfect for this story, complimenting the intricate spider-web of chapters as they interlink in the narrative. Each chapter is narrated by a different character and they're written so differently so that each character's voice is unique and Egan did a fantastic job at fleshing each character out even if they are only active in the story for a short while. I also admired the fact that the characters are incredibly diverse and yet it never reads like this had been shoehorned in for the sake of brownie points. The prose is easy to follow and sink into, but there are more experimental chapters such as a series of short statements from Lulu's perspective that read almost like poetry. I later found that this was originally published as a short story separate from The Candy House, and this doesn't surprise me in the least: it's beautiful.
In terms of the book's themes, I enjoyed how social media as a concept is explored and discussed by the different characters, and how it's much more nuanced than "social media is bad" or "social media is good". There's capitalism to consider, as invention is often 'neutral' until it's bought by corporations where profit and exploitation is valued higher than humanity.
This is definitely a book I will be buying a hard copy of, and while I've not read any other work by Jennifer Egan (and I'm told several of the characters of The Candy House feature in A Visit from the Goon Squad), I would definitely read some of Egan's work again.
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This book is a fun blend of the realistic and fantastical, following in a similar vein from A Visit From The Goon Squad, which I read just before this book in preparation.

Although I think it can be read by itself without prior knowledge of The Goon Squad, I think it does help, adding some extra background colour to some of the scenes.

In the book, we follow various characters whose voices we bounce between, learning about how technological advancements that allow access to all thoughts and consciousness of a life can be used for good (ending certain types of crimes, reuniting lost friends) but also for ill, with characters becoming lost in the chasm between real and virtual.

I found it a fun and enjoyable read, with a pleasant imagination and sense of humour throughout.

I received an advanced copy of the book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Jennifer Egan’s latest is another SF adjacent novel, one that looks at social media and extrapolates our current obsession Facebook, Twitter et al into a near future where people make their actual memories available via tech, creating a collective shared consciousness that anyone can access. The book roams freely in time, showing us how such a thing came into being, and what a life in that world looks like. Like A Visit From The Good Squad, it’s a series of linked stories that reflect and feed back on each other. The characters are all connected, some by blood and marriage, some by shared experience, and others more tenuously - probably not unlike your Facebook friends list. A good part of the fun of the novel is tracking these connections and working out how the characters intersect. It’s fabulously readable, and Egan inhabits her different voices with aplomb. Marvellous stuff.
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Proxies. Eluders. Typicals. Atypicals. Memory externalization. Collective consciousness. Counters. Impressionists. Sense Subterfuge. Stockblocks. Surveillance vs. Freedom. Collaboration vs. Exile. 

There are a lot of futuristic concepts/lingo packed into these pages and a lot of characters to keep track of, but it's well worth the ride. Essentially, this book is about the future of big tech and big data. It asks: If you could access all of your own memories and the memories of others, would you? Interesting subject matter and laugh-out-loud funny at times! I'll be thinking about this read for a while. 

If you're like me and didn't love the Goon Squad, give this one a chance - you'll be glad you did.
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I hadn’t read A Visit from the Goon Squad in many years but I remembered correctly that it was excellent. I’m glad that I reread it before The Candy House because from the very start of Egan’s new novel-in-interrelated-stories I had a clear picture of who these revisited characters were. 
The Candy House has the same span as Goon Squad, both forwards and backwards in time, meaning that the reader is left satisfied and largely knowing exactly what happened to each of the characters who flick in and out of the stories. 
The characters focused on in The Candy House are largely the minor ones from Goon Squad, which for me meant that some were ones I had been desperate to know more about (I very much enjoyed the return and renaissance of Sasha’s Uncle Ted) but also some that I didn’t really care about, like Lou. It took me a minute to place Lulu but then I appreciate her return and actually the long chapter of text/email exchanges where she puts together a wildly complicated plan to confront her long lost father was amongst my favourite sections of the new novel.
Having read Egan’s work before, I was used to her mix between stark realism and unexpected dystopia, moving between near future and recent past, but I still got a shock when the pandemic came up, and found it jarring to be put quite so firmly into reality. But of course our new ways of communicating - Zoom, for example - simply had to come up in The Candy House because how technology has influenced and ruined our lives is exactly what Egan does. I can’t wait to read it again to find even more hidden nuggets of truth.
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Great writing but very little substance.

The Candy House is suppose to be a sort of science fiction about a shared consciousness. A sort of social media 2.0. Under this guise we read stories about an extended number of characters and their very little problem. Their very little and very American problems like drugs, a quest for authenticity, becoming someone and so on and so fort. Needless to say I never cared about the silly problems very rich(or in the process of becoming rich) American have, therefore none of this characters touched me in any way....
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The Candy House by Jennifer Egan.

Happy Publication day to this book which will undoubtedly  be in my top five reads of 2022.

I finished reading this a week ago and it has been swirling around my head since. This was so much more than I expected it to be. From the opening chapter I was engaged, then enthralled  then absolutely blown away by this novel. 

The Candy House is a " sister novel" or follow up to Jennifer Egan's 2011 Pulitzer Prize winning novel,  A Visit from the Goon Squad. I read this back when it was published in 2011 but I had an army of very small children in 2011 so I don't remember it in great detail . Some of the characters reappear in The Candy House and the format is similar, a series of interlocking stories. I don't think you would have to have read Goon Squad to enjoy this, remembering it only vaguely, did not take from enjoyment or marvel when reading this.

The book opens in 2010 with tech entrepreneur Bix, looking and struggling for his next idea when he stumbles upon the idea of downloading or  externalising memory. Within a decade " Own Your Unconscious" has a global audience. People can access every memory they have ever had and can share their memory in exchange for access to others. Life changing technology that many embrace and others question or are fearful of.

Told across twelve chapters , each one devoted to a different character whose stories all  interlink and crossover jumping back and forth through time from the 1960s to 2040, a future that is so vividly believable and  one we are hurtling towards it. Each chapter has a different style, this book jars and swirls and flips through time and themes and concepts. Exploring social media, image, gaming, memory, family,  authenticity and ultimately connection, what we are all seeking in this world. 

It is hard to put into words how much I enjoyed this book. It is  also hard to describe the book and do it justice. It is so entertaining, perceptive, intelligent, easy to read, thought provoking and has so much heart. I loved it. Could not recommend it more highly. Deserving of all the prizes. 

5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
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The Candy House is really a treat for those who loved Jennifer Egan’s Goon Squad. Seeing some of the old faces again - Sasha, Lulu, Bennie - was really wonderful, and what made this novel worth it for me. I also still really appreciate Egan’s use of form. She is masterful at weaving in and out of formats and does this especially well in The Candy House - the epistolary chapter was definitely my favourite, as it reminded me of the PowerPoint chapter from Goon Squad where I felt as though it really helped elevate the voices off the page.

What lingers in the background of this novel is a new company which lets you upload your consciousness to a ‘cloud’ to be able to access all of your memories, and even the memories of others. I liked how this wasn’t a central feature to the novel but more acted as a thread which bound all of the separate stories together.

Egan’s prose was just as colourful as it has always been and I think if you have the patience to appreciate this novel, having read Goon Squad previously, you will really enjoy it.
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This book is another wild ride through multiple characters and points of view, different styles and time periods in the past and future. It’s enjoyable and terrifying at the same time. Could technology get even more invasive and intrusive? Would people really upload their consciousness for everyone to search? What a world to imagine!
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The idea of Own Your Own Consciousness and Collective Consciousness - technologies repeatedly mentioned throughout this novel - are what really interested me.  Unfortunately, there was perhaps less consideration of how these technologies were being/could be used in this book than I'd hoped.  This book read as a series of snapshots of individuals' lives - the individuals were all linked in some way, although it was not apparent until towards the end how they were all linked.  Whilst I've read quite a few books that adopt this approach and have loved some of them I didn't find that I enjoyed this book as much as I expected to.  Perhaps it was because so many of the characters were unlikeable, perhaps because the book didn't really seem to have a plot as such. The ideas were certainly clever and the writing excellent but I can't say it's a book I really enjoyed or would necessarily recommend to others
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The Candy House’s the sibling of Jennifer Egan’s hugely successful, award-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad a complex meditation on aging and the passage of time, set around the music industry. Like Goon Squad this is structured more as an assemblage of linked, yet standalone, stories, 14 in total, than unified, linear narrative; it also moves around in time and space, from the 1960s to the 1930s, showcasing a similar range of narrative strategies and techniques. This too is rooted in a specialist area, the tech industry or more specifically social media. It revolves around an imagined creation, Own Your Unconscious, which enables users to upload and store their entire consciousness or opt to share it online as part of a larger collective. The technology’s the brainchild of Bix Boulton a Black entrepreneur who’s attained global fame, loosely modelled on Steve Jobs – Egan dated Jobs during her college years. Boulton’s concept follows on from earlier successes, inspired by a chance encounter at a New York gathering of academics.

Boulton, like many others portrayed here, previously appeared in A Visit from the Goon Squad only then he was a bit player. The candy house in the title refers to those glimpsed in fairy tales, devised by evil witches to lure unsuspecting victims, suggesting that, even though Egan shuns the dystopian label, this is a variation on a cautionary tale. The period preceding Boulton’s invention's marked by his growing feelings of dissatisfaction, a search for intellectual stimulation, the need to prove he can still be original and an intense mourning for a form of human connection he’s witnessed but never actually experienced. Own Your Unconscious seems to promise a level of connection and shared understanding otherwise impossible in ordinary everyday settings, but is it also something highlighting the need to be careful what you wish for?

Although the ostensible link’s the impact of Own Your Unconscious on the assembled characters, Egan seems less concerned with the traditional terrain of speculative fiction, and did no research into the techno-futurist elements – the tech’s mechanics are sketched out but the science behind it, and even the notion of what consciousness, or memory, might be is only hazily addressed. This leads to a certain, frustrating incoherence at times: for instance, on one level the technology allows for the unearthing of repressed or other forms of memory which become key evidence in securing convictions in historical child abuse cases, rather like accessing live-action replays; but at the same time it’s suggested that memory’s partial, partly subjective rather than reliable, unassailable truth. Perhaps this is because Egan seems far more engaged in the nitty-gritty of human interaction, at times the technology storyline seems to operate more as a conceit, or MacGuffin, allowing her to explore broader issues around loss, yearning and alienation.

Another apparent preoccupation’s with the “void” a sense of lack central to numerous characters' experiences, existentially lost, groping for something they believe’s just beyond their grasp, that will somehow make them whole and fulfilled. Part of this plays out through the extensive references to drugs and substance dependency, presumably building on issues that have haunted American society for some time, the failed war on drugs, the current opioid crisis. Egan often seems to be intent on chronicling, somewhat obliquely, the plight of the crumbling, anxiety-ridden American middle-classes. Although the idea that people desperate to numb their consciousness with drugs, or alcohol, or whatever else is available, might also want to preserve it’s an intriguing one. For one figure, Roxy, the tech offers a chance to relive her glory days, while another uses it to track down a chance acquaintance whose possible fate’s been bothering him for years.

Another major theme’s the quest for authenticity, which emerged from Egan’s reading of theories put forward by Daniel Borstein in the early sixties. An idea that mass media stirs cravings for access to some form of unmediated reality which it never actually satisfies. Egan’s compared this to TikTok and the way in which it promotes the idea of presenting something raw, unrehearsed, rather like eavesdropping on a conversation in progress. This is amusingly rendered in a chapter purporting to be a case study of a man so obsessed with immediacy that he routinely disrupts social settings by emitting loud, long-lasting screams. Set against this is a competing desire to categorise, anticipate and label every aspect of human expression, part of the work of the data quantifiers employed by Boulton’s company Mandala. Yet, as Egan has pointed out, data without nuanced interpretation or narrativization is pretty much redundant, failing to predict 9/11 or Trump’s election. This leads into Egan making a case for fiction, at least the kind contained on the page, and for the writers who shape and consider what meanings might be attached to thoughts, events or behaviours.

Overall, it’s a well-crafted, thoughtful, ambitious piece, that raises a multitude of relevant questions - although I’m not personally convinced they’re ones this kind of literature’s adequately equipped to address beyond the superficial. But I found it far less compulsively, or smoothly, readable as its predecessor, it’s much closer to a collection than it is a novel. There were some stories, like Roxy’s which really stood out, others which seemed a little perfunctory and less than enthralling.
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This is exactly what I imagined it to be, in a very good way! I liked the first book, A Visit from the Goon Squad, and Black Box (Goon Squad #1.5) was very unique. to my surprise and joy, The Candy House was both, Great Read!

The story starts with familiar names that reveal it's them, we know them, heard about them before more or less. The individual characters were somewhere someday in touch, without an ordered timeline. 

There were two main differences that I love this book more, (1) this time, it is not about music, the characters are in a more fictional and digital world, future, delusional, and spies! (2) I probably could have many parts of it shelved as Coming-of-age!

The writing style is memorable, and the way story goes on is so creative. My favorite part is about Lulu, she as a child and woman! Lana and Melora, Lou's daughters were great! Remember Noreen?!

"The secret to a happy ending, Mom used to tell us, is knowing when to walk away."

Also, a good thing is you can read the books as a stand-alone, although these are exactly the same people, from another point of view, children or other friends and of course, there are other stories to tell. 

My huge thanks to Little, Brown Book Group UK via NetGalley for giving me the chance to read this amazing book, I have given my honest review.
Pub Date 28 Apr 2022
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