Book Review by Nicola Smith, Short Book and Scribes
Published by Doubleday on 5th August 2021
ISBN 978-0857526212 HB
I’ll start this review by saying what I always say after I’ve read a John Boyne book: he is an incredibly versatile author who seems to be able to turn his hand to any style and each book is a new triumph. The Echo Chamber is an absolutely brilliant read.
This is the story of the Cleverley family. George Cleverley is a chat show host (think Parkinson). He’s interviewed all the greats over the years but he’s getting a little out of step with the modern world. His wife, Beverley, (yes…..Beverley Cleverley) is a writer of romantic novels, or at least she used to be until she started getting somebody to do it for her. Their three children, Nelson, Elizabeth and Achilles, are quite messed up and over-privileged. An ill-judged tweet from George sets the family on a downward spiral, although I’m pretty sure they were getting there quite well without his help.
The Echo Chamber is a sharply satirical novel, metaphorically sticking two fingers up to the idiosyncrasies of modern life and its reliance on social media. It’s fairly clear that Boyne is reflecting quite heavily on his own experiences in writing this book and whilst it may be considered quite controversial in places it’s also hugely entertaining and extremely insightful. It sets out to show just how ridiculous some aspects of society have become. It’s easy to see both sides. We should be aware of what we are saying, particularly in these social media happy days when a tweet can go viral in minutes. But at the same time, it’s easy to take it too far and to make people afraid of expressing an opinion, of being (unbelievably) ‘cancelled’.
None of the characters in this book are likeable but I loved reading about every single one of them. I thought it was brilliant how each went on their own personal journey, almost as though they had to implode to be reborn again. This is a book that is so current and so relevant, and it’s also absolutely hilarious. I laughed so much at this family of caricatures, portraying themselves in one way whilst living so differently away from the cameras, the tweets, the grid posts and the TikToks.
The Echo Chamber is a fantastic, cutting and raw read, with ridiculous scenarios and characters that actually felt all too real. I loved it.