The Echo Chamber

by John Boyne

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Cover of The Echo Chamber

I’ve read two of John Boyne’s books in the past year and they were both very different and I loved them both, so I was happy to dive into this one that I found at the library. I wasn’t even put off the fact that Ian Rankin shouts it out on the cover as “The funniest book I’ve read in ages” despite the fact that I have a history of not really getting on with funny books.

And I wish I had been put off because I’ve spent ages reading this and it wasn’t worth it. Partly the age I’ve taken to read it is down to other stuff going on in my life that hasn’t left much reading time, but if it had been a more engaging book I would have found the time to read it. The book is all about how social media makes people act terribly but the problem was that I just hated most of the characters and found them awful, not just their social media personas.

The story revolves around a family where parents are a BBC TV presenter and a novelist and they have three children in their teens and twenties. The parents and the daughter were all presented in ways that made me have no sympathy for the situations they got themselves into; and I realised I needed to empathise with the characters at least somewhat to find things funny. Mostly I just found things dumb and excruciating to read about. I found the eldest son the most likeable character, he was the only one who was aware of his mental health issues. And I could empathise more with the younger son - who might have been the only one doing anything definitively criminal - than just about anyone else. But neither of those were really that funny, and the social media angle didn’t really apply to either of them, they were just more interesting characters who seemed to have a bit more depth. On the whole I just read on hoping something better was coming.

There are several twists in the end of the story and one of them was really well set up and enjoyable, but it wasn’t enough to carry the rest of the book. I’d best go back to steering clear of comic fiction I think!