Thursday, 11 September 2014

Book Club: August 2014

August 2014: The Invisible Circus by Jennifer Egan

This months book, or should I say last month's book seeing as we're now in September and I was late reading it again, was The Invisible Circus by Jennifer Egan chosen by Marie. Just to clarify, this book has nothing to do with circus', but is actually about a family who have suffered the tragedy of 18 year old Faith's mysterious death whilst she was off travelling around Europe. The book is set throughout the 1960's and the 1970's, but apart from the underlining politics of the storyline, I personally didn't feel it was that obvious and I kept picturing the characters in the present time, which I didn't mind.

Eight years after Faith's death and her younger sister, Phoebe, has also reached the age of 18. Phoebe's memories as a child have led her to worship the image of her sister, and since her death she has slept in Faith's room every night. Whether it's the big age gap or her idolisation of her sister, she is the only one out of her family in search of truth surrounding Faith's death. I think this is mainly because Phoebe is the only one in the family who hasn't come to terms with her sister's death, and everyone else has learnt to move on, or already knows the truth. So of course, following her sister's footsteps, she clears out her savings and carelessly books a flight to Europe without any plans, or telling anyone where she's going. Once she gets to Europe she predictably follows the same route her sister had done eight years ago by the postcards she had sent them.

I can't tell you much more than that without giving away the story because Phoebe's travel's around Europe are the main bulk of the book. I'm not really into travelling/road trips books and I found Phoebe frustrating most of the time. I felt that Phoebe reached 18 and just thought that now she was that age she had to follow the stereotypical route and do everything at once: travelling, drugs, alcohol, boyfriends, university etc. (sense me rolling my eyes here) When clearly that's not her. But in her eyes, that was her sister. In my opinion, the two sister's are very different people with very few similarities other than being related, therefore Phoebe's constant attempt to be Faith was really irritating, especially when you find out more about Faith's history and personality, and who she was leading up to the time of her death. I really didn't like Faith, or at least the memory of her described by the other characters. The only character that I sort-of liked was 'Wolf' - but I can't really tell you much about him because I don't want to ruin the plot.

I enjoyed this month's book because it was an easy read and a writing style that I'm more used to, as I have previously struggled with both June's and July's books. I really don't connect well with a book when the writing overpowers the plot line, but The Invisible Circus has the right balance. However, I didn't feel that connected with Faith or her death - I don't often cry over a book, but I didn't even feel that sad. I think it's because I didn't like Faith as a character, or the way we saw her from Phoebe's point of view. Phoebe herself was a bit more likeable, but also I found her extremely frustrating with her recklessness and naivety, and her hypocrisy of leaving her Mum and brother behind without any communication. (Yes, there is a brother but he's barely mentioned and there wasn't much point to his character) I haven't also mentioned their Father yet, who takes up a big chunk of the first part of the book, giving us a backstory to the family. He died when the children were all young and Faith was still around, she was about 13 I believe. I found the Father a very strange character, and he had weird relationships with his children. Before he died he was a failing artist, but art wasn't his main career. He was infatuated with Faith, and she was solely his muse, and he very rarely painted the other children. This put intense pressure on Faith to constantly keep her father interested, but it seemed to be something she enjoyed. Faith and Phoebe's brother, Barry, is the inbetween child, and he seemed annoyed but accepting of the relationship between Faith and their Father. Whereas Phoebe, who was about 5, looked on with jealousy.

Up until the last chapter, in my head I was thinking of giving this book a four out of five stars as I had enjoyed Phoebe's journey of self discovery. But like I've said before, endings really are make or break; I found the ending of The Invisible Circus was very long, but also not completely satisfying, but I think that's more of a matter of a opinion and what different people like to get out of a book. I think I would of liked to have seen more of a darker story line that had more of an impact on me, but instead I walked away from this book without much thoughts or feelings about it, and I think this had affected my review because I've struggled with what to say about it. If you're looking for an easy-going book, then I would say give it ago because it was mostly enjoyable, and for a debut novel it is very well written and put together.

p.s I'm going to try my hardest to be on time for this month's book!

3 out of 5 stars

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And don't forget to check out the rest of the book club's review of The Invisible Circus too:

Looking forward to the next book!

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