The Echo Chamber
John Boyne 2021
Penguin Random House UK
The Echo Chamber drips in hilarious sarcasm and many a time I could be heard laughing out loud while reading it. John Boyne, author of The boy in the striped pyjamas, pokes fun at a world addicted to sharing every mundane moment in a life. He weaves mischief between the ‘Wokesters’, those seeking to be offended by every comment made and the righteous keyboard warriors.
In this story we follow the trials, triumphs and ultimate catastrophes of the rich and entitled Cleverley family. George, the patriarch of the family, is a celebrity talk show host who can’t keep his outdated beliefs in check no matter how progressive he thinks he is. His author wife Beverly, enjoys her power-couple status, though prefers to share her bed with a toy-boy dancer named Pylyp. Their three adult children are also entertainingly inept. One unable to confidently converse with women unless he is wearing a uniform (any uniform seems to do the trick); another who places value on life based on the number of Twitter followers people have; and the youngest uses his good looks and charisma to use people.
As layer upon layer draw the reader to the inevitable disastrous end, the play becomes more and more ridiculous. Finally, as the Cleverley’s social status and online lives beeline towards “cancellation”, they are forced to relook at what is truly important.
As we wade through a sea of apprehension and worry in this present time, this book will give you the buoyancy that will lighten your day.
Dark as Last Night
University of Queensland Press 2021
Tony Birch is an Indigenous Australian Author who has won an array of literary awards. He writes short stories, poetry and novels. Dark as Last Night is an anthology of short stories with a telescopic focus on marginalised Australians who struggle through adversity. He draws on human connection and writes of grief, love and bravery.
The first story, the title track, hits you like a punch in the guts. The reality of domestic violence is a concept that one might choose to view from afar until Birch holds it right under your nose, and through his imagery, the smell of blood is pungent and frightening.
Then there is ‘Together’. In the simplicity of a family working through the grief of a dying loved one, there is a heart shattering rawness and truth. Birch demonstrates the complexity of emotions that anyone can experience in such a tragic time.
One thing that stands out in many of Birch’s stories are the hero older siblings. Their boldness and love are unbreakable as they protect the family that surround them. In ‘Flight’, older sister Miriam, sometimes a tyrant to her younger brother as she navigates her roles as daughter, protector and teenager, threatens her brother’s bullies with “If you ever touch my brother again, I’ll stab you in the head.” And the reader cheers at her fearlessness.
Review featured on the Literary Yard https://literaryyard.com/2021/09/20/dark-as-last-night-by-tony-birch/
What's this about?
As a lover of books and a teacher, I read widely. Here you will find book reviews of many genres including picture story, middle grade fiction, graphic novels, women's fiction, short story anthologies, non-fiction and anything else that takes my fancy.