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The Echo Chamber
by John Boyne
To err is to be human but to really foul things up you only need a phone.
The Oxford Dictionary defines an echo chamber as an environment in which somebody encounters only opinions and beliefs similar to their own, and does not have to consider alternatives. In John Boyne’s hilarious and highly observant satire, he follows the Cleverley family – living in their own echo chambers – during the worst week of their lives.
Entitled, obnoxious and utterly unlikeable, each member of the family is struggling to fit into a world ruled by social media, living online rather than real lives. George Cleverley is a celebrity interviewer (think Parky) who believes himself to be a “national treasure”. His wife Beverley Cleverley (!) is an internationally bestselling novelist who is too busy to write her books herself so she farms them out to a ghost writer. Their three grown children are various degrees of catastrophe waiting to happen: Nelson is bullied at work and wears various uniforms to give himself confidence; Elizabeth is addicted to Twitter, spending her days chasing after likes and increased followers in an attempt to become an ‘influencer’ so, obviously, has no time for a job and the youngest, Achilles preys on lonely, middle-aged men blackmailing them out of large sums of money.
The family’s misadventures are hugely entertaining, rather ridiculous and even a bit slap-stick but its all to good effect in this clever farce. As SheReadsNovels says: It satirises everything and everyone: the press, the conflict between ‘woke’ and ‘anti-woke’, prejudice and intolerance in all of their forms, supporters and opponents of cancel culture, those who like to document every single moment of their lives on Instagram, the hypocrisy of people who hide behind fake names to post hurtful tweets while using the hashtag #BeKind. and of course the POOTS (permenently offended on Twitter). It is a very funny, highly relevant read which bravely wades through the quagmire of social media and its inevitable traps in a dizzying downward spiral of action and consequence. I suspect that if you (like the author himself) have ever been on the receiving end of a Twitter attack, this book will come as a healing balm!
The funniest book I’ve read in ages. Savage but compelling – Ian Rankin
An uproariously funny novel that offers a timely foray into the absurdities and injustices of the contemporary culture wars – The Financial Times
Funny, rumbustious, unstinting and wonderfully Hogarthian – The Observer