The Echo Chamber by John Boyne, 2021.
Reviewed by Ulla Hånde.
A satirical helter skelter novel of a dysfunctional family, suitable for a reading group.
The Irish well-known writer John Boyne born in 1971 writes for adults as well as younger readers. Many have heard of «The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas» for young readers. This adult novel, is Boyne’s 13th, for adults. John Boyne has a special quote that many, including myself, may relate to:
There’s things that happen in a person’s life that are so scorched in the memory and burned into the heart that there’s no forgetting them. Sitting around miserable all day won’t make you any happier.
In addition I know there comes a time when you must move on with your life, because life includes good and bad experiences. I could not have agreed more with Boyne.
Boyne is a master with humor and sharp observation. Within the echo chamber of social media, a few offending messages will start a firestorm.
In this day and age, few people can live without their mobile phone, they are obsessed. A story of the term FOMO – fear of missing out. Social media is important and all about getting “likes”, or is it? In this story we really learn how it can mess up with our life as well. The story is about the Cleverley family of five: the three teenage children, i.e. Nelson, Elizabeth and Achilles. The father is George and mother Beverley. Both parents have love affairs, not knowing of each others at first. The children are privileged which they do not see, though very different. They are lazy, prefer living at home, but struggling with how to live their upcoming adult life. The oldest Nelson (23) struggles with women, lies about his occupation. Elizabeth has a bohemian boyfriend who tries to convince her that they can save lepra people in Indonesia. Achilles (the youngest) lies that his dad is dead and convinces others that he is broke in order to receive major donations.
Through humor and absurdity we learn how relying on the virtual world can point in many directons: happiness, vulnerability, dependency, intimidation, etc. Another line from the writer: «To err is human but to really mess things up – you only need a phone.»
I had many laughs and recognitions as I enjoyed this story of our present times.