Exciting Times review: Whipsmart debut heralds a new star of Irish writing

Exciting book from Irish author Naoise Dolan has echoes of Sally Rooney

Naoise Dolan: The observations are keen, heartfelt and delivered in a brutally nonchalant style

Naoise Dolan: The observations are keen, heartfelt and delivered in a brutally nonchalant style

The arch title of Naoise Dolan’s whipsmart debut novel, Exciting Times, is the first indicator of the author’s style. Not a lot happens in the exterior world of the book. A modern love story of sorts, it follows a year or so in the life of Ava, a 22-year-old Irish woman working as a foreign-language teacher in Hong Kong. The voice is astute, sardonic and highly emotionally aware. The exciting times mainly take place inside her head, where a vast, neurotic mind constantly analyses her own behaviour and second-guesses the actions of others.

Exciting Times is an impressive, cerebral debut written with brio and humour. Ava is largely uninterested in her poorly paid job and her peers, and the first-person narrative instead focuses her energy on two seminal relationships over the course of the novel. For all its zeitgeist feel and interest in modern culture, there is a classic structure underpinning proceedings. Split into three sections – Julian; Edith; Edith and Julian – Dolan presents us with thesis, antithesis and something approaching synthesis in the vibrant closing third.

The Irish Times
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