Exciting Times
An intimate, bracingly intelligent debut novel about a millennial Irish expat who becomes entangled in a love triangle with a male banker and a female lawyerAva moved to Hong Kong to find happiness, but so far, it isn’t working out. Since she left Dublin, she’s been spending her days teaching English to rich children—she’s been assigned the grammar classes because she lacks warmth—and her nights avoiding petulant roommates in her cramped apartment.When Ava befriends Julian, a witty British banker, he offers a shortcut into a lavish life her meager salary could never allow. Ignoring her feminist leanings and her better instincts, Ava finds herself moving into Julian’s apartment, letting him buy her clothes, and, eventually, striking up a sexual relationship with him. When Julian’s job takes him back to London, she stays put, unsure where their relationship stands.Enter Edith. A Hong Kong–born lawyer, striking and ambitious, Edith takes Ava to the theater and leaves her tulips in the hallway. Ava wants to be her—and wants her. Ava has been carefully pretending that Julian is nothing more than an absentee roommate, so when Julian announces that he’s returning to Hong Kong, she faces a fork in the road. Should she return to the easy compatibility of her life with Julian or take a leap into the unknown with Edith?Politically alert, heartbreakingly raw, and dryly funny, Exciting Times is thrillingly attuned to the great freedoms and greater uncertainties of modern love. In stylish, uncluttered prose, Naoise Dolan dissects the personal and financial transactions that make up a life—and announces herself as a singular new voice.

Exciting Times Details

TitleExciting Times
Author
ReleaseJun 2nd, 2020
PublisherEcco
ISBN-139780062968746
Rating
GenreFiction, Contemporary, European Literature, Irish Literature, LGBT, Cultural, Ireland

Exciting Times Review

  • Meike
    January 1, 1970
    I can see why Sally Rooney is endorsing this! Debut novelist Naoise Dolan tells the story of 22-year-old Ava who just moved from Ireland to Hongkong, trying to figure out what to do with her life. She holds a poorly paid job as an English teacher and befriends Julian, a rich English banker six years her senior. Lonely and broke, Ava moves in with him, Julian pays for pretty much everything and they start having sex. But when Julian is sent to work in London for a few months, Ava falls for Edith, I can see why Sally Rooney is endorsing this! Debut novelist Naoise Dolan tells the story of 22-year-old Ava who just moved from Ireland to Hongkong, trying to figure out what to do with her life. She holds a poorly paid job as an English teacher and befriends Julian, a rich English banker six years her senior. Lonely and broke, Ava moves in with him, Julian pays for pretty much everything and they start having sex. But when Julian is sent to work in London for a few months, Ava falls for Edith, a young lawyer... It's questionable whether Dolan really writes about a "love triangle" as the blurb states: The dynamic is more complex, with Ava first obsessing over Julian, although he makes it very clear that he doesn't love her, and later entering a relationship with 22-year-old Edith (full name: Edith Zhang Mei Ling) in which they both love each other. Dolan mainly explores ambiguous emotional states and that's what makes the novel so intriguing. While none of the characters are particularly likeable, all of them are interesting and somehow relatable. It is masterful how Dolan plays with the reader's perceptions by using flashbacks that shed a new light on the invidual characters' behaviors and decisions, thus questioning the fairness of the judgement one might initially pass. On top of that, it gradually becomes clear that Ava is an unreliable narrator, and that her descriptions might be accurate from her point of view, but that others strongly disagree. Dolan adds more layers by contrasting aspects of culture and class: Ava ponders her own Irish identity, Julian's Englishness and the situation in Hongkong (where Edith was born), often referring to political issues like same-sex-marriage, abortion, colonialism, money, and attitudes towards class. All characters interact with expats from all over the world, drawing in even more cultural perspectives. As Ava teaches English, language itself and what is says about the speaker's education, class, and nationality plus what kind of associations it evokes also plays an important role in the text. As Ava, Julian and Edith try to navigate the impositions life has in store for them, all of them actively tackle some challenges and (willingly) remain adrift in other fields- the variety of options open to those characters are satirized in Ava's penchant for thoughts and descriptions in multiple choice, presenting the reader with possibility a), b), and sometimes even c). These characters are messy and faulty, and especially the relationship between Ava and Julian is rather toxic (Julian to Ava: "To be clear Ava: we're both dead behind the eyes, at least I can pay rent?"; Ava about Julian: "He doesn't want anyone to like him just for him (...) He wouldn't know what to do with the information."), but not free of real affection. The novel works with many ironic, laconic, deadpan remarks ("We agreed it was an exciting time to be alive") - in this, Dolan resembles German writer Heinz Strunk who also knows how to say one thing while at the same time conveying something completely different. Many of Ava's sentences might be clever, but there is often a sadness to them, rooted in the impulse to hide a feeling of emptiness or disorientation. I really enjoyed the recognizable, edgy tone of the text. The highly undercomplex politics are sometimes a little annoying though and every German will find the mention of Martin Schulz hilarious, although it's most likely not intended to be funny. This novel already caused a stir way before its publication when it was the hot item in a seven-way bidding war (you can read about it in the Independent or The Bookseller, e.g.). My guess is that there will be a lot of comparisons to Sally Rooney's work, and they do make sense: There is a millennial sensibility to it, and some readers will find that annoying, just as in the case of Rooney. But these two Dubliners won't mind, as their books will sell copies and scoop up awards.
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  • Kasa Cotugno
    January 1, 1970
    Armed with her freshly minted degree, Ava has left Dublin for Hong Kong in order to "find herself" discovers she is unemployable for anything other than teaching English in a posh school to rich kids. What follows is an examination of a life in transition, of a young woman not totally sure of her place or potential, her sexual identity, or even her ability to be attractive to her peers. Naoise Dolan is a writer of wit and talent with an ear for sparkling dialogue, and an ability to create Armed with her freshly minted degree, Ava has left Dublin for Hong Kong in order to "find herself" discovers she is unemployable for anything other than teaching English in a posh school to rich kids. What follows is an examination of a life in transition, of a young woman not totally sure of her place or potential, her sexual identity, or even her ability to be attractive to her peers. Naoise Dolan is a writer of wit and talent with an ear for sparkling dialogue, and an ability to create characters that a reader can laugh with even when they are breaking one's heart. This book is straight out of Sally Rooney land, in which millennials explain themselves to those of us who struggle to understand their culture. Well done.
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  • Fatma
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to HarperCollins for providing me with an e-ARC of this via Edelweiss!Exciting Times is, in many ways, an insular novel, not unlike its main character Ava and her contracted social world. It's set in Hong Kong, one of the most sprawling cities in the world, and yet the narrative does not unfurl along this sprawling landscape. Instead, it occupies a very specific space, the space that Ava carves out with the two other main characters of this novel: Julian and Edith. Given this, it's not Thanks to HarperCollins for providing me with an e-ARC of this via Edelweiss!Exciting Times is, in many ways, an insular novel, not unlike its main character Ava and her contracted social world. It's set in Hong Kong, one of the most sprawling cities in the world, and yet the narrative does not unfurl along this sprawling landscape. Instead, it occupies a very specific space, the space that Ava carves out with the two other main characters of this novel: Julian and Edith. Given this, it's not surprising that this is a novel that is also extremely invested in the complex interplay between race, nationality, class, and gender (among others) that underpins its characters' relationships. Ava is particularly attuned to the subtleties and implications of this interplay, though that doesn't necessarily mean she is always right in her observations, or that she always acts in accordance with them.And to address the literary elephant in the room: yes, I see the Sally Rooney comparisons. Where they primarily stem from, I think, is the social investment that these authors so consciously and consistently bring to their novels. Their characters do not take their social worlds for granted and so question and try to peel back what assumptions—about power, race, gender, class, etc.—operate under what circumstances and in what ways in those social worlds. That being said, where I think this novel fell short for me, and where Rooney's novels do not fall short for me, is in its lack of feeling. Ava thinks a lot about her emotions, but I rarely got to see her actually feel them; when those moments came, they were few and far between. Now, I understand that Ava is not a character who is particularly forthcoming with her emotions, but still, I don't think that precludes her from displaying emotion. I find characters thinking about their thoughts and emotions interesting enough, but that interest only goes so far—I need to see these characters be vulnerable, elated, gutted, in subtle or not so subtle ways. Put another way, I need to feel like there are emotional stakes that the characters feel as well as understand.Still, Exciting Times is a well-observed novel that takes care to highlight the complex web of identities that relationships inevitably bring with them.
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  • Naty
    January 1, 1970
    I received an eARC of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.I really enjoyed the dry and cynical main character, a bit unlikable from the way she always makes poor decisions but also relatable for it. I think this would've been a 5 star read if it had a bit more emotional impact, but for most of the book the stakes felt rather low. Still, I'm glad to have picked this up and I'm excited to see what the author writes in the future! Full review at: I received an eARC of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.I really enjoyed the dry and cynical main character, a bit unlikable from the way she always makes poor decisions but also relatable for it. I think this would've been a 5 star read if it had a bit more emotional impact, but for most of the book the stakes felt rather low. Still, I'm glad to have picked this up and I'm excited to see what the author writes in the future! Full review at: http://natysbookshelf.wordpress.com
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  • Jaclyn Crupi
    January 1, 1970
    This book is very clever and very busy being very clever making it tiring to read but being a millennial seems pretty exhausting so perhaps its captured a lived experience. The style is detached and detaching in an interesting way but if you like sinking teeth into a narrative this is not for you. I like cool detached styling, I like complex unlikeable protagonists, I like dissections of class, I like explorations of sexuality. But did I like Exciting Times? Not so much. And damn I wish I could This book is very clever and very busy being very clever making it tiring to read but being a millennial seems pretty exhausting so perhaps it’s captured a lived experience. The style is detached and detaching in an interesting way but if you like sinking teeth into a narrative this is not for you. I like cool detached styling, I like complex unlikeable protagonists, I like dissections of class, I like explorations of sexuality. But did I like Exciting Times? Not so much. And damn I wish I could figure out why exactly. I’ll update in the comments if I ever figure it out.
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  • Katie
    January 1, 1970
    I received an advance copy of this book via Netgalley.This novel about Ava, an unmoored Irish 22-year-old teaching English in Hong Kong, taps into some deeply millennial/gen Z ideas of modern life, and does so very well. For the first quarter of the book, I was enthralled by the voice of the novel, of Ava's quick and incisive insights into herself and the very relatable conflict between what we know to be the best thing to do and how we have been socialized. Ultimately, the star rating came down I received an advance copy of this book via Netgalley.This novel about Ava, an unmoored Irish 22-year-old teaching English in Hong Kong, taps into some deeply millennial/gen Z ideas of modern life, and does so very well. For the first quarter of the book, I was enthralled by the voice of the novel, of Ava's quick and incisive insights into herself and the very relatable conflict between what we know to be the best thing to do and how we have been socialized. Ultimately, the star rating came down a bit because the story dragged on long enough that the voice couldn't keep me in thrall for the whole thing.
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  • Sarah Ames-Foley
    January 1, 1970
    Sounds like a good case for polyamory 👀
  • Alanna | shelf.help
    January 1, 1970
    I received an advance copy of this book for free thanks to NetGalley.PLOT: EXCITING TIMES by Naoise Dolan follows the story of Ava, an Irish 20-something expat living in Hong Kong teaching English language classes to wealthy local children. Ava herself is not wealthy, and though she's seeking some sort of better life of excitement out of living away from home, she aimlessly accepts experiences as they come, with little autonomy in her choices. Decisions are less of a process of pros/cons, more I received an advance copy of this book for free thanks to NetGalley.PLOT: EXCITING TIMES by Naoise Dolan follows the story of Ava, an Irish 20-something expat living in Hong Kong teaching English language classes to wealthy local children. Ava herself is not wealthy, and though she's seeking some sort of better life of excitement out of living away from home, she aimlessly accepts experiences as they come, with little autonomy in her choices. Decisions are less of a process of pros/cons, more of an inevitability that Ava does not exercise much agency in making. When Ava befriends a fellow expat from England, Julian--a well-off banker who offers Ava his credit card and his extra bedroom in a high-rise apartment--Ava attempts to convince herself that she has the emotional upper-hand in their no-strings-attached sexual relationship, while Julian is aloof and utterly detached. As Ava tries to reconcile her feminist ideals with her new unnamed relationship, she finds a separate attraction in Hong Kong born lawyer Edith.HIGHLIGHTS: I heard this book summarized as a queer Sally Rooney-esque story. I can see where the comparisons come from. Most of our characters (aside from Edith) are unlikable messes and the exploration of selfishness between characters and their supposed self-awareness (or lack thereof), truly make the characters relatable and lifelike. I would also draw comparison to Ottessa Moshfegh's My Year of Rest and Relaxation, for Ava is equally apathetic as that book's protagonist.TAKEAWAYS: If you like Sally Rooney, I think you will appreciate the writing--it is sharp as a knife. The plot itself left something wanting. Not enough happened, either between the relationships or between the first and last page, to warrant this story be more than a novella. That being said, I absolutely look forward to more from this author, she writes beautifully.
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  • Laura
    January 1, 1970
    This book is exactly what I needed in my current state of mind. I was struggling to find something that would connect with my tired/stressed brain and when I laughed on the third page, I knew I had finally found the book.The main character Ava, originally from Dublin, is now living in Hong Kong teaching English to primary aged kids from Hong Kong. In this setting we get insight into a life in transition, of a young person not sure of her place in the world, what her potential is, or even her This book is exactly what I needed in my current state of mind. I was struggling to find something that would connect with my tired/stressed brain and when I laughed on the third page, I knew I had finally found the book.The main character Ava, originally from Dublin, is now living in Hong Kong teaching English to primary aged kids from Hong Kong. In this setting we get insight into a life in transition, of a young person not sure of her place in the world, what her potential is, or even her ability to make friends or connect with people.Ava is not an entirely likeable character (nor are the other characters in this novel), but she is unlikable in the best possible way (think a Sally Rooney or Deborah Levy style of unlikable). The dialogue is witty and had me laughing out loud at times. I have seen a few early reviews claiming that the writing is cold, but for me that worked, as I felt it helped us get into the mind of Ava as she tried to work out who she is and what she wants. My only issue with this book was that at times I felt it was trying to be too clever, a few times this was overdone and it jerked you out of the narrative.Overall though, I really enjoyed this novel, it was a perfect read for anyone that doesn't want anything too heavy, but will still make them think about our world and the place we have in it.Thanks to Hachette Australia for this early review copy
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  • Jessica Klahr
    January 1, 1970
    This is one of the most emotionally intelligent and complex books Ive read. Most of the plot follows Ava and her relationships with Julian, who wont call himself her boyfriend but lets her live in his flat for free, and Edith, who wants her but shes reticent as shes still understanding the different facets of her sexuality. But theres also a great deal of inferiority from Avas perspective as she compares and contrasts herself through these very different relationships. Shes extremely self-aware This is one of the most emotionally intelligent and complex books I’ve read. Most of the plot follows Ava and her relationships with Julian, who won’t call himself her boyfriend but let’s her live in his flat for free, and Edith, who wants her but she’s reticent as she’s still understanding the different facets of her sexuality. But there’s also a great deal of inferiority from Ava’s perspective as she compares and contrasts herself through these very different relationships. She’s extremely self-aware for a 22-year-old. The author astutely set the story in Hong Kong, but it was so far in the background that you could forget it occasionally. It seems like a lot of writers over-romanticize the foreignness and newness of a country so different from ones home but it was so ingratiated, it was as if the author said “oh yea btw, we’re in China,” and I loved it. Ava’s distance from her students and her distaste for new friends like Victoria was also compelling. I was a little uneasy in the first section as Ava and Julian’s dialogue was so cerebral and went over my head at times but the second and third were much more grounded. The ending was a little abrupt but I think it was fitting for this kind of millennial novel. I think fans of Sally Rooney would especially enjoy this book (and not just because this author is also Irish). Thank you to Ecco and Edelweiss for providing an eARC of this book.
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  • Libby Mandarino
    January 1, 1970
    I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.Oh, I loved this. It hits with painful precision the very specific aimlessness of post-grad life and how relationships can sometimes be a form of self-harm. It's also very very funny. I don't want to go any further on details, because the big joy of this novel is watching the story slowly unfurl out as you and Ava, the protaganist, figure out exactly what it is you're feeling. I wanted to read it in one sitting. Highly I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.Oh, I loved this. It hits with painful precision the very specific aimlessness of post-grad life and how relationships can sometimes be a form of self-harm. It's also very very funny. I don't want to go any further on details, because the big joy of this novel is watching the story slowly unfurl out as you and Ava, the protaganist, figure out exactly what it is you're feeling. I wanted to read it in one sitting. Highly recommend, and I can't wait to read more from Naoise Dolan.
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  • Claire
    January 1, 1970
    I liked this more as it went on. Interesting how I dont entirely gel with the disaffected tone when INLOVE JoannDidion. anyway, has some good moments which makes me inclined to recommend it for people who are interested! Actually pretty interesting look at a 22 year old bisexuals psyche (lol mood). I liked this more as it went on. Interesting how I don’t entirely gel with the disaffected tone when INLOVE JoannDidion. anyway, has some good moments which makes me inclined to recommend it for people who are interested! Actually pretty interesting look at a 22 year old bisexual’s psyche (lol mood).
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  • Rosie Hunt
    January 1, 1970
    Very on-trend in its tone, but sharp and funny all the same. The matter-of-factness didnt always quite work for me, and I think the reader has to work quite hard, but overall I thought it was clever and made astute observations about millennial lives and relationships. Very ‘on-trend’ in its tone, but sharp and funny all the same. The matter-of-factness didn’t always quite work for me, and I think the reader has to work quite hard, but overall I thought it was clever and made astute observations about millennial lives and relationships.
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  • Charlotte
    January 1, 1970
    As other reviewers have said, something felt off about this book, and I think it comes down to a coldness. The writing is competent (though not particularly artful), but the tone is detached, chilly and arch. I dont think unlikeable characters are always a problem, but I felt actively reluctant to spend any time with the people in this book, so dreaded picking it up. I wish I could say I had liked it more. As other reviewers have said, something felt off about this book, and I think it comes down to a coldness. The writing is competent (though not particularly artful), but the tone is detached, chilly and arch. I don’t think unlikeable characters are always a problem, but I felt actively reluctant to spend any time with the people in this book, so dreaded picking it up. I wish I could say I had liked it more.
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  • Sara Klem
    January 1, 1970
    Comparing this to Normal People does both books an injustice. They are similar in the sense that they have female, Irish, young-adult protagonists. The comparison ends there.This book felt so cold and unemotional I wasn't actually sure what to do with it. I didn't start to connect to it until about halfway through, after which I could start to find it entertaining. The characters are surface-level for a reason; the book feels like a meditation on being closed-off, on wanting money, on being a Comparing this to Normal People does both books an injustice. They are similar in the sense that they have female, Irish, young-adult protagonists. The comparison ends there.This book felt so cold and unemotional I wasn't actually sure what to do with it. I didn't start to connect to it until about halfway through, after which I could start to find it entertaining. The characters are surface-level for a reason; the book feels like a meditation on being closed-off, on wanting money, on being a millennial in these really weird times. It's funny - but ultimately pretty unrewarding, if I'm being honest. It seems like the main character just wants to be told about herself (who doesn't?) and makes terrible decisions and undergoes very little growth. It's nicely written, though, and deliciously quotable. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!
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  • Molly
    January 1, 1970
    Intelligent and effortlessly funny, Exciting Times is a novel that gets under your skin. Each character is clearly realised with electric dialogue and a sympathetic eye. This is a modern love story that will live with you long after you've finished it.*I know the author but I wouldn't mention it if I didn't love it. It's completely brilliant.
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  • Anne
    January 1, 1970
    Psychological interpretations of a privileged twenty-somethingNaoise Doan is an Irish author from Dublin. She studied English literature at Trinity College in Dublin and Victorian literature at the University of Oxford. Her writing appeared in The Dublin Review and a first excerpt from her debut novel appeared in The Stinging Fly, edited by Sally Rooney. Exciting Times will be released in both the United Kingdom and the United States in 2020.Ava is the main character in Exciting Times. She is Psychological interpretations of a privileged twenty-somethingNaoise Doan is an Irish author from Dublin. She studied English literature at Trinity College in Dublin and Victorian literature at the University of Oxford. Her writing appeared in The Dublin Review and a first excerpt from her debut novel appeared in The Stinging Fly, edited by Sally Rooney. Exciting Times will be released in both the United Kingdom and the United States in 2020.Ava is the main character in Exciting Times. She is from Dublin and currently teaches English to children in Hong Kong. There she meets the wealthy banker Julian, the two have sex and she moves in with him, but there is no question of a relationship. When Julian returns to London for a few months, Ava meets Edith, her feelings for this successful lawyer are confusing and set off a complicated love triangle.The novel largely consists of dialogue and for an even greater part of dialogues that do not actually take place but exist only in Ava's head or in never-sent draft messages on her phone. Exciting times they are, sure, for anyone just like Ava in their early twenties looking for who or what she wants to be, but Ava makes it impossible for herself to enjoy anything. She hates the relationship with Julian, which is never labeled a true relationship. Julian is rich and pays everything for her, so it is easier to stay, slowly she becomes more dependent and therefore more affectionate.“He’d been clear that he like having me around but didn’t want anything serious. […] My desire was for Julian’s feelings to be stronger than mine. No one would sympathize with that. I wanted a power imbalance, and I wanted it to benefit me.”Money, status, class differences, two impossible relationships. In terms of themes, Dolan's work is certainly reminiscent of Sally Rooney's Normal People. The difference between the Irish and the British also plays a major role in Exciting Times and Dolan often refers to political differences, including views on Brexit. An interesting secondary theme is that of the English language, when Ava teaches her students English grammar and concludes that she herself does not use the English language according to the rules herself.Ava has a huge inferiority complex, which makes the main character very annoying. Her Irish background and the background of a poor family make the uncertainty about her own ability and position insurmountable and this has an effect in the relationships she enters. Again and again she calls herself strange and abnormal.“You keep describing yourself as this uniquely damaged person, when a lot of it is completely normal. I think you want to feel special – which is fair, who doesn’t – but you won’t allow yourself to feel special in a good way, so you tell yourself you’re especially bad.”Ava does have many moments of self-insight, she reflects on her own life, choices and desires. What makes her character so annoying is the fact that she doesn't attach conclusions, let alone consequences or actions to her own psychological interpretations. She seems unable to communicate about feelings or thoughts and pushes away anyone who wants to get closer by holding up a wall of inferiority.Exciting Times is very reminiscent of Normal People because of the similar themes and the ways in which the struggles of privileged twenties are described. But the story of Ava, Julian and Edith has little persuasion and therefore less potential to become more than just 'a comparable novel'. Is this the beginning of a new literary movement? The future will tell.- Many thanks to the publisher for making an ARC available for this review through Edelweiss+
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  • Anna Meaney
    January 1, 1970
    Exciting Times finds protagonist Ava in a bind. Upon her arrival in Hong Kong to be an English teacher, Ava finds herself involved with an aloof older man, Julian. Despite the fact that their relationship is mainly defined by attempts to grab power through emotional withholding, Ava soon moves in with Julian. However, when Julian leaves unexpectedly for a business trip, Ava discovers the companionship of a Hong Kong native, Edith. Ava is happier than she has been in years, but cannot extract Exciting Times finds protagonist Ava in a bind. Upon her arrival in Hong Kong to be an English teacher, Ava finds herself involved with an aloof older man, Julian. Despite the fact that their relationship is mainly defined by attempts to grab power through emotional withholding, Ava soon moves in with Julian. However, when Julian leaves unexpectedly for a business trip, Ava discovers the companionship of a Hong Kong native, Edith. Ava is happier than she has been in years, but cannot extract herself fully from Julian, even as the situation sows conflict between Ava and her two lovers.You will not read a review of this book that doesn't reference Sally Rooney. I would say that Exciting Times does not have a sympathetic narrator, but does capture something about millennial malaise. More like Sally Rooney meets Ottessa Moshfegh. Ava is deeply unhappy in her life, caught in her own internal monologue, and cannot get herself to accept love. She is constantly caustic towards people she cares about and wants to impress, pushing the world away at every turn as if to simultaneously say "don't look at me" and "love me desperately." And, of course, it wouldn't be a millennial novel without an ironic title.The book is divided into three sections: Julian; Edith; and Julian and Edith. I infinitely preferred the later two sections to the first one. The book can read as very cold as Ava tries to shun emotional attachment to gain power in her relationship with Julian. It's far more compelling when she is able to love Edith fully, to commit in a way she wasn't able to with her relationship with Julian. I've read reviews that people were convinced by Ava's character arc, but I do think she grew and in a way that was both believable and compelling, especially in the third section.Ultimately, the book is really not about plot, so whether someone enjoys this book or not will come down to the writing and the characters. I found the writing to be very flat at some points but very clever and funny at other points. It is all down to personal preference. As for the characters, I liked both Edith and Julian, but wished I had gotten more from Ava. She certainly grows and it would be antithetical to the point of the book to know too much about her, but I do think this is one point in which this book diverges from Rooney's work. In Rooney's books, the characters feel almost too much. In Exciting Times, Ava feels but cuts herself off from other people, and really from the reader as well. I would say it works almost as often as it doesn't for me.
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  • Lili
    January 1, 1970
    I typically dont read lighter romantic comedies about millennials, especially after a recent bad experience with a highly coveted Christina Lauren galley. However, there was just something about the excerpt for Exciting Times in the most recent Publishers Lunch Buzz Books that sparked my curiosity enough for me to request the galley upon finishing the excerpt. Once I was approved for the galley, I jumped it ahead of my other galleys and almost immediately started reading it. And I finished it I typically don’t read lighter romantic comedies about millennials, especially after a recent bad experience with a highly coveted Christina Lauren galley. However, there was just something about the excerpt for Exciting Times in the most recent Publisher’s Lunch Buzz Books that sparked my curiosity enough for me to request the galley upon finishing the excerpt. Once I was approved for the galley, I jumped it ahead of my other galleys and almost immediately started reading it. And I finished it under thirty-six hours.Of course, once I got past the portion that was excerpted in the Buzz Books volume, I quickly realized that this book was not a light romantic comedy. It was something much messier, much darker, with much more angst. It was told as a first person narrative, with so much going on in the narrator’s head that at times it became difficult to discern what the narrator shared outside of her own head. But there was something compelling in the telling that propelled me past midnight into twilight without realizing.I had an epiphany toward the end of the novel: it reminded me of my experience reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog. It had a similar unmistakable thread of isolation and sadness running throughout. There was a poignant lack of deep connection between the characters; some sought connection; others didn’t.Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a quiet compelling read. It’s not necessarily a beach read, as there is too much ennui (and too little hope) to leave you feeling good after finishing it. But if you’re confined to sick quarters, this might just be just thing to pass the time.I received this book as a digital advance reader copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Hillary
    January 1, 1970
    Exciting Times is a clever domestic romp, chronicling the life of a depressive Irish woman who moved to Hong Kong and quickly took up with a rich British banker, despite her best efforts. It starts off fairly reminiscent of Elif Batuman's The Idiot, another charming story where a lot of time goes by, but not a lot seems to happen. In part one, we are introduced to a lot of side characters, but none as substantial as Julian, the posh, emotionally distant subject of the narrator's overwhelming Exciting Times is a clever domestic romp, chronicling the life of a depressive Irish woman who moved to Hong Kong and quickly took up with a rich British banker, despite her best efforts. It starts off fairly reminiscent of Elif Batuman's The Idiot, another charming story where a lot of time goes by, but not a lot seems to happen. In part one, we are introduced to a lot of side characters, but none as substantial as Julian, the posh, emotionally distant subject of the narrator's overwhelming attention. In part two, roughly a third of the way through the story, the shift is dramatic. Edith is introduced, and everything changes for our narrator. She begins to fall for Edith, while lying by omission to ... well, everyone. She's not sure who she is to anyone, or what she wants, exactly. That goes on for most of the book. It's charming, in its way, and the writing is really fun despite the plot being pretty uneventful. I recommend this book for people who like messy characters -- there are plenty!
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  • Lisa Swope
    January 1, 1970
    Isn't the ancient Chinese curse "May you live in interesting times"? Compared to this past month of #HunkerDown this book is pretty tranquil.A new adult novel, a novel of lies. A bit like a long version of a Modern Love column from NYT. Ava moves from Ireland to HK to get away, start new. She ends up teaching English, which is a particular challenge in that she grew up speaking English the Irish way and not the proper British English the parents want. "The English taught us English to teach us Isn't the ancient Chinese curse "May you live in interesting times"? Compared to this past month of #HunkerDown this book is pretty tranquil.A new adult novel, a novel of lies. A bit like a long version of a Modern Love column from NYT. Ava moves from Ireland to HK to get away, start new. She ends up teaching English, which is a particular challenge in that she grew up speaking English the Irish way and not the proper British English the parents want. "The English taught us English to teach us they were right". Ends up with Julian, a Brit in finance, and moves in with him, "not dating", although they are flatmates with benefits. Julian gets a short term assignment abroad, and bi-curious Ava starts "not dating" but definitely chemistry with lawyer and HK national Edith. (Her Chinese name is Mei Ling, but there's a whole group of people who call her that that Ava hasn't met.) Edith studied at Cambridge. Ava does not tell either about the other, nor her mom or brother about either, except as "just a friend".
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  • Kristina
    January 1, 1970
    The book was received as a Goodreads Giveaway. The book follows Ava, a young Irish woman who has moved to Hong Kong to teach English. She meets a man, Julian, and their friendship turns into something else. She moves into his apartment but they never define their relationship. While Julian is away, she meets a banker, Edith and their friendship turns into something more. Julian then returns from his extended trip and things get complicated. I can see why people compare the feel of this book to The book was received as a Goodreads Giveaway. The book follows Ava, a young Irish woman who has moved to Hong Kong to teach English. She meets a man, Julian, and their friendship turns into something else. She moves into his apartment but they never define their relationship. While Julian is away, she meets a banker, Edith and their friendship turns into something more. Julian then returns from his extended trip and things get complicated. I can see why people compare the feel of this book to Sally Rooney’s work and that people who enjoys her books would probably also appreciate this. I’m a bit so-so on her work and feel the same about this book. There isn’t a whole lot of plot here. Ava is indecisive, and is trying to figure out who she is, and I am unclear how much she truly grows in the book.
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  • Kiley
    January 1, 1970
    Ill admit I was a little skeptical going into this book with all of the Sally Rooney comparisons, as I both love her work and think that now every vaguely millennial female writer is compared to her. However, I ended up both loving this book and thinking the comparison is valid and useful. Dolans narrator has a dry, witty voice that expertly captures the malaise of your early 20s, both in the poor decisions and doubt and the occasional flashes of clarity. The narrative voice is the real draw I’ll admit I was a little skeptical going into this book with all of the Sally Rooney comparisons, as I both love her work and think that now every vaguely millennial female writer is compared to her. However, I ended up both loving this book and thinking the comparison is valid and useful. Dolan’s narrator has a dry, witty voice that expertly captures the malaise of your early 20’s, both in the poor decisions and doubt and the occasional flashes of clarity. The narrative voice is the real draw here, and while I occasionally wished that Hong Kong was more thoroughly drawn, I respect that it’s not the point of the book. I would recommend this book to anyone who is or ever has been a woman in their twenties who felt lost.
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  • Angela
    January 1, 1970
    This would be a 5⭐ in normal times but the current global pandemic is slightly distracting, to say the least. Ill re-read in the future, when Im able to give it my full attention, as it truly deserves it. Too many clever turns of phrase and witty observations to mention - every page contains killer lines. The 3 lead characters are wonderfully drawn, especially Ava and her ever-critical inner voice . Comparisons to Sally Rooney are fair, and I also found some similarities to Gail Honeymans This would be a 5⭐️ in normal times but the current global pandemic is slightly distracting, to say the least. I’ll re-read in the future, when I’m able to give it my full attention, as it truly deserves it. Too many clever turns of phrase and witty observations to mention - every page contains killer lines. The 3 lead characters are wonderfully drawn, especially Ava and her ever-critical inner voice . Comparisons to Sally Rooney are fair, and I also found some similarities to Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant.I’m already looking forward to revisiting this when/if life returns to a semblance of normality.
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  • rbr 542
    January 1, 1970
    I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.This one was a DNF for me. I went into this with a lot of expectations, not least because of the comparisons to Sally Rooney's work. Exiting times begins with Ava becoming infatuated with a rich banker, Julien, mainly because of his wealth. This seemed like an odd behavior for a character who prides herself on keeping an abortion fund. With its clunky metaphors, the writing style definitely lacked the fluidity in prose, I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.This one was a DNF for me. I went into this with a lot of expectations, not least because of the comparisons to Sally Rooney's work. Exiting times begins with Ava becoming infatuated with a rich banker, Julien, mainly because of his wealth. This seemed like an odd behavior for a character who prides herself on keeping an abortion fund. With its clunky metaphors, the writing style definitely lacked the fluidity in prose, and the incisive clarity with we readers get glimpses of the minds of characters. It may get better as the novel progresses, but i couldn't stick with it..
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  • Becca Fitzpatrick (bookscandlescats)
    January 1, 1970
    I'm not 100% sure how I feel about this book, but I unfortunately I didnt enjoy it as much as I would have hoped. It felt very rushed, and as though it lacked detail in places that needed it. I found it hard to care about the characters because I felt as though I didn't know them; they weren't very developed. Even though it wasn't my type of book, I'd still recommend it to those who are interested in the storyline; you never know, you might enjoy it!Thank you to Hachette for sending me a copy of I'm not 100% sure how I feel about this book, but I unfortunately I didnt enjoy it as much as I would have hoped. It felt very rushed, and as though it lacked detail in places that needed it. I found it hard to care about the characters because I felt as though I didn't know them; they weren't very developed. Even though it wasn't my type of book, I'd still recommend it to those who are interested in the storyline; you never know, you might enjoy it!Thank you to Hachette for sending me a copy of this book to review.
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  • clare d.
    January 1, 1970
    Naoise Dolan's Exciting Times sets itself up to be a very promising debut novel, but unfortunately fails to deliver on it's promises. The book almost takes place in thirds. The central character walks you through each third, and she's pretty funny and weirdly cold. Dolan writes some excellent sentences, makes some cutting and comical observations, and the comparisons to Rooney are not undeserved (however, ultimately, may not serve her. All Irish authors are not Sally Rooney!) However, I think Naoise Dolan's Exciting Times sets itself up to be a very promising debut novel, but unfortunately fails to deliver on it's promises. The book almost takes place in thirds. The central character walks you through each third, and she's pretty funny and weirdly cold. Dolan writes some excellent sentences, makes some cutting and comical observations, and the comparisons to Rooney are not undeserved (however, ultimately, may not serve her. All Irish authors are not Sally Rooney!) However, I think she may have tapped into a not-so-awesome central character. Ava is ironic to the point of being flippant. She is self-destructive but lacks motivations. I didn't connect with her because she was walled off, but not in a way that made sense or served the novel. It's a shame because Dolan is clearly a bright writer.
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  • Poppy Flaxman
    January 1, 1970
    Naoise Dolan is wry, brilliant and sharp in her debut novel. Her writing has been compared to Sally Rooney on multiple occasions and I hope that Exciting Times captures readers in the same way Normal People did. It deserves every ounce as much attention. I adored this. Her characterisation is superb. She weaves in discussions of class, religion, language, communism and colonialism with ease and expertise. It is an astonishing debut.
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  • James Beggarly
    January 1, 1970
    Brilliantly funny book about a young Irish woman teaching English in Hong Kong who falls in love with a British banker and a native born lawyer and doesnt tell them about each other for as long as she can. Its amazing to spend so much time in the narrators mind, especially for her quick wit and cutting observations about life, but also for her very real emotions and views about love. A wonderful debut novel. Brilliantly funny book about a young Irish woman teaching English in Hong Kong who falls in love with a British banker and a native born lawyer and doesn’t tell them about each other for as long as she can. It’s amazing to spend so much time in the narrator’s mind, especially for her quick wit and cutting observations about life, but also for her very real emotions and views about love. A wonderful debut novel.
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  • Morgan Schulman
    January 1, 1970
    I received an advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review I found this book amusing but not necessarily compelling. It wasnt so much that I was invested in the relationship with Edith as it was that I hated Julian and was eager to see him written out of the picture. The author should be her in mind that the reader is not necessarily as drunk as the protagonist when we are forced to endure these chinless wonders . 3.5 rounded up because its really clever. I received an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review I found this book amusing but not necessarily compelling. It wasn’t so much that I was invested in the relationship with Edith as it was that I hated Julian and was eager to see him written out of the picture. The author should be her in mind that the reader is not necessarily as drunk as the protagonist when we are forced to endure these “chinless wonders “. 3.5 rounded up because it’s really clever.
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