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  • Exciting Times

  • Longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2021
  • By: Naoise Dolan
  • Narrated by: Aoife McMahon
  • Length: 6 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: Literature & Fiction
  • 3.8 out of 5 stars (492 ratings)

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Summary

Ava, newly arrived in Hong Kong from Dublin, spends her days teaching English to rich children.

Julian is a banker. A banker who likes to spend money on Ava, to have sex and discuss fluctuating currencies with her. But when she asks whether he loves her, he cannot say more than 'I like you a great deal'.

Enter Edith, a lawyer. Refreshingly enthusiastic and unapologetically earnest, Edith takes Ava to the theatre when Julian leaves Hong Kong for work. Quickly, she becomes something Ava looks forward to.

And then Julian writes to tell Ava he is coming back to Hong Kong....

©2019 Naoise Dolan (P)2019 Orion Publishing Group

What listeners say about Exciting Times

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • AD
  • 20-10-20

Exhausted by Ava’s tedious self-absorption

I initially found Ava’s self-critique of her slightly dirtbag personality refreshing and entertaining, but after hours of the stuff, compounded by her apparent inability to combine her self-reflection with any actionable change to address those aspects of her character, life, or choices with which she was dissatisfied, this book became a tiresome egotistical mope from a deeply unlikable character.

Her relationship with Edith entirely lacked substance: it felt sappy, two-dimensional and appeared to be founded entirely on Ava’s insecurities, obsessions and borderline pathological inability to tell the truth. As soon as her secret about Julian was out, so too was her flame for Edith.

Her relationship with Julian at least had chemistry, some edge and complexity of dialogue.

Can the author not write romantic relationships between women or was than intentional?

Besides the poorly crafted relationships, I found the portrayal of Ava’s queerness utterly bizarre. The only time that she, a woman who does a lot of reflecting, reflects on her queerness is at the time that she is actually with a woman. As soon as she’s back to sleeping with a man, this aspect of her vanishes entirely from the narrative. Are you only gay when you’re actively with a woman, when you’re back with a man you’re straight again, and the concept of bisexuality doesn’t exist…? For a book that has a fair amount to say on deconstructing stereotypes and heteronormativity, it sure did fall straight (pun intended) into that one.

As for the ending, given the character development up to that point, it just felt really implausible.

I greatly enjoyed the nuggets on language with which the book is peppered, and the narration is just lovely.

7 people found this helpful

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What was the point?

Only finished it to see if there was any point or plot. Donut waste your time.

3 people found this helpful

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  • JK
  • 19-11-20

Biggest (literary) disappointment of 2020

Review contains some spoilers

I'd been looking forward to this book so maybe the disappointment was partly due to high expectations. The thighs that bugged me most about it:
Firstly (and very subjectively), the plot such as it is limps along on the very prominent yet somehow simultaneously very insufficient crutch of Dolan's wit. I usually enjoy a complicated protagonist, but they have to have at least some redeeming qualities about them and again, if the author thought it would be enough to make Ava occasionally witty (really not as frequently as she/Dolan thinks she is) then that's not enough for me. I desperately wanted to shake her starting from about halfway in, and towards the end I was hoping against hope that this might not be some kind of deeply unhealthy love story but in fact the story of Ava's self inflicted downfall, but I knew exactly how it'd end very early on.
Secondly, and this is more important than my personal feelings about the protagonist, voice and plot, is the casual and sometimes not so casual racism. This book is allegedly set in Hong Kong but honestly could be anywhere because most of the scenes play out in theatres, Starbucks, hotel chains or rooftop bars full of expats. Everyone except for one of the love interests is white, and even she went to Cambridge and serves more as an example for the elite (that Ava feels excluded from) rather than a local. The protagonist has some vague opinions on class (mainly that she hates the rich because she can't be part of them, so she settles for sleeping with them) and even hazier thoughts on colonialism as it relates to England and Ireland - and doesn't even for a second try to engage with colonialism in Hong Kong. If anything, she makes a point of saying that she gets all her information on Hong Kong politics from her expat friends. She goes on and on about how the English have imposed their language on the Irish but at no point seems to want to learn Cantonese, beyond a couple of phrases her girlfriend teaches her.
I truly thought there would be a moment of recognition for the protagonist towards the end where she sees that her Marxism and anti-colonialism don't sit comfortably with her being a wealth-obsessed English teacher in a former colony but in the end we have to be content with her leaving the fuckboy for the nice(ish) girl. Well, he left her. Well, they seem to still be in contact and from how she talked about him before that's probably not going to change. Alas, small victories, baby steps and all that.
Great, now I've reviewed myself into being furious all over again. Anyway, please spare yourselves.

Oh, but performance was ok!

3 people found this helpful

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Don't.

50+ lesbian fiction books, this is the first I just can't finish. It's just vacuous of everything. Awful.

3 people found this helpful

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Loved listening, so beautifully written

Felt like listening in to someone's mind. loved the thoughts on English and Irish language throughout.

3 people found this helpful

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Dull

Cannot understand any of the hype this book received it has got to be one of the most dull self-indulgent audiobooks I have listened too in a long while. I rarely leave negative reviews but would advise not wasting a credit on this.

2 people found this helpful

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Dull and overrated.

Had to read for book club. The only reason I didn't ditch after a few chapters. Unremarkable

2 people found this helpful

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Disappointing

Unfortunately this book is the opposite of exciting. I really didn’t find there was much to the story and struggled to stay engaged throughout.
You don’t warm to or even get to know any of the characters and the ending seemed pointless as well. Overall would not recommend.

1 person found this helpful

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boring storyline

I found this book quite boring and main character unlikable. It jumped around quite a bit so it was hard to follow at times. I gave up at chapter 8.

1 person found this helpful

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Well worth a read.

Really enjoyed this. Unsentimental, honest account of a young girl trying to figure her shit out, away from the pressures of home and family.

1 person found this helpful