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The Invisible Circusby Jennifer Egan
Synopses & Reviews
The high ideals and inevitable compromises of the 1960s form the background to this acclaimed novel. Phoebe O'Connor, eighteen years old in the summer of 1978, is too young to know the 1960s, but old enough to feel the anxiety of their influence. She is obsessed by the memory of her charismatic older sister, Faith, a flower child who died in Italy in 1970. Searching for the truth about Faith's death and life, Phoebe retraces her steps across Europe to the very place where she died. Her search yields more complex and disturbing revelations than she had wished for--about her sister and the generation she emblematized.
"Mesmerizing...told with great assurance and power....Phoebe's earnest obsession with the detritus of the 60's inevitably gets a little tiresome, and even Ms. Egan's evocation of this era sometimes feels a bit dutiful. But The Invisible Circus is not a cultural history; it's the story of a particular family caught in a particular moment in time, and that story is told with great assurance and power. Ms. Egan portrays the sisters with a quiet, heartbreaking clarity she understands perfectly that grieving children will gladly exchange their futures for the privilege of remaining faithful to the dead who have left them behind." Alice Truax, The New York Times Book Review
"Wonderful...words glide through her fingers and enter the pores like cool San Francisco fog." Kim Bendheim, Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Brilliant in its authenticity and overwhelming passion." Mary-Ann Tirone Smith, Boston Globe Book Review
"A trip that takes the reader through stunning emotional terrain." The New Yorker
"Egan effectively contrasts Phoebe's rigidity with Faith's daring nature. Eventually, however, she discovers that Faith 'just threw herself away.' Though the prose at times overexaggerates in conveying such extreme personalities, the author usually manages to keep it in check as Phoebe chooses her own future over Faith's forsaken one." Publishers Weekly
"The Invisible Circus is a powerful and often disturbing study of the profound reverberations of death within a family. The sense of period — the hedonistic 1960s followed by the slower, more reflective 1970s — is contrasted with the timelessness of loss and the difficulty of letting go. Egan weaves a colourful web of repetitions and reworkings, further tangled by her creative use of metaphor and her eye for the smallest detail. If the pace sometimes slows or seems to twist unnecessarily, then it is no bad thing: challenging expectation is what an Invisible Circus is all about." Sarah Francis, The Times Literary Supplement
In the summer of 1978, 18-year-old Phoebe is too young to know the 1960s but old enough to feel its influence. Living in San Francisco, Phoebe is obsessed by the memory of her older sister, Faith, a flower child who died in Italy in 1970. Searching for the truth about death and life, Phoebe follows Faith's trail, and discovers it is larger and darker than one death.
About the Author
JENNIFER EGAN was born in Chicago and grew up in San Francisco. Her short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harpers, GQ, Ploughshares, and elsewhere, and she writes frequently for The New York Times Magazine. Author of a short story collection entitled Emerald City, she lives in New York City.
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