Novel of the week: The Echo Chamber by John Boyne
Boyne’s new novel targets ‘smartphone technology; social media; and misdirected wokeness’
Gabriel Bouys/AFP via Getty Images
In 2019, John Boyne found himself “monstered” online when his YA novel My Brother’s Name is Jessica was accused of transphobia, said Jonathan Myerson in The Observer. His response has been to cast aside his usual sensitivity, and “channel the spirit” of Tom Sharpe.
In The Echo Chamber, he targets three “pet hates”, said Bert Wright in The Sunday Times: “smartphone technology; social media; and misdirected ‘wokeness’”. The novel centres on “ageing chat-show host” George, who triggers a Twitter pile-on when he “deadnames” the receptionist at his solicitor’s office. (In a tweet, he calls her Aidan rather than Nadia.) At a time when we urgently need good satire, this “uproariously funny” novel “delivers in spades”.
It didn’t for me, said Melissa Katsoulis in The Times. Boyne may be a snappy writer, but as a satirist he’s hit-and-miss. And on occasion, he’s positively offensive: one character, a Ukrainian dancer, is a “sort of Eastern European iteration of Little Black Sambo”. Understandable as Boyne’s dislike of “woke culture” may be, this “unsettling” novel won’t help his cause.
Doubleday 432pp £16.99; The Week Bookshop £13.99
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