#BookReview The Echo Chamber by John Boyne

The Echo ChamberAbout the Book

What a thing of wonder a mobile phone is. Six ounces of metal, glass and plastic, fashioned into a sleek, shiny, precious object. At once a gateway to other worlds – and a treacherous weapon in the hands of the unwary.

The Cleverley family live a gilded life, little realising how precarious their privilege is, just one tweet away from disaster. They are various degrees of catastrophe waiting to happen.

Together they will go on a journey of discovery through the jungle of the modern living, where carefully curated reputations can be destroyed in an instant. Along the way, they will learn how volatile, how outraged, how unforgiving the world can be when you step from the prescribed path.

Format: Paperback (528 pages)    Publisher: Penguin
Publication date: 12th May 2022 Genre: Contemporary Fiction

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My Review

John Boyne is one of the authors on my list for my Backlist Burrow reading challenge so it was serendipitous that The Echo Chamber was the book chosen for discussion at my book club this month. As is often the case, the book divided opinion with some club members finding it lacking in nuance or simply unable to put up with the unlikeable characters. However, quite a few of us – including myself – found it hilarious and very enjoyable.

I don’t believe The Echo Chamber is intended to be an in-depth exploration of the impact of social media. To me, it’s a satire in which the author pokes fun at various aspects of the modern age such as the rise of social media influencers, the scourge of online trolling and our growing dependence on electronic devices. It can also be seen as his response to the abuse he himself suffered on social media which saw him leave Twitter.  The book’s epigraph includes this quote by John Ronson from his book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. ‘The snowflake never needs to feel responsible for the avalanche’.

To my mind, the members of the Cleverley family are clearly designed to be caricatures representing the worst of modern day society.  George, the head of the family, is a popular TV personality – or in his own words ‘a national treasure’. Although he believes himself to be liberal-minded he gets into a series of scrapes through his use of distinctly non-PC language on Twitter and in a broadcast interview.

George’s wife, Beverley is a celebrated – or so she would like to think – author of romantic fiction who employs a ghost to do the hard work of actually writing her books. She gets some of the funniest lines in the book. For example, she proudly recalls one of  her readers commenting on a recent book, ‘She said it reminded her of Wolf Hall. Just without all the boring historical bits’.

George and Beverley’s daughter, Elizabeth represents the nasty side of social media. She is addicted to her phone, suffers panic attacks when separated from it and is intent on increasing her followers on Twitter by any means possible.  At one point, whilst taking a break from trolling celebrities, she even engages in an argument with herself on Twitter.  What may be the greatest moment of her life comes when she gains that elusive blue tick on her Twitter account but disappointment soon follows.

My favourite character was the Cleverley’s eldest son, Nelson, who finds it easier to interact with other people when dressed in a uniform. His experiment with speed dating is one of the funniest scenes in the book. Other memorable characters are Pylyp, a Ukranian dancer, and his pet tortoise named after a Ukranian folk hero.

Each member of the family eventually finds themselves in hot water in a variety of bizarre ways and all of them are brought down to earth with a bump.

The Echo Chamber is certainly very different from the only other book I’ve read by John Boyne, All The Broken Places, although a glance at his backlist demonstrates the great variety in his writing. It’s rare a book makes me laugh out loud but The Echo Chamber did. In fact, I like to imagine John Boyne chuckling away to himself whilst writing certain scenes.  At over 500 pages, I did feel it ran out of steam a bit towards the end but it’s wickedly funny – with the emphasis on  ‘wicked’.

In three words: Funny, entertaining, satirical


John BoyneAbout the Author

John Boyne is the author of thirteen novels for adults, six for younger readers and a collection of short stories. His 2006 novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas has sold more than 11 million copies worldwide and has been adapted for cinema, theatre, ballet and opera. His many international bestsellers include The Heart’s Invisible Furies and A Ladder to the Sky. He has won three Irish Book Awards, along with a host of other international literary prizes. His novels are published in over fifty languages. (Photo: Goodreads author page)

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#BlogTour #BookReview #Ad A Winter Grave by Peter May @riverrunbooks

A Winter Grave Peter May Blog Tour FinalWelcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for A Winter Grave by Peter May. My thanks to Jess at Ransom PR for inviting me to take part in the tour and to riverrun for my review copy via NetGalley.


A Winter GraveAbout the Book

A TOMB OF ICE

A young meteorologist checking a mountain top weather station in Kinlochleven discovers the body of a missing man entombed in ice.

A DYING DETECTIVE

Cameron Brodie, a Glasgow detective, sets out on a hazardous journey to the isolated and ice-bound village. He has his own reasons for wanting to investigate a murder case so far from his beat.

AN AGONIZING RECKONING

Brodie must face up to the ghosts of his past and to a killer determined to bury forever the chilling secret that his investigation threatens to expose.

Format: eARC (368 pages)                Publisher: riverrun
Publication date: 19th January 2023 Genre: Crime, Thriller

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My Review

A Winter Grave is set in Scotland but it’s not a Scotland we would recognise. The year is 2051 and Scotland has achieved independence and rejoined the European Union. However, at the same time, the effects of climate change on the world have become all too obvious. Whilst parts of the world are suffering extreme heat, prompting the migration of millions of people from Africa and Asia to Europe, great swathes of Scotland are now under water due to rising sea levels caused by the melting of the Greenland ice sheets and the country now has the climate of northern Norway.

As Brodie investigates the death of a man found frozen in the ice of a snow tunnel, it becomes clear his enemy is not just the person or persons responsible for the man’s death but the weather as well. Ferocious storms have become a frequent occurrence for the residents of Kinlochleven, resulting in power cuts and the loss of communications with the outside world for days at a time. Venturing out into a particularly violent storm, Brodie witnesses the extreme weather conditions for himself. ‘He seemed to be driving headlong into the gale. Hailstorms flew out of the darkness like sparks, deflecting off the windscreen… He could barely see the road ahead of him, hail blowing around and drifting like snow on the recently cleared tarmac.’

Alongside an absorbing and action-packed crime story, and the depiction of the potential impacts of climate change on the world, is Inspector Cameron Brodie’s deeply personal story, told through flashbacks to 2023. Brodie hasn’t long left on this earth but in the time remaining he wants to lay to rest the ghosts of the past, attempt a reconciliation and, perhaps, receive forgiveness. ‘It wasn’t until now, with his own death imminent, that he had been moved, finally, to drag all the skeletons from the closet, and lay them out to be judged.’ It’s a story of love, loss and sacrifice and I found the end of the book intensely moving.

For those who like action, there’s plenty of it and for those who like intrigue, there’s plenty of that as well. There’s even a role for future technology the prospect of which might either thrill you or appall you depending on how you feel about flying in a pilotless plane or living in a 3D printed home.  Add to this a central character prepared to give his all in one last fight and you have a totally gripping crime thriller that is chilling in more ways than one. This is the first book I’ve read by Peter May but it definitely won’t be the last.

In three words: Immersive, exciting, intense

Try something similarThe Coming Darkness by Greg Mosse


Peter MayAbout the Author

Peter May was born and raised in Scotland. He was an award-winning journalist at the age of twenty-one and a published novelist at twenty-six. When his first book was adapted as a major drama series for the BBC, he quit journalism and during the high-octane fifteen years that followed, became one of Scotland’s most successful television dramatists. He created three prime-time drama series, presided over two of the highest-rated serials in his homeland as script editor and producer, and worked on more than 1,000 episodes of ratings-topping drama before deciding to leave television to return to his first love, writing novels.

In 2021, he was awarded the CWA Dagger in the Library Award. He has also won several literature awards in France, received the USA’s Barry Award for The Blackhouse, the first in his internationally bestselling Lewis Trilogy; and in 2014 was awarded the ITV Specsavers Crime Thriller Book Club Best Read of the Year award for Entry Island. Peter now lives in South-West France with his wife, writer Janice Hally. (Photo: Facebook profile)

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