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Book Review: Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan

M BLast Seen: Dec 1, 2023 @ 6:04pm 18DecUTC

29th November 2023 | 3 Views

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Length: 243 pages

Genre: Contemporary, Fiction

Rating: 4/5

The book introduces the narrator, Ava, an Irish national living in Hong Kong teaching English to the elite kids. Ava meets Julian, a rich English banker and the two of them enter into a ‘no strings attached’ arrangement where Ava moves into Julian’s apartment. While Julian is away on a work trip to London, Ava meets Edith, an ambitious lawyer towards whom she develops a myriad of feelings. The book rightly portrayed the different emotions a person in their early twenties might go through and showed that the world is not how you perceive it to be. Most of it is from Ava’s point of view and we later find out that her point of view isn’t exactly what she portrays it to be and that there is definitely more than what meets the eye. The book starts off slow and it is quite hard to understand the emotional turmoil the narrator goes through on every page, but as the book progresses, it all makes a little more sense. Ava shows clear hostility towards Julian, with whom she lives but ends up choosing him over others at almost every juncture.

“You keep describing yourself as this uniquely damaged person when a lot of it is completely normal. I think you want to feel special – which is fair, who doesn’t – but you won’t allow yourself to feel special in a good way, so you tell yourself you’re especially bad.” This has to be one of my most favorite quotes from the book, as Edith pinpoints exactly why the main character wasn’t very likable. The narrator strives to be the ‘outsider’ that everybody finds odd and convinces herself that she is not worthy of love. It was very one-track and the open ending was very predictable as well, as neither of the endings would have really given the reader the catharsis that the author was going for. There isn’t much movement in the plot as most of the book mostly involves the central character and her thoughts on every single move of every single character in the book. Julian’s character development was so subtle, that one almost misses it. Even so, it is better than the unrealistic ones that we often find in movies. Edith, by far the most likable person in the book was written as a typical Asian daughter, who strove to attain her family’s approval. She was shown to be strong and bold and her softer side is later unraveled in the book. Edith makes very reasonable demands and shows emotions that every reader can relate to and sympathize with. Ava goes through so many dilemmas as she is unable to make the choice that is right in front of her, that she’s spoken about throughout the book. This leads us to think that due to her self-destructive nature, she does not want herself to feel the way she does and hence makes the choice that would allow her to wallow in her self-pity. It is extremely frustrating to see her do the wrong thing time and again, but that is a mark of great writing. One honorable mention about the book is the subtle political commentary made it easy to read and combine it with the plot. As someone who has read and enjoyed Sally Rooney’s works, it is a little hard to make the comparison but I can understand why it is made as both writers bank on human emotions and how people in their early years navigate through their lives. Rooney, according to me, makes her characters a little more loveable and makes sure her readers are attached even to their flaws, which I did not see in Dolan’s work.

The novel consisted of many loopholes, but the great writing made up for it. The dry humor gave me a good chuckle and made it an enjoyable experience for me, albeit it annoyed me a little to see the narrator give up on all her feminist values repeatedly. The writing makes up for the lack of progression in the plot and motivates the reader to finish it to see how the author ends it.

M BLast Seen: Dec 1, 2023 @ 6:04pm 18DecUTC




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