Title: Exciting Times
Author: Naoise Dolan
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
When you leave Ireland aged 22 to spend your parents’ money, it’s called a gap year. When Ava leaves Ireland aged 22 to make her own money, she’s not sure what to call it, but it involves:
– a badly-paid job in Hong Kong, teaching English grammar to rich children;
– Julian, who likes to spend money on Ava and lets her move into his guest room;
– Edith, who Ava meets while Julian is out of town and actually listens to her when she talks;
– money, love, cynicism, unspoken feelings and unlikely connections.
Exciting times ensue.
Exciting Times is a book I’ve found hard to review. but ultimately I can see why it’s caused such a stir and is compared to Sally Rooney’s work.
I liked Naoise Dolan’s writing – it felt a little pretentious at times, but not overly so. Ava as a character is deadpan, funny, and sarcastic; I warmed to her more and more, but she could be irritating at times. I did feel like this is intended though – we need to see that Ava is not perfect as a person. I certainly quite liked her imperfectness, much preferring her that way rather than a black and white “perfect” character.
The people in Ava’s life are a real mix – and many of them felt a little one dimensional to me. Julian doesn’t pretend to be anyone he’s not, and though there’s a lot about him that is hard to identify with for anyone who isn’t rich, he’s still pretty likeable but I found that I struggled to warm to Edith, who for me just didn’t feel convincing as a real person.
The plot itself is not particularly exciting, despite the book’s title – nothing huge or dramatic happens, and although ‘things happen’, it all feels quite ‘everyday’ to be honest. I have no qualms with this, though – I don’t need a book to be action-packed necessarily. For me, it felt like I was interested enough in Edith’s life, and enjoyed her acerbic remarks, so this was an enjoyable read.