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The Candy House

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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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This book reminds me of that early Black Mirror episode "The Entire History of You". The premise is an extension of that concept-- being able to access all of your memories, externalize them, and share those memories with others. In this case, however, we see people also uploading them to share online.

Why would anyone do this? I found it amusing in the Lana and Melora chapters when they thought "no one would be dumb enough to do this" in response to "letting the Internet go inside their computers and play their music". I actually find the premise of this book extremely believable. Even as little as twenty years ago, I think people would have been shocked to hear how 2022 sees people, on a mass scale, sharing intimate details of their lives all over the Internet with complete strangers. Imagine telling someone in the 1980s how we all post pictures and comments and wait around for strangers around the world to validate us with "likes".

No, I think we do have a compulsion to be, if not liked, then at least understood. I think far too many of us feel we'd feel better if only we could adequately explain ourselves. And too many of us, for all kinds of reasons, are attention-seekers at some point in our life. I could see future humans uploading their memories to the Internet and I could also see it being a crisis for mental health.

But this seems all negative so far, and the technologically Egan imagines here is anything but. Sure, there are plenty of people with moral objections to Mandala, but the good it has done?

    ...tens of thousands of crimes solved; child pornography all but eradicated; Alzheimer's and dementia sharply reduced by reinfusions of saved healthy consciousness; dying languages preserved and revived; a legion of missing persons found; and a global rise in empathy that accompanied a sharp decline in purist orthodoxies... 

It is this speculative/sci-fi aspect of The Candy House that fascinated me and kept me reading until the end.

The reason I am giving it three stars is because this book is maybe 20% speculative fiction about humanity being able to access their memories (and all the ways this tech shapes the world) and 80% character studies of LOTS of different people, many of whom I never became invested in.

The Candy House reads like many interconnected short stories, not unlike A Visit from the Goon Squad from what I remember, but I found them very mixed. Some of the characters I gelled with easily, like Lana and Melora, and Gregory, others I swear my eyes glazed over reading about them. Like Chris Salazar who runs a nonprofit called Mondrian, dedicated to reclaiming people's privacy.

And these are very detailed, slow-build character studies. Which is fine when the characters and their stories are of interest, but it is very difficult to sit through the daily minutiae of someone you don't care about. I found it odd how the author would sometimes detail every "itch on his balls" yet speak about huge life-changing concepts in the abstract, telling rather than showing that, for example, "Heroin is her great love, her life's work, and she has given up everything for it".

Even as I say chunks of the book bored me, I can recognise it as an amazing achievement. It is a very complex, thoughtful novel that left me with a ton of things to think about. It feels both futuristic and highly relevant to our times, as many of the downsides of the fictional technology of Mandala are issues at the centre of current debates about privacy, access to information, access to misinformation, public shaming, and authenticity in the age of performance culture.

I didn't love reading it as much as I'd hoped, but I think I will love thinking about it for a while.
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We long to connect with others; it's the human condition. Extrapolate from all the posting we do on social media and imagine opting to share your consciousness. Would it work? Would we be happier? Jennifer Egan examines this concept in her fascinating and absorbing new novel, The Candy House. Recommended.
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Jennifer Egan’s 2010 A Visit from the Goon Squad is rightly considered one of the key novels of the post-millennium period. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that it touched the zeitgeist of the time, particularly in terms of discussion about how the internet, and digital technology in general, was changing our relationship to the culture that shaped us, with a particular focus on the music industry.
Egan is still concerned with that here and the candy house of the title is a Hansel and Gretel-esque reference to the price that must be paid for the shift from physical cultural content to a more easily accessible (and stealable) digital form. But times have moved on and Egan’s focus has moved on from digital downloads to the continually encroaching effect of social media upon our lives.
Not that this should in any way be considered a dry thesis on technology and social change. And, truth be told, Egan is at her weakest when trying to play the futurologist. Goon Squad’s content delivery tech for pre-verbal babies was no more convincing than Candy House’s admittedly chilling social media tech in which you can upload your actual consciousness. But then, Egan’s intention is not so much prophecy as satire, so this is perhaps a slightly churlish objection.
As with Goon Squad before it, Candy House succeeds is in both its humour and in its treatment of character. Many of these characters will be familiar, having appeared in Goon Squad and most, if not all, are welcome. In a recent interview, Egan expressed a fear that she might end up writing fanfic for her own creations and there are times when that fear might seem not unjustified. But that is down to her choices as much as anything. We spend rather a lot of time with music producer Lou Klein, a character I was rather over by the end of Goon Squad. And while I was glad to spend more time with Lulu and Jules Jones, part of me wished that more focus had been put on characters who were either new or who had had very little attention focused on them in the first book (techpreneur Bix Bouton springing immediately to mind).
And this is more than a (fanboi) quibble about not receiving more content about my favourite characters; there’s a structural concern as well. The book follows the same format as its predecessor – a series of inter-connected short stories – but with an underlying structure that there was a cohesive whole that served the themes of the book. The sense of that feels weaker here, with some of the stories being there less to serve the unity of the novel and more as mere vignettes in themselves.
But while it may not have the strength and impact of its predecessor, this is still a terrific book that is at turns funny, moving and sometimes even terrifying (especially if you’re a social mediaphobe). The characters are as engaging as ever and its underlying sense of the current state of the world feels largely spot on.
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After reading and admiring A Visit From The Goon Squad in 2011, I went on a bit of a Jennifer Egan binge, burning through Look At Me and The Keep as well. Funnily enough, though, I can remember very little about any of those books now. (The only Egan book I do remember clearly is the later, less popular Manhattan Beach). I attempted to re-read Goon Squad back in 2020 and failed to finish it; what had felt fresh and daring nine years before now felt a bit shallow and hackneyed, apart from the iconic Powerpoint chapter. Due to this, I wouldn't have requested an ARC of The Candy House had I realised it was a loose companion to Goon Squad. From that perspective, I'm not sure I can even call The Candy House disappointing; it's just more of the same.

The Candy House claims to be about a new technology called Own Your Unconscious, which allows you access to all human memories uploaded into the 'collective consciousness' as long as you upload yours in return. In short: it's not. You could remove Own Your Unconscious from the vast majority of this book and it would have no impact on the plot or themes. In itself, not a big deal, but it points to a wider problem with The Candy House; Egan just isn't interested in how being able to access other people's actual experiences would transform our understanding of humanity. Like one of my least favourite Black Mirror episodes, 'The Entire History of You', The Candy House is more interested in using this technology to play out the same kind of stories rather than thinking big. Once again, a literary writer appropriates a SF trope that has been explored far more thoughtfully and adventurously elsewhere (see also: Ian McEwan's Machines Like Me, Emily St John Mandel's Sea of Tranquility).

Even this would be less of a death knell for The Candy House if Egan used the sections of the novel, which are told through multiple perspectives, to prove her mission statement: that the novel is really the only thing that allows us access to the collective consciousness. However, as in Goon Squad, beyond the gimmicks, most of her narrators sound and think the same. Part of the reason I struggle to keep track of her large and disparate cast of people linked to the music and later the social media industry is that they aren't clearly differentiated from each other. Imposing different structures on different sections (spy instructions; algorithms; D&D terminology) doesn't mean you have actually developed distinct voices. There are a couple of sections that worked better for me - Molly's teenage voice is fresh and different, while the long email exchange near the end of the novel is a lot of fun - but that was about it.

The candy house, in this novel, is either the social media algorithms that tempt users in, believing they can get stuff for free while they're actually selling their own data, or a nostalgic 'memory palace' built by past generations to lure the young back towards a world they remember. Both are interesting themes (the latter rather more so than the former) but neither are adequately explored in The Candy House. Sadly, this just wasn't for me, and I think my interest in Egan's work has also come to an end.
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I loved this book so much that I was tweeting about how good it was when I’d only read 20% of it .I read a copy on NetGalley Uk prior to its publication in the Uk 
I tend to read without knowing much about the snook beforehand I was aware the story had elements of futuristic technology and covered a wide time frame but not much else 
I loved the way that we are introduced to different people during the book So that in the end we are left with a feeling of a web of inter-relations rather like the electronic web stories that underline the book in the form of Own your own Unconscious.This technology is gradually fed to us as we read and I particularly enjoyed this gradual understanding that dawned 
The individual people’s stories are  beautiful and we are left with glittering tableauxs oR still lives of tiny pieces of people’s life stories .I particularly enjoyed the woman who steals things from people she knows and then displayed them as art .We see snap shots of her life as we do if other characters as they pass through both their own lives and those of others .We see the links the meet ups ,the relationships and in some cases how these individuals influence each other’s lives .
I particularly empathised with the character who after a successful youth is stalked by the possibility of not being able to continue to innovate in later life and with the mother who mourns her children as they pass onto adulthood and are no longer the children who were so very needy
I loved the way the author can switch her focus and consequently those of her readers from
The tiny intricate to the wide population focus 
The author has such a perceptive view of how people think
,her characters personalities radiate from the page and are instantly recognisable as part of the human condition 
I personally would have liked more about the Own your own unconscious technology in the book however o did also enjoy the light touch the author had at hinting at its effects without being direct about it ,it did seem an entirely possible ne t step from current day social media. 
I loved the description of the neurodivergant  character which I found entirely believable 
I had not read A visit to the Goon squad before reading it but after finishing I did go and buy a copy .The first book does explain some story lines on The Candy House that were left a little unclear or incomplete .I don’t think this affected my enjoyment or the reading experience but it was good to discover more about The General for example 

I’m summary this book is fabulous it is deep wide ranging whilst still being an enjoyable read .I would give the book 5/5 stars and recommend to readers who like a literary novel with a huge heart .The book is published in the Uk at the end of April 2022 and I am sure will be a huge success
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Jennifer Egan returns to the world of her Pulitzer Prize winning novel A Visit from the Goon Squad in her new novel The Candy House. The Candy House revisits the same characters and their children and hangers on and is delivered in the same connected short story style that jumps around in time and occasionally plays with different structural forms and narrative styles. While music was the uniting theme in the original book, this one ties things together with considerations of memory and connectedness.
Egan opens with Bix Bouton, a multimillionaire who made his money from commercialising the internet. Bix is looking for inspiration for the next big thing and through a range of circumstances finds it – a technology that allows people to upload their memories to an external device which is marketed as “Own Your Unconscious”. As the technology develops it allows people to share their memories on line and explore different events from others’ points of view. But this book is not about that technology. Egan is not interested in exploring all of the ethical and moral implications of ‘Own Your Unconscious’, rather she wants to use it as a device to drive some of the drama and to highlight her thematic concerns. And in some stories it does not impinge on the story telling at all.
Despite going for a thematic coherence, Egan is not able to recapture the spirit of her earlier book. In fact by going over some of the stories again, this feels like a bit of a retread rather than something new. Much like the band reunion that gets organised in one of the later stories that brings many of the characters together. And there are so many characters and relationships that it is hard to keep track. But as in any collection like this some characters and stories stand out more brightly than others.
Fans of A Visit from the Goon Squad (and there are plenty) will enjoy catching back up with the characters from that book and their complicated, interconnected lives. And while going forward well into the future, there is also plenty of additional backstory for some of the main characters. But, after the fascinating shift to historical fiction in Manhattan Beach, and despite the new thematic concerns, this still feels like a backward step.
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I loved this book since the first pages and it was a sort of epiphany as I discovered a great author.
It's a very dense and intense book, there's plenty of food for thought and there's a lot of story.
Everything works and I can find no fault: storytelling, style of writing, character and plot development.
I will surely read the other books by this author.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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I’m a bit lost for words for this immense book, and can’t get much further than ‘Wow, Jennifer Egan’s brain.’ 

The incredible range of socio-cultural-tech material on which she effortlessly philosophises would be an achievement in any conventional novel. But the form puts it in a league of its own. It’s the same linked stories method as ‘A visit from the goon squad’ but even more ambitious - switching between past and near-future, and with even more characters. If that wasn’t enough, there’s a fascinating Philip K Dick-type scenario at the centre of the narrative, namely a new technology for externalising the unconscious and memories in an online mass consciousness. Phew.    

It’s a complex and demanding read, in a range of forms, with multiple interwoven narratives and themes that can be hard to follow. Assiduous readers might wish to diagram all the relationships and narrative connections to keep track. Or, as I did, they might just abandon themselves to the thrill of the ride, and marvel at Jennifer Egan’s amazing brain.
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Just as good as  'A Visit From The Goon Squad', if not better. It is imaginative, daring, dazzling and original. 

Good part of the fun and intrigue come from the puzzle of connections between the huge cast of characters. They are all somehow related to one another and many a Goon Squad favourite makes a comeback (I would really recommend reading that one first). Admirably, the fact that we have around 15 main characters doesn't make them less alive or engaging - almost all of their stories become engrossing within the space of a few pages. 

The writing is outstanding. The plot can't be summarised, but raises interesting questions about technology, memory and privacy. If I would have to be critical on one point it would perhaps be the memory externalisation device that plays a central role in the plot but the repercussions of which in the real world could have been explored more (although that probably would have shifted attention away from the characters who take centre stage). 

If there is ever a third part (or a prequel, why not?) I would definitely read it.
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I was lucky enough to read this early, with thanks to NetGalley.  
On one hand, I thoroughly enjoyed the rich variety of characters & it's twisting & turning story.  It's richly written & the story is incredibly interwoven & enjoyable to read.  These characters are largely brilliant and so fun to learn more about.
But and it's a big but, the final part of the book takes a frankly bizarre & odd twist, which throws the book off course and it never recovers for me.  I won't disclose anything here, but even a day after I finished it, I'm am frankly still stumped by it.
But make up your own mind on this one.
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Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher and the author for an advance copy for an honest review.

I had read Jennifer Egan's previous novel, A Visit From the Goon Squad, almost 10 years ago, but I'll be honest and I don't remember much of it. If you remember the characters from that novel, some appear in this book again!

I wasn't sure what to expect from this novel, and I did enjoy it overall, but I found a few bits a little confusing, and also wasn't keen on the section that was set like an email chain. I think I enjoyed the premise more than the execution at a few points, and I was glad that I finished, but I had hoped there would be a more impactful ending, like a Black Mirror episode.
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Having studied A Visit From The Goon Squad, it was a delight to find here again some of the characters of that novel. Egan, a master of the exploration of the novel!
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I really enjoyed [book:A Visit from the Goon Squad|7331435] from Jennifer Egan so I was very keen to read The Candy House, which has been called a "sibling novel" by some and a sequel by others. The structure of both novels is similar, featuring a cast of characters (many reappearing in Candy House from Goon Squad) whose lives and stories overlap and intersect, sometimes very clearly and others more obliquely. 

The world inhabited by the characters features new technology developed by the first character introduced, Bix Bouton, which allows people to externalise their memory via a process called Own Your Unconscious, to be later uploaded to a collective, visible and explorable to all other users. The novel explores the ways in which this technology informs the ways in which people interact with their past and future selves, as well as with each other. I liked the way James Poniewozik put it in his NY Times review: "[Egan] is interested in describing social technology as a lived environment. She doesn’t construct a master story arc around Own Your Unconscious and its spinoffs; instead, they’re just a fact of this world, part of the stuff that goes on in the background."

This is a densely interwoven set of stories; I read this on the Kindle app on an iPad, and found that I wished I had a hard copy so that I could jump back and forth and remind myself of the connections between characters and plotlines. But yet I felt that Egan was always in control - it never spun off its axis.

Overall: an enjoyable, chewable, thought-provoking read. Here's hoping Egan births a new sibling again soon.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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An absolute tour-de-force of a novel, this extraordinary work asks questions of reality, consciousness and our grip on our own personal narratives, and will leave you breathless: both at the scale of the stories covered and the literary skills on display within its pages.
At one point in the book two characters fling synonyms at each other, struggling for the correct, most powerful and accurate words to describe their reality, which is neatly analogous with attempts to define this book. Part romance, part family epic, part science fiction thriller, part political commentary on our image and technology obsessed culture, Egan shifts deftly between narrative styles: at one point the tale is even picked up in a series of tweets. Told as a set of connected vignettes or short stories, which gradually reveal their links over decades, the main arc follows tech mogul Bix Boulton (who appears as a minor character in Egan’s 2011 Pulitzer-winning novel, “A Visit from the Goon Squad”, which is described as this book’s ‘sibling’) and his fledgling service ‘Own Your Unconscious’, which allows you to download, store and review all your life’s memories on a hard drive – and also access the memories of others, assuming you’re willing to pay the price of sharing your own thoughts, feelings and histories with the world. Egan’s description of this service is so plausibly on point that you’d be forgiven for wondering if it already exists – or not being that surprised when Meta inevitably introduces it later this year. Those who prefer privacy and resist uploading their memories are outcast: but have they got it right? As with the moral learned from Hansel and Gretel’s fairy story cottage which lends this novel its title, nothing in life comes for free. The links between the two books make this the perfect excuse to revisit Egan’s stunning earlier work, then read this immediately afterward: approach with a clear head and an open mind and prepare to be blown away.

Featured in the April issue of Cambridge Edition Magazine
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