The Invisible Circus, Paperback
3 out of 5 (1 rating)


In Jennifer Egan's highly acclaimed first novel, set in 1978, the political drama and familial tensions of the 1960s form a backdrop for the world of Phoebe O'Connor, age eighteen.

Phoebe is obsessed with the memory and death of her sister Faith, a beautiful idealistic hippie who died in Italy in 1970.

In order to find out the truth about Faith's life and death, Phoebe retraces her steps from San Francisco across Europe, a quest which yields both complex and disturbing revelations about family, love, and Faith's lost generation. This spellbinding novel introduced Egan's remarkable ability to tie suspense with deeply insightful characters and the nuances of emotion.




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Think <i>The Lovely Bones</i>, but from the perspective of a living, and seriously disturbed, bratty youngest child. Jennifer Egan's novel might have been written first, but I know which I prefer. Phoebe O'Connor is eighteen in late 1970's San Francisco, living with her widowed mother and trying to deal with the death of her idolised older sister, Faith. After learning a few home truths, Phoebe sets off on a lone trip to Europe, tracing Faith's last steps and seeking either ghosts or answers. In Germany, she runs into her sister's old boyfriend, nicknamed 'Wolf', who agrees to join Phoebe's pilgrimage to the Italian cliffs where Faith fell to her death. The two fall into a depraved physical relationship, shagging constantly for a good quarter of the book I could have lived without, before Wolf decides to tell Phoebe more uncomfortable revelations about her sister.Phoebe is desperately unlikeable from the start, selfish and immature, but I found the first, San Francisco-based part of the story still quite easy and interesting to read. Then Phoebe throws a tantrum because her mother tells her that (a) her father, who was obsessed with Faith, was actually a terrible amateur artist, and (b) she's fallen in love with her boss and finally moving on with her life, putting the family home on the market, and the whole novel started sliding down hill from there. There's a trite, 'finding religion' passage, a 'taking acid' stream of consciousness chapter, wall to wall introspection, and then Wolf, who is obviously obsessed with the youthful mirror of the late love of his life. I telegraphed his 'confession' very early on, but all the blather about Faith's involvement in terrorism even managed to dampen that climax.So, watch the film with Cameron Diaz for a potted version of this miserable tale, but otherwise I recommend reading <i>The Lovely Bones</i> or <i>Tales of the City</i>.

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