Review: Exciting Times

Ava leaves Ireland aged 22. She takes a low paid teaching job in Hong Kong and becomes friends with an emotionally unavailable man named Julian, a wealthy banker spends lots of money on her and allows her to live in his spare room while he’s away on business. Ava soon meets Edith, a more emotionally intelligent new friend who takes an interest in her life. Thoughts on money, love, family, home and relationships circle around in Ava’s mind, as she navigates the “exciting times” of being a 20-something living abroad.

I found this book witty, cynical and extremely angsty. It’s all about the tribulations of “modern life” and finding an identity when living far away from the small home town you grew up in. Ava’s cutting observations and dry humour cut through the pretention of her new expat life. The story (if you can call it that) meanders without ever reaching fever pitch or anything resembling a plot. Nevertheless, Ava’s inner monologue sustains interest for a good 200 pages and the rambling slow pace reflects Ava’s aimlessness in a really convincing way.

That said, Ava’s cynicism and constant need to suppress her own emotions begins to wear a little thin. She is terrified of being made vulnerable and spends an exhausting amount of time trying to understand her own mind – something perhaps we can all relate to. She uses other characters as distractions and crutches, while also attempting to remain at a safe distance so as not to become too attached. It all wears a little thin, but perhaps that’s the point.

“I don’t think you’re interested in having a nice life. Which is arrogant, really, because you expect other people to help you maintain an existence that you yourself can’t work up any enthusiasm over. Don’t take this personally, by the way. I’m just observing.”

This novel would suit anyone who enjoys books that explore the thoughts and obsessions of their protagonist, from a very singular, inward looking perspective.

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