The Candy House by Jennifer Egan review – new tech, old wounds

This companion novel to A Visit from the Goon Squad, in which memories are uploaded and shared, explores the loneliness of hyper-connectivity

A visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan’s 2010 Pulitzer-winning rock’n’roll novel, felt like the beginning of something. It was a tale as gimmicky and restless as the smartphone era threatened to be. One chapter was written entirely in PowerPoint slides; another in textspeak (“if thr r children, thr mst b a fUtr, rt?”). The cast was a neon collision of kleptomaniacs, philanderers, It girls, autocrats and a guitar band called the Flaming Dildos. And the plot ricocheted like a browsing-addled brain. But if A Visit from the Goon Squad carried the promise of a grand wave of tech-inflected fiction, that literary trend never quite materialised. In an era of screen-curated selfhood, autofiction surged instead.

A dozen years on, and Egan’s cult novel now feels like the end of something, a kind of techno-optimist elegy: a study in time’s “incremental deflations”, and the loneliness of hyper-connectivity. It’s this sense of paradoxical isolation that Egan revisits in her new book. The Candy House is less a sequel to Goon Squad than a fraternal twin. Minor characters are thrust into the thick of things; formerly major characters make Hitchcockian cameos. As befits its title, The Candy House is a novel of Easter eggs – of hidden in-joke treats. It begs to be read alongside its more extroverted sibling, and to consider, in the space between them, the deflations – incremental and otherwise – of the last decade.

Continue reading...


Lessons by Ian McEwan review – life-and-times epic of a feckless boomer

McEwan takes aim at the postwar generation in this old-fashioned but generous and humane portrait of...

Read More >

The Furrows by Namwali Serpell review – bravura investigation of grief

A woman is haunted by the death of her little brother in this dark, destabilising fable about time a...

Read More >

The Great Mistake by Jonathan Lee review – the man who shaped New York

Blunders, bad luck and ever-yearning love in a novel about the extraordinary life and death of an un...

Read More >

Painting Time by Maylis de Kerangal review – a bravura achievement

A celebration of the art of trompe-l’œil confirms this French prize winner as one of our most gift...

Read More >

Angela O’Keeffe on Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles – and engaging with the art of awful men

The writer’s ingenious debut Night Blue is narrated by Australia’s most infamous and triumphant ca...

Read More >

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam review – an X-ray of America

This page-turning thriller about class and race in the midst of unfolding catastrophe explores stasi...

Read More >