Saturday 14 August 2021


>> Read all Stella's reviews.


The Echo Chamber by John Boyne    {Reviewed by STELLA}
A satire shouting in the face of social media. John Boyne takes down the scroll, click, comment and ‘like’ culture with his latest novel, The Echo Chamber. It’s almost theatrical in its undertaking. Curtain rises. Centre stage, the self-professed ‘national treasure’ media chat-show host George Cleverley, has got himself into a bit of bother with a tweet. Stage right, his wife Beverly, an important novelist (actually, her assistants write her books — to her instruction, of course) is having a romance with a Ukrainian dancer she met on Dancing with the Stars and is currently looking after (feeding it after-dinner mints!) her lover’s tortoise, Ustym Karmaliuk. Imagine her there on the stage popping the chocolates into the mouth of the 115-year-old pet cradled in her arms. Stage left, the three adult Cleverley children. First up — Nelson, seeing a psychiatrist (who just happens to be having an affair with Dad) because he only feels comfortable in uniform (nurse, police officer, etc) — uniforms which get him into some extreme situations and have unfortunate repercussions.  Next up — Elizabeth, a rich ‘liberal’, tweeting her good deeds with her boyfriend, who’s keen to go off to a leper colony for the social media cache, on one hand, and with the other has a handle known as TruthasSword — a super-troller. Her main ambition is to get the blue tick. And last, but not least, the youngest, Achilles, who cons men out of thousands by seducing them and then switching to blackmail. The stage is set for mayhem, wickedly funny scenes and some savage exploration of social media, as well as the upper-middle class. Boyne doesn’t hold back, and his characters and the scenarios are absurdist yet also remarkably normal. Affairs are commonplace, people are remarkably seduced by their alter-egos, boredom can lead to nonsensical behaviour, and our adherence to that little rectangle of plastic is quite surreal. Enjoy this novel for the satire it is and the sheer hilarity of watching this highly unlikable family turn tighter and tighter circles to patch up their wrongs all comes crashing down. When the curtain falls it’s not all bad, and the Cleverleys have learnt a thing or two about the pitfalls of this brave new world, and maybe they might even be a little bit happier with themselves and each other. 

No comments:

Post a Comment