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The Invisible Circus by Jennifer Egan
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The Invisible Circus (original 1995; edition 2012)

by Jennifer Egan

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5031920,248 (3.45)17
Member:tamaranth
Title:The Invisible Circus
Authors:Jennifer Egan
Info:Corsair (2012), Kindle Edition, 368 pages
Collections:Ebooks
Rating:***1/2
Tags:fiction, read12, femalewriter, suicide, 1960s, 1970s

Work details

The Invisible Circus by Jennifer Egan (1995)

Recently added byHomerpickles, private library, lolo1977, RachelGMB, Iira, Gimley_Farb, kittyjay, AdonisGuilfoyle
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I fought this book for a while. I'm not sure why. My goal was to reject it. A first novel--I'm too good for that, I thought. The 60s! I lived through that--there's nothing left to say about it. In the end, I lost the fight.

Phoebe starts off stuck in a familiar place, thinking she's the only one who's ever been there and simultaneously thinking she's never been anywhere. It's the kind of angst which has no solution inside of its self-definition. She goes looking in the totally wrong direction for relief--thinking there was somewhere outside of herself she needed to get to. What she finds is both unpredictable and inevitable. There! I didn't spoil anything!

Unlike many novels, films, tv shows, the psychology of the characters never seemed false, or only put there to make the story work. I believed everyone and everything. The tricks I expected to find, the places where I could point my finger and say, "nice plot device," freeing me from the spell, were absent. I was forced to go along with Phoebe on her quest, even as the other characters tried to stop her. We all failed. Like Phoebe, we are survivors so we had to fail and then we had to figure out what to do with our failure. Ms. Egan took the risks and didn't fail. ( )
  Gimley_Farb | Jul 6, 2015 |
Think The Lovely Bones, 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 The Lovely Bones or Tales of the City. ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Mar 5, 2015 |
The title refers partly to a Diggers' sponsored happening in late 1960s San Francisco, which was a strong influence on the book's characters Wolf and Faith. Faith is the dead older sister of the main character Phoebe, who, after graduating from high school in 1978, flies off to Europe following the trail of Faith's postcards from eight years before. The title also refers to the reverberations from the '60s felt as inner turmoil in younger brothers and sisters who weren't quite old enough to be there. This book was recommended to me by one of the organizers of this year's Ocean State Writers' Conference, which managed to snag Jennifer Egan to be the keynote speaker before she "beat out" Jonathan Franzen for this year's National Book Critics Circle award. ( )
  jpe9 | Aug 7, 2013 |
All of the quotes on the front and back cover promised this would be a "brilliant," "mesmerizing," and "emotional" book about an 18-year-old who backpacks across Europe tracing her dead older sister's path to the place in Italy where she committed suicide.

Instead, I found it dull, predictable, and irritating. The main character, Phoebe, is woefully naive to the point where I had absolutely no sympathy for her. I wanted to smack her and yell at her to grow up. The plot twist at the beginning Part 3 is practically expected, but the execution is too coincidental to be anything except poor writing, especially when it easily could have been made more plausible. The plot twist in the end was something I saw coming from the very beginning of the book. The romance that occupies the last 1/3 of the book is just awkward and ill-explained.

Probably not even a book I would have read if I hadn't enjoyed the author's The Keep, I should have trusted my instincts here. ( )
1 vote BrookeAshley | May 23, 2013 |
Egan is always on my "must read" list, so I went back to her first novel, not expecting much. If only all first novels were so good! Egan has a special talent for describing & defining & illustrating close relationships that are off-kilter, permanently or temporarily. Her characters' actions & emotions are coherent unto themselves. You think you might know & understand them. Dialogue spot on. Situations interesting. Filled with good stuff, not just overlong location descriptions. Wish I wrote that! ( )
1 vote ReneeGKC | May 20, 2013 |
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Epigraph
". . . for the present age, which prefers the picture to the thing pictured, the copy to the original, imagination to reality, or the appearance to the essence . . . illusion alone is sacred to this age, but truth profane . . . so that the highest degree of illusion is to it the highest degree of sacredness." - Ludwig Fuerbach

"Exultation is the going/Of an inland soul to sea,/Past the houses - past the headlands-/
Into deep Eternity- . . . (Emily Dickinson)
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For my mother, Kay Klimpton and my brother, Graham Kimpton.
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She's missed it, Pheobe knew by the silence.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307387526, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:49 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

In San Francisco, a conventional woman who has always been fascinated by her hippie sister, retraces the sister's European trip which ended in her death. In the process of learning more about her, the idol loses some of the glitter. A first novel.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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