“An uproariously funny novel… John Boyne skilfully skewers the cruelties of social media and the absurdities of wokeness … a brave and timely foray into the contemporary culture wars.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
John Boyne’s The Echo Chamber is a novel that centres the Cleverly family – father George a TV personality, mother Beverley an author, and their three children Elizabeth, Nelson, and Achilles – who live a gilded and privileged life. The family can usually be found attached to their mobile phones and the social media apps found on them. Their precariously balanced lives, however, are perilously close to disaster and downfall thanks to one ill-thought-out tweet.
These characters are written as textbook unlikable people that intentionally play on everything we are taught to dislike in a person – selfishness, ignorance, etc. – however, they provide countless moments of humour, usually at their expense.
Their story plays out over a single week with each ‘part’ opening with a historic family event that happened to coincide with the invention of a key social media platform; Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and TikTok.
This is a satirical, razor-sharp, and comical contemporary novel that reflects on the world we live in today. It is an examination of social media that explores the fine line between cancel culture, and accountability, and consequences for what is said online. It delves into issues of the ‘White Saviour’, virtue signalling, and performative acts of charity or philanthropy undertaken merely for social media likes.
John Boyne highlights issues of trolling, harassment, and bullying on social media platforms, where anonymity grants users the ability to hide behind their computer screen. What’s more, this novel also serves as a reminder that context and intent in people’s words can often be lost in a social media setting.
The novel takes place in a ‘post-pandemic’ world and there are a few references to Coronavirus, however, this didn’t feel too frequent and was often used to create a humourous moment.
The story itself – since it takes place in a single week – moves at a fast pace with lots of interlocking characters that provide several ‘oh’ moments for the reader. The novel quickly escalates towards increasingly farcical situations until it eventually reaches its climax and the inevitable downfall of the Beverley family.
This is a novel that takes the reader on a satirical roller coaster ride through the digital era, fuelled by John Boyne’s own sense of humour, and perhaps inspired partially by his own run-ins with Twitter trolls.
Catherine Muxworthy, Booksbirdblog
Added 6th September 2021