Cover Image: The Candy House

The Candy House

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If Time was the oppressor in A Visit from the Goon Squad, then Big Tech (aka the internet and social media) is surely the villain in The Candy House but, unlike Time, it is far more seductive. So, when Bix (Egan revisits most of her old characters from the first book, as well as introducing their children) creates tech that can capture our consciousness, allowing people to share their most intimate memories and feelings, it is a huge success. Egan explores how this works in a society that has become increasingly fragmented IRL, how some people try to escape it, and how others capitalise or weaponise the new capabilities. 
Egan's ability to write characters, in her inimitable style of intercepting and interlocking timelines and relationships, gives these two books their unique quality, but I felt that this second book was not quite as engaging as the first. Certainly the characters are intricate and credible, and Egan writes a great plot, especially given the complexity of the relationships between the characters, but I thought she was stretching a bit in this novel, to go one further than the internet/music conflict that we had in AVFTGS. Lulu's text/tweet story of her undercover spy assignment also read like a drug-fueled paranoid fantasy of Roxy's - I was near the end of it before I realised that we were supposed to take it seriously - and the very last series of communications that set up the iconic meet of Scotty, Bosco, Lulu, Jazz, Jocelyn and the Salazars at Lou Kline's old place, to create an intergenerational multimedia event, felt forced to say the least. 
I'm not sure that any sane, intelligent human needs warning that our current use of technology, and particularly our use of social media, is exceedingly bad for us (there is very much a burgeoning trend for people to undergo "digital detox"), and so the fairytale warnings of the evils of a candy house (urban dictionary definition, a drug den), are hardly necessary - but Egan still weaves a mesmerising tale that will bear multiple re-readings, and reaffirms that only fiction gives us the "absolute freedom [to roam] through the human collective".

My thanks to Netgalley for the ARC of this book.
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“Knowing everything is too much like knowing nothing; without a story, it’s all just information.”

A Visit From The Goon Squad, but make it the dystopian consequences of social media taken to its extreme. We’ve read this all before of course, but through interlinked characters and storytelling devices that once again change by the chapter (flashback, instruction manual, epistolary, email chain) the Pulitzer Prize-winning storyteller weaves - and weaves is the word - a cautionary, immersive, redemptive narrative whole.

It may not quite capture the sheer magic of its predecessor - in part down to its by now well-trod subject matter - but there are few writers out there like Jennifer Egan. Another one to get lost in.
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This was a very disturbing but good read.

Thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish and could not get enough of.

This is a must read for anyone who enjoys a good thriller!!
Absolutely loved the characters, the plot, the tension -  impossible to put it down.
Certainly recommended!
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An interesting look at where we are going with the advancements of technology and some thought-provoking ideas about when have we gone too far.
Overall, I thought this novel was so cleverly written but I just didn't enjoy it. The plot didn't engage me and the characters just weren't complex enough. They felt quite two-dimensional. It's such a pity because I wanted to love thus and couldn't wait to read this. 
I am looking forward to reading other re iews and discussing thus once it is published.
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The Candy House is an extraordinary achievement, quite dazzling. The interlinked characters, the big ideas and the narrative energy is both impressive and, more importantly, very enjoyable. Reading other people’s reviews, I see that characters from A Visit from the Goon Squad appear here, which despite having read the latter, (albeit a long time ago), I had absolutely no awareness of. It didn’t affect my enjoyment of The Candy House... and maybe it’s time for a reread of the earlier novel.
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A revelation. An engrossing read, intellectually stimulating and thoroughly entertaining novel. I found myself moved almost to tears, and laughing out loud whilst reading The Candy House, a title which kept me wondering in the best possible way. There are three references to candy in the book, and all three are of course pertinent to the narrative... a narrative which does not have a starting point and a final destination per se (although there is a gathering of strands). The novel is a series of self-contained chapters which move in time not chronologically from the 1960s to 2040 or so and posit a post social-media society which has gone deeper into other forms of technological connectivity and accessing (via externalisation!) of memories, personal or collective... characters appear, disappear, reappear... stories are pursued, abandoned, recalled... 
This reader found herself caught in the particular problems/stories presented from the very beginning, and did not mind when they were followed by an apparently unconnected chapter written in a totally different tone, from a different viewpoint. The quirky writing kept me on board, online, on pointe.... I was trying to use my own brain to  remember the difference between the Mandala and Mondrian organisations.... who was who in the scheme of things... Bix Bouton's technological genius v Miranda Kline's theoretical insights (both finding solutions in unlikely places), Lulu, Ames, Hannah, Jocelyn, Chris, Colin, JoJo.... the gallery of characters is big and memorable (Lulu is a favourite, as is Salazar's grandmother), the range of relationships and psychologies, equally so, the dilemmas (personal, societal, political) important, poignant, yet everything presented in what I can only describe as absorbingly interesting, never boring and always with a hint of (or full-on!) humour, with many a slight of hand. This house of candy, is very very attractive, dangerously so. Totally worth reading and pondering about.

With many thanks to the publishers via NetGalley for an opportunity to read and review this great novel.
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I'm writing this review in-between bouts of screaming because this book is so good I can't stop screaming.

How. Does. She. Do. This.

A swirling array of voices that carry you along so fast you almost can't keep up, but you do because it's rich and glorious and smart, and oh my god, this book. It's a matryoshka doll of a novel, but the dolls are worlds, and they are colliding and splintering and, oh my god, this book.

It's human beings banging into each other, looking for connection, fucking up, being alive.

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I absolutely loved this novel. Although I had read A Visit From The Goon Squad 11 years ago, I didn’t remember it and the characters that reappeared here weren’t familiar to me but that didn’t dampen my enjoyment at all. This is more a breadcrumb trail than a novel, a series of interconnected short stories leading you on to the next one, reintroducing characters along the way over the course of many decades and only at the very end bringing us somewhere close to where we started. There are a dizzying array of styles and character viewpoints used here and I’m glad I could read it quickly as it’s a lot to keep in your head but it’s an exhilarating ride. Highly recommended and thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
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Where to start? Fans of A Visit From the Goon Squad will not be disappointed (in fact a few of the characters from that book do pop up here - though I don't think it's necessary to read it first). 

This is a big, rambling beautifully complex book which does a LOT of jumping back and forth through time and place. Characters are linked, crossover and intersect throughout the book and each chapter is told from the POV of a different person. The main overarching theme - a tech entrepreneur who has invented a means to download and store personal memories to a giant linked database that anyone can access - allows Egan to explore love, family, connection and the impact that technology is bringing to all of us.
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I thought The Candy House, Jennifer Egan’s follow up to A Visit from the Goon Squad just wonderful. I would, however, hesitate to recommend it to those who haven’t read Goon Squad but since The Candy House doesn’t come out until late April, there’s plenty of time people! 

There is a large cast of characters and, like in the Goon Squad, most get a chapter set in the past, present or future. Egan revisits some of her older characters or introduces their offspring, building connections. There are new characters too and I read the book closely to keep up with who is who, delighted when I picked up connections or had a vague recollection of reading about them before (it’s been eight or nine years since I read the Goon Squad). Memory, connectivity, authenticity and storytelling are some of the major themes of the novel and these play out on several levels. On the one hand, in The Candy House of the future, social media technology has advanced to allow people to upload their whole consciousness and explore their own and other people’s memories, for good and ill (and Egan explores both without getting too bogged down with exposition and tech speak). On the other, I loved how the book played with my own memories of the Goon Squad, scant as they are. I resisted the temptation to dig the old paperback up, for now but there was a prevailing feeling of familiarity, as if I knew these characters and cared about what happens to them. 

Several days after finishing The Candy House, I’m still tempted to reread both books and am also still enveloped in a warm glow when I think about it all. Inventive, playful, multi-layered, just wonderful. 

My thanks to Little Brown Book Group and Netgalley for the opportunity to read The Candy House.
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Although the premise sounded just my cup of tea, the execution somehow fell flat; I have not read "A Visit from the Goon Squad" by the same author, which might have been helpful.
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Of course, I loved this book, eventually. It took me a while to get into, which surprised me, as I've been easily hypnotised by Egan's writing in the past. In The Candy House, the character, Bix Bouton researches a way of storing human consciousness. Who thinks up these kinds of plots? I'll tell you who: Jennifer Egan. And it's only the likes of Egan who could make it work, what with all the switching of narrative viewpoints. If you know anything about Egan, you'll know how much she likes a lot of characters, and a bit of experimentation with the structure, but if you've read 'The Goon Squad' (do, it's great) you'll recognise most of the characters. So you won't be surprised at the way she handles time, and the way she uses chapters as linked short stories and contemporary 'tweets' to create a totally compulsive read. 

To make something like this novel work - to push the message (not a new one, by the way, but still) about the perils of social media, you have to be an excellent writer, and Egan comes at this from a psychological rather than technological perspective.

Concentrate and you'll enjoy this one.
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I have always admired how the author makes it easy for us to feel like we know the characters and I often consider their next move before reading further. The future developments in technology and fusion with our consciousness were believable, and the practical and philosophical concerns played out with ease. I enjoyed the twist and connections of the plot. Engaging characters, story and prose!
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I’ve read and loved Jennifer Egan’s previous books but this time I found myself rather stuck and dispirited half way through. My reading speed slowed and highly unusually for me I decided not to finish it. As a result I don’t want to be too critical or detailed in my feedback because I think that would be unfair. 
The idea behind the work is an important and ambitious one to convey. It is focused on the creators of the modern digital social world we inhabit as human beings and how that digitisation has impacted us all. It s a great concept but fails in the execution as an enjoyable read for me as there were simply too many interwoven lives and to fractured an experience which simply did not resonate for me personally.
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Form meets content in this novel, where Jennifer Egan considers a world in which technology allows us externalise and store our consciousness and memories, then share them with others. The novel proceeds chronologically into the near future, with a large number of characters and styles and as the reader we are allowed into each consciousness in turn, in our own version of sharing their memories and consciousness.

It is dazzling and Egan is an excellent writer. 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 whole is wonderful. There were some difficulties even so - I wish I had re-read A Visit from the Goon Squad before I began The Candy House. I read it many years ago and had forgotten most of the plot and characters, who re-appear in this novel. I would have appreciated it more if I had re-read it I think. And I did find it hard to keep track of the characters and their stories as we moved onto look at their children's stories and also the interconnections between people who initially appear disparate. I wish I'd kept a log of which character was in which part.

But overall this novel is a tour de force. Thank you very much to Netgalley and the publishers for a review copy.
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Opening in 2010, Jennifer Egan’s The Candy House explores our ever-growing obsession with life online in a similar manner to A Visit from the Goon Squad’s take on the music industry. Although I wouldn't call this a sequel, fans of Goon Squad might want to think about rereading it as several of its main protagonists and their children make an appearance.

Aged 40, Bix Boulton is unsure of the next stage for his hugely successful company, Mandala, until he has an epiphany at a discussion he’s attended incognito leading to his next project, Collective Consciousness, which allows subscribers access to the memories and experiences of others after they’ve uploaded their own. From that meeting radiates out a series of connections which will criss-cross over the next quarter of a century as Collective Consciousness expands and a counter movement of individuals determined to elude an online identity grows into an organisation almost as large as Mandala. 

That synopsis hardly scratches the surface of Egan’s complex, ambitious novel with its differing narrative styles, some fragmented, that jump from character to character, pulling the threads of connection together, sometimes more obliquely than others. It’s far from an easy novel and there was one section in particular that didn’t work for me, but it’s certainly an impressive one with a decent helping of dry humour to help it along, and its themes are pertinent. It’s a novel that would certainly repay rereading,
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I am in awe of Jennifer Egan’s writing. Loved ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’ and was anxious that ‘The Candy House’ wouldn’t match it. I needn’t have worried. This novel is brimming with ideas and takes on the world of technology and how it has seeped into the very fabric of our lives. It’s a broad canvas with many players, but Egan skilfully navigates this, without falling into the trap of making the novel episodic. There was only one chapter I wasn’t keen on, which I think had appeared elsewhere as a short story. And for that moment, I struggled a bit, but it was eventually tied into the narrative, so  just a brief blip for me. An exciting read, and a story that resonates.
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A book about memory and technology, very much in the style of A Visit from the Goon Squad, so if you enjoyed that novel, you are likely to enjoy this (although there is no PowerPoint chapter!). Egan uses chapters from multiple viewpoints over different times to create a collage of stories, which can feel forced and artificial for some chapters, quite hard work to follow sometimes (remembering who is related to who), but works overall for me. A good read, but not an easy read.

The Candy House is a sequel of sorts to A Visit from the Goon Squad, but as I had read this more than ten years ago, this came to me from a feeling of familiarity with the names, rather than storylines.

I received a Netgalley copy of this book, but this review is my honest opinion.
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I'm sorry but after reading a quarter of this book, I gave up. I couldn't seem to adjust to the constant jumping from one character and their story before it jumped again.
Perhaps others will do better.
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After reading Manhattan Beach I was keen to read another book by this talented author, but I did not expect such a visionary and imagative read. Definitely in the top five books I have read in 2021.
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