Cover Image: The Candy House

The Candy House

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This is a beautiful novel. The various voices, from different characters, angles, timelines, all intersecting with each other as the characters navigate the reality of Own your Unconscious, give this book a very dreamlike quality. It is an interesting (and terrifying) outlook on social media and technology, but because of the format and variety of chapters, I found some parts better than others. The last quarter, which showcases many emails, was less engaging and felt like Egan was trying too hard to think outside of the box. The one with Chris and his algorithm was clever and funny. I liked some characters more than others. Overall though, it was thought provoking without being preachy, smart in a Black Mirror kind of way, and I found it very enjoyable.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to the author, the publisher and Netgalley for giving me this ebook in return for a review.
The Candy House by Jennifer Egan is, in my opinion going to be considered as good as her novel ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’, this is a writer who seems capable of anything and has no problems with a huge cast of characters or using incredibly experimental prose.
I read Goon Squad probably 10 years ago and I loved it at the time. I’d never read anything like it at the time, and whilst now I’ve read a few similar things, it was always the best.  But it is a long time ago and I was worried when I realised this was a sequel that I wouldn’t remember enough.  And I was right, whilst this book does stand alone, knowing Goon Squad a bit better than I did, is probably going to enhance your enjoyment.  So, I had vague memories of a girl who steals and a music industry boss and of course the short story written in powerpoint – total genius but that was about it.  The characters appear in the story but with a slight difference: those who were front and centre in GS have now been replaced by their friends or cousins or step siblings, so there is always a connection but we get to see a larger portion of the world.  By the end you get all the interconnections, and it is a lot of fun working out who is telling the story and who appears in this story and will also appear in the next?  I must say I am very tempted to back and re-read GS, in fact I’d like a copy of each sitting in front of me so I could dip in and out.
I guess what I’m really saying here is, I loved this book.  It isn’t a novel, there is a central theme, but no central character; many of them are changed by the events of the stories, and in a way it comes to a conclusion, an understanding of the central theme in a way a normal novel would in regards to a character.
The thing it shows is that Egan can do anything.  There is a vivid depth of thought and understanding; a crazy amount of creativity, a deep reflection on parenthood and technology.  We have stories told in first person, third person, second person, we have one told by two people, one in first person plural, an epistolary story; we have one by a person with ASC, we have ones that focus on an afternoon or an evening, a spy mission, one that reads like an except from a Judy Blume novel.  The variety is astounding.  There was genuinely not one I liked less – although I would say my favourite was Lincoln’s story, as I remember him from last time and I loved it.  His story could have been a novel and it would have been a major hit.  Lulu’s story is just as gripping.  There are people from every walk of life here, every class and colour, it feels inclusive and exciting.
Overall, this was such a joy to read and the only thing that I would have liked was a cast list – but that would have been a cheat because you’re supposed to remember who is who and how they are connected.  I highly, highly recommend this amazing work, I don’t think you’ll be let down, as long as you don’t mind a bit of experimentation!
Was this review helpful?
Too erudite for me at this point. I loved 'Goon Squad' so maybe I just need to be in the right frame of mind but found it very taxing to keep up with all the strands. Flashes of brilliance as to be expected always with this author but too much overall
Was this review helpful?
Wow, did I enjoy this book! I don't think I've ever read anything like The Candy House both in writing style and plot. I cannot do this book justice with words, I have no idea where to start and I don't want to spoil it because the beauty of this book is not only the clever plot and the huge array of different characters but also the way it is written and interwoven. 
As soon as I finished The Candy House, I wanted to read it all over again with a better understanding. I wanted to pay attention to all the details I feel I probably missed the first time round and to appreciate the cleverness of it all over again.
I know that this book will not be for everyone. For some it may be too disjointed but all I can say is stick with it.
Jennifer Egan's writing is brilliantly clever and I cannot imagine how complicated this book was to develop each individual character, their style of narrative, their story and connecting that to everyone else's. There are so many timelines to keep track of and I cannot imagine how brilliant Jennifer Egan's mind must be to come up with this concept.
It's a brilliantly unique book about being human. About relationships and our fascination with advancing technology and the moral question we should ask ourselves... Just because we can do something, does it mean we should?
I have no doubt that I'll pick this book up again some day soon and I really hope other readers enjoy it as much as I did; highly recommended!! 
---
Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and Jennifer Egan for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I must admit I did not finish this book. I am sure some will find it enjoyable. For me it had no purpose or aim but seemed to just wander with stories of different people. I found it annoying as you started to get into a characters story that it then switched to a different character. 
The premise sounded really great and just the sort of book I normally love but this was slow cumbersome and not very well executed.
Was this review helpful?
When I look back on my notes on A Visit from The Goon Squad (The Candy House by Jennifer Egan is Goon Squad II), I couldn’t come up with anything better than the publisher’s blurb.
I find myself in a similar position now, The Candy House is indeed a ‘spellbinding set of linked narratives.
Set some time in the near future, the next development in social media lifestyle has been the creation of a way to externalise memory, the ability to log all your memories on to a drive for future perusal by yourself and others, with all the expected and unexpected resultant issues and problems.
This is the thread that holds together the crazy, fantastical and insightful stories and activities of many of the Goon Squad characters and their offspring.
The Candy House is brilliant and difficult and incredible. The chapter where Lulu, Dolly’s daughter emails Kitty, the aging actor from the uproarious General scenes in The Goon Squad is fast and furious and smart and as good as it gets.
So, what was this about? read it, you must.
Was this review helpful?
Like A Visit from the Goon Squad, with which it shares some characters, The Candy House is a hugely impressive, virtuosic and satirical account of aspects of American life over recent and future decades. Its plot is impossible to summarise, but involves the sinister rise of technology/social media which allow people to access others' memories and feelings ("memory externalization"). Its sprawling and baggy and takes all kinds of risks in its shifts in style and tone.  It took me a bit of time to adapt to it but once I had, it really kept its hold on me. "Tongue-in-cheek nostalgia is merely the portal, the candy house if you will, through which we hope to lure in a new generation and bewitch them" - the warning is there.
Was this review helpful?
Are the internet, social media, and developing technologies like the witches house in Hansel and Gretel - look promising from the outside but trap people into a future they don’t want? In ‘The Candy House,’ Jennifer Egan explores this issue. 

Moving between different time periods from 1991 and approximately 2060: she builds up a picture of the future using fragments of people’s interconnected experience, or the ‘collective unconscious’, now commodified, stored and turned into data held and shared by a large tech company. People attempt to elude the reach of this technology, setting up proxies of their online presence, but others seek to help the government, having technology implanted in themselves to help them to spy on others. 

Whilst there are certainly sci-fi aspects to this novel, Egan cleverly spends much of her time focusing on human relationships, and the many things that can alter consciousness aside from technology (e.g. drugs, mental health problems, fakery). The stories build up and interconnect and she explores many different themes, including the dangers of viewing someone else’s memories and emotional reactions to events that are important to you. 

I only have two criticisms of this novel. The first is I didn’t like the main character in the first story of the novel, and not realising that the protagonists would change I did wonder if I’d be able to read the whole book. Luckily I persevered. Second due to the protagonist constantly changing I didn’t have a strong sense of wanting to find out what would happen and none of the characters got under my skin. That being said, I found this a very clever and engaging novel that I’d certainly recommend to others.
Was this review helpful?
The Candy House by Jennifer Egan 
I give this book 4 stars 

It's 2010, successful and brilliant tech entrepreneur Bix Bouton is desperate for a new idea. He's 40, with 4 kids when he stumbles into a conversation with mostly Columbia professors, one of whom is experimenting with downloading or "externalising" memory. Within a decade, Bix's new technology, Own Your Unconscious--that allows you access to every memory you've ever had, and to share every memory in exchange for access to the memories of others--has seduced multitudes. But not everyone…..

I haven’t read anything by this author before and didn’t realise this is connected to another book. 
This is a very clever and thought provoking book..The author is a brilliant storyteller who skilfully manages to interconnect and craft the story in a very unique way.The narrative structure is complex with a vast array of characters, a variety of voice styles and different time lines. Focussing on the power and pull of social media, your memory and our relationship with technology.lt’s a futuristic and scary glimpse of what could be possible and will definitely leave readers with a great deal to think and talk about. 
I must admit you need to concentrate while reading and l think l would benefit from a 2nd read of this.
With thanks to Netgalley,Jennifer Egan and Little, Brown Book Group UK, Corsair for my chance to read and review this book.
Was this review helpful?
I re-read—and re-loved—Goon Squad earlier this year, so I was hugely excited for The Candy House, which doesn’t disappoint. The number of characters, and the ways in which they overlap, can feel more overwhelming in this book, but I think that’s deliberate given its characters’ central concerns. It’s a joy to recognise familiar characters from previous vignettes or from Goon Squad, but it’s not *necessary*, so that you’re not stuck worrying that you might miss a “clue” that is crucial to your understanding or enjoyment. Egan is so, so good at talking about contemporary anxieties in a defamiliarised world! I only wish we got another Powerpoint chapter!
Was this review helpful?
'The Candy House' is another virtuosic novel comprised of interconnected stories from the author of 'A Visit from the Goon Squad' which features many of the same characters at different stages in their lives. I don't think you need to have read Jennifer Egan's previous novel to enjoy this one, but already knowing some of the characters adds to the enjoyment of these stories. 

Perhaps the central premise of this book is the development of technology which enables people to externalise their memories, meaning that they can firstly 'Own Your Unconscious' and then upload them to a 'Collective Consciousness' in exchange for access to everyone else's - a seductive premise (from which the novel takes its title, a reference to the irresistible 'candy houses' in fairytales such as Hansel and Gretel) but one which is obviously not without cost. This serves as an effective analogy for existing social media and our willingness to trade our freedom and privacy for dubious benefits, but :also works as a neat bit of speculative fiction in its own right. Egan's world-building is rich and imaginative as she fleshes out the repercussions of these developments and considers what it means to be authentic in a world increasingly devoid of secrets. 

As with 'A Visit from the Goon Squad', the structure of this novel is a huge part of its appeal, enabling us to encounter characters from different perspectives and allowing many pleasurable jolts of realisation as we discover different ways in which the stories are connected to each other. Egan's characterisation combines humour with real psychological acuity. 

Once again, Egan's writing is formally innovative - she adopts different narrative styles and perspectives for different stories; 'A Visit from the Goon Squad' memorably gave us one story told in the form of a PowerPoint presentation, while ' The Candy House' includes one story which unfolds exclusively in e-mails and another which takes the form of aphoristic second-person statements whose full significance we only grasp later on. I did find that some of the stories in the second half of the novel were harder to follow and I am not sure I have fully joined the dots on all of them - but that might also act as an incentive for a second reading. 

Overall, this a brilliantly enjoyable novel to read - thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me an ARC to review!
Was this review helpful?
The Candy House once again showcases Jennifer Egan's astonishing versatility and ventriloquistic fireworks. Revisiting many of the plot lines and characters of the Pulitzer-winning A Visit from the Good Squad, this novel is perhaps best enjoyed after a re-read of its precursor, but can stand alone just as well.  Each chapter is written in its own style, and it can be dizzying and discombobulating each time a new one begins, yet the task of unpicking where we are in time and which character is narrating and how they connect to everyone else we have met is surely the great pleasure of the book.  At the same time, Egan's meticulous representation of the intricacies of human interaction provides its own fascination. She is a unique talent and her work speaks to the 21st Century zeitgeist.
Was this review helpful?
'The Candy House' is not an easy book to summarise, because it doesn't have a clear 'purpose' or storyline.  It is structured as a series of interlinked short stories, with characters introduced in one story picking up the narrative viewpoint in the next.  It reminded me of a relay race, with the story passing from one character to another, never returning.  My problem with it is that the destination was never clear, even once it was reached.

The book is a sequel of sorts to Egan's novel 'A Visit from the Goon Squad', which I haven't read.  For much of the book I didn't think that mattered, but was more of problem in the penultimate section where events were repeatedly referred to that I can only assume happened in the previous book.  But I can't be sure or know how much my enjoyment might have been enhanced by having read the preceding book.  

Some of the stories I enjoyed more than others.  My favourite was the viewpoint of a neuro-atypical young man working at a tech company and in love with his (taken) coworker.  My least favourite was the penultimate section which was presented as a series of emails between different people.  Even if it hadn't been for the irritation of feeling like I wasn't 'in on it' having not read the previous novel, reading email is what I do all day at work.  I have no interest in reading a fictional set of generally quite boring correspondence between characters I don't even know. 

Egan is certainly a good writer and most of it is easy to read and engaging.  It was only really in the last quarter of the book that my irritation began to grow.  I didn't even mind the shifting narrators and 'linked short story' structure much - and I usually dislike that device.  Had there been a strong narrative thread with a clear 'message' and conclusion I would probably have lauded the novel as a rare example of a book where the technique actually worked.  So the changing of the storytelling perspective is done well, what isn't done well is being clear about the story they want to tell.

Much of the book is set in an alternative version of the present or in the near future, where technology exists enabling people to 'externalise' all their memories and upload them.  The tech has proved popular as a treatment for dementia, trauma and head injuries, as a way to solve crime, to assuage curiosity, and as a way for tech companies to gather data it can sell to advertisers.  Some people, known as 'eluders', strongly dislike this concept and do all they can to evade it.  The novel seems to be an exploration of the impacts of that technology, but there is no 'beginning, middle and end' to it.  

So it's well written and mostly pleasurable to read in the moment, but ultimately left me unsatisfied.  I'm a person who needs a good linear plot to really enjoy a book (with, as with any rule, a few rare exceptions).  I didn't get that here.  I would happily read another book by Egan, provided I had more confidence in a clear cut plotline - there's no doubt she's a good writer, it just happens that here I was less enthralled with what she was writing out.  Readers who enjoy novels with themes about this type of technology, might enjoy Dave Eggers 'The Circle and 'The Every' which have similar themes but better storylines.
Was this review helpful?
This is the sequel to the talented Jennifer Egan's The Goon Squad, with many of the characters from that book making an appearance here. In this thought provoking novel set in the near future, going back and forth in time, Egan picks up on threads from our contemporary world with the increasingly worrying trend of people providing details of their lives on social media without any thoughts of what it might mean to give up their privacy. The title The Candy House is a reference to the Hansel and Gretel fairytale to highlight and underline the fact that nothing comes for free. This is a challenging, demanding and imaginative read that requires close concentration from the reader, there are what can feel like an overwhelming cast of multigenerational characters inhabiting stories in multiple formats which intersect and connect, each with their own distinct voices and perspectives. Bix Bouton is an inordinately successful tech entrepreneur with his Mandala tech company.

A restless Bix in his search for new ideas listens to ideas, thoughts and visions of others, coming up with Own Your Conscious which makes it possible for people to upload and share all their memories and thoughts, in return they can access the memories of others. This has proved to be wildly appealing to huge numbers of people, lured by the Candy House, but not everyone is enamoured or convinced by this, they are known as the eluders, their scepticism having them trying to live off the grid, many of whom use proxies, the Counters are employed to identify and track them down. Egan thoughtfully explores the fundamental question of what it is to human and the too high price and repercussions attached to giving up our privacy, in her multilayered and complex stories and study of lives through time.

Egan shows how humans have an overwhelming and innate need and determination to connect with each other in this enthralling novel. This is not a perfect read, not every story captured my interest, but I liked how each story is part of a much bigger picture that moves the narrative towards the conclusion. A book that draws on the earlier The Goon Squad, geared to making us think about where our world is moving, and which touches on issues of memory, family, love and privacy, which I think will be appreciated by fans of the author and many other readers. Highly recommended. Many thanks to the publisher for an ARC.
Was this review helpful?
I found myself being drawn into each story in turn and being frustrated when we broke off and moved to the next, but overall the story is wonderful
Was this review helpful?
A visit from the Goon Squad is one of my favourite books, so I couldn't wait for this book, a sequel to that. I don't think this would work as a stand-alone, a lot of the emotional payoff is from our involvement with these characters from 'the former.
The Candy House returns to the lovely characters of 'A visit from the Goon Squad', in absolutely delightful continuations, all of them older, most of them wiser, all still deeply compelling. Her style of writing is as unique as ever, a swirling combination of her sharp insights, incisive humour and when you least expect it, tear-jerking moments of poignancy. 'While the earlier book revolved around the music industry, in this book, Egan trains her perspicacious gaze on the tech industry. One would think this is an industry that needs no more analysis, but when it's Egan, it's a completely fresh perspective, and so thought-provoking. Egan experiments brilliantly with formats, and narratives, in ways that would seem gimmicky if done by a lesser author. Drop everything, and read this.
Was this review helpful?
I enjoyed the Candy House with its Black Mirror-esque take on the evolution of technology and social media as we seek to ever more document our lives and peer into those lives of others. It’s very easy to see how seductive such a tool would be to be able to look back over past events with clarity, re-play conversations with loved ones, and even see things from their perspective. The implications of this are then told across numerous different inter-connected narratives, all with unique voices and different stylistic choices. 
Where I struggled is that there are so many different voices, the stories sometimes feeling quite messy and hard to keep track of. I can well imagine that is exactly the point, to mirror what the future of social media may well look and feel like, however, it did mean I found it hard to keep track of who was who and how the previous section connected to the one I was reading. I do know this is a sequel of sorts to The Good Squad, featuring some of the same characters so if you’ve read that then you may find it easier to keep track of the various threads.
Was this review helpful?
Enjoyed the author’s previous book, but not this one. Long-winded and meandering. Few interactions between different characters even when when over halfway through. Love it when strands are woven together, but this one appeared to be missing a loom.
Was this review helpful?
I read A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan shortly after it came out and liked it a lot; one of those books I've certainly recommended to people over the years, even though I rather struggle now to recall exactly what the book was about, its themes and the like. I just remember enjoying it and thinking it was clever and polished.

Which, without wishing to overstate the parallels - not least regarding my future likely lack of memory - is perhaps how I can imagine feeling about The Candy House some years down the line. I definitely enjoyed it, and found myself wanting to read more, though there were certainly times I worried I was missing something, or that in some way I was proving deficient as a reader, failing to follow the thread being laid out for me as diligently as the author might hope. Part of this 'fractured' feeling is, I think, rather deliberate on the author's part; other reviews will doubtless handily summarise the plot - if that's even the right word - or the sprawling array of major and minor characters who populate the book. And the more I thought about it, and also questioned my own skills as an attentive reader, the more I came to the conclusion that this is a book partly about what the internet has done and is doing to us, about how we act and interact, about what we value and are taught to uphold. 

In places it's a bit like the literary equivalent of a Twitter splurge - or whatever is one's social media of choice - absorbing, distracting, verging on the gossipy as we glimpse what's going on in many different existences, simultaneously fascinating and inconsequential, branches going every which way as we are offered a dizzying selection of things to process (and perhaps prove unable to recall an improbably short time later). Or to put it another way, it felt a little like being Facebook friends with 'The Candy House', bits and pieces and digital chunks of 'experiences' and 'information' to which we are granted access as characters emerge, drift away, then crop up again as 'People you might also know'; a somewhat untidy, messy mosaic that approximates to Life in the Third Decade of the 21st Century.

In fact, Egan delves into a few years beyond our present time, throwing in some utterly plausible future technologies which in the book end up shaping how we (could) live, much as actual social media has relentlessly burrowed its insidious way in to our daily lives in the past decade or so. Most of us could never have imagined this before the technology arrived and became commonplace, and there's an interesting side-plot involving people, known as 'eluders', who seek to keep their experiences as their own, away from prying collective-consciousness eyes.

I'm not sure if this is anything more than a jumbled series of comments, but overall, I certainly liked it. My takeaway feeling upon completion was almost that of feeling a need to re-read with the benefit of knowing what was coming up; which could be viewed as either a compliment or irritant depending on your perspective about these things.

With thanks to NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchanged for an unbiased review.
Was this review helpful?
I’m going to be honest, I just didn’t get this.

I’m sure it’s going to be huge, but for me I just didn’t follow it, found it all too confusing in both plot and structure and struggling with the multiple narratives and characters and lack of clear storyline.

I’m sure Jennifer Egan is a genius, I’m just not sure I’m smart enough to understand her work.
Was this review helpful?