Today, it’s a review of a debut novel that I’m currently obsessed with. It’s the brilliant Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan.
This is a debut novel that I’m just completely besotted with. It’s the brilliant, marvellous Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan. But first, what’s it about? Here’s the synopsis:
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, indeed. This is one of my most hotly anticipated reads of the year and I was so excited when my pre-order arrived. I started reading a couple of pages but I couldn’t put it down – it’s that brilliant. It’s addictive, compulsive and really, just a really good read. The chapters are short, fast-paced and straight away you care about the characters, you want to read on to see what happens.
I haven’t been this excited about a debut novel for a very long time. The writing! The writing is just delicious. It’s droll, shrewd, hilarious, spiky, sharp, intelligent and it’s full of brilliant deadpan humour. I found this to be a very intelligently sharp novel and I mean that in the best ways possible. It feels very modern, a book for right now with its political and social commentary, but Naoise Dolan has that quality where the way she forms sentences together with her sparse and succinct writing style, it feels like a classic. As if you’re reading Zadie Smith for the first time.
It’s a forensic and surgical examination of modern love and modern relationships. I loved the way the novel explores: sexuality, gender, heteronormative ideals and Naoise deals with it brilliantly. The characters and the relationships in the novel felt very real and raw to me. It is surgical because she goes down to the very core of the human condition, of what it is to love, and what it is to be loved. I loved the dynamics between Ava, Julian and Edith. It is a bisexual love triangle but I think there’s much more to it which you can see throughout the novel.
Sometimes I was good at him, sometimes he was good at me, sometimes we were good at each other, and sometimes neither of us was any good at anything.
I can’t praise this novel enough – it’s exactly what I wanted it to be, and more. Her writing is bold, hilarious, original and this is the start of a new fresh talent in literature and one I can’t wait to read more from. I loved the characters, the relationship dynamics, the themes explored, the political and social commentary and her way with language. It’s a brilliant, dazzling intelligent novel on modern love and relationships and such a compulsive read it’s hard to put down.
At the moment, now is more important than ever to support debut novelists and I can’t think of a better one than this one. Also, the cover is just gorgeous – those colours! I love the Waterstones special signed edition with the gorgeous sprayed edges. This book needs to be read widely and talked about as I think she is talking and writing about subject matters that need to be talked at the moment. I can’t stop thinking about it and I can’t wait to read it all over again. One of my favourite reads of the year so far. Just brilliant.
Have you read Exciting Times? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!