Review: Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan
Consistently compared to Sally Rooney's novels, Exciting Times is the debut novel of another upcoming Irish author. The title and the cover really drew me in - I knew it was going to be a fantastic contemporary.
Ava has moved to Hong Kong in the hopes of finding happiness. We follow her relationships as she figures out what she wants to do with her life. Her first with Julian, an arrogant and commitment-phobic, successful investment banker. Her second with Edith, a young lawyer from Hong Kong who is intelligent, striking and cultured. Ava struggles with whether she wants to be with Edith, or just be her.
This book was picked for my little book club with some friends. The theme was 'for fans of Sally Rooney' and of course this was the perfect choice!
I enjoyed both of Sally Rooney's novels, but neither blew me away the way that they did for other readers. However, Exciting Times was so enjoyable and different to other contemporaries I've read. Something that was truly refreshing was how the conversation about Ava's bisexuality never happened and it never had to. Many books about the LGBTQ+ experience end up being a coming out story or a painful, difficult awakening. In Exciting Times, Ava's bisexuality is accepted by her friends and even her ex as a given and merely who she is. I think this is such a modern and progressive way to write and discuss spectrums of sexuality outside of heterosexuality. There are often scenes that involve an argument or a debate on having their family member or friend come out, as opposed to it just being accepted as a normality in the same way heterosexuality is.
Despite the dynamics of Ava's relationships with both Julian and Edith being polar opposite, both were exquisite for different reasons. Julian's chapters were entertaining due to his typical elitist, British sensibilities. In contrast, Edith's chapters were moving and ultimately, beautifully demonstrated female/female relationships and friendships. All of the characters were so well written and there was a real depth and understanding between them. Dolan's writing was fabulous; she could hold up the storyline, as well as providing detailed and engaging characters - and all under 300 pages (a talent I am always impressed by). If you enjoyed Sally Rooney's novels, pick this up right away - I personally enjoyed it much more! And if not, pick this up if you are a fan of contemporary fiction, or are looking for an accurate representation of bisexuality in your reading!
Initial Prediction: 4 stars
Final Rating: 4.5 stars
Publication Date: 16 April 2020
# of Pages: 288