The Candy House: several stories, one novel

Eoin Ryan

Jennifer Egan has differentiated herself from other authors not just through her writing skill but also the creativity and diversity in styles that is on full display throughout ‘The Candy House’. The story revolves around a new technology called ‘Own Your Unconscious’ which allows people to access every you have ever had and to share every memory in exchange for access to the memories of others.

This is not a book about questioning what would happen if ‘Own Your Unconscious’ was real  and instead puts the issue of loneliness in a world that has never been so connected. Egan portrays how technology can damage the links between people and make us long for relationships lost or no longer achievable, an issue many face today.

Each new chapter has its own separate protagonist and sometimes a writing style unique from any others in the story, such as using emails to tell a certain story. It is as if readers are using ‘Own Your Unconscious’ to delve into these people’s memories and discover how their life stories have affected them. The novel does this separation so well the novel can almost be seen as a short story collection based in one fictional universe. This makes it possible to re-read chapters independently without missing key points as almost each one tells its own separate story.

This form of storytelling also allows for greater freedom to experiment which Egan is more than happy to engage in. Some parts differed much more than others from regular writing styles with the majority of these unique story sections being more enjoyable reads, though this could simply be the joy of finding something unique. A personal favourite was a romance story told by a man who treated everything in statistics and equations from the percentage of times his love interest wears a scrunchie to finding the x equation that will make her fall in love with him.

There were a few stories, however, that felt bland and were almost a struggle to get through due to how little interest there was in that individual’s life. These lives had their own meaning and message to tell the readers, but they were overall uninteresting apart from this aspect making it difficult to connect with the protagonist. Though somewhat annoying to get through, it did not ruin the entire reading experience and could easily be skipped or skimmed over on repeat reads.

‘The Candy House’ is not only an example of the variety of ways stories can be told through writing style, it also touches on the importance of pure connections in an increasingly interconnected yet lonely world. Despite having no main plot to follow, this interconnected web tells a larger story about how these people have lived their lives and coped with a world that is changing at a pace faster than ever.

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