Tsum | Review: Nowes Dolan – Exciting Times

Commitment concern for applicants

Ava from Dublin is good with guys. The 22-year-old Irish expat in Hong Kong begins a relationship with banker Julian (28), a seven-toed man with a fear of commitment, who often lives abroad and has a luxury apartment. For Ava, who teaches English at a private school for elite children in Hong Kong, owning an apartment is too expensive. She speaks English correctly. According to her school, not only native speakers of the color who speak British English are accepted, but Irish, Americans and Australians with accents and expressions that do not bring respect to Oxford and Cambridge, where Ava students are sent by their parents. Julian, who speaks Oxford English, seems strange to Ava’s English-Irish. Language is one of the main themes of exciting timesthe first great novel by Irish writer Naoise Dolan (1992), which was highly acclaimed in Ireland and became an instant bestseller.

Ava and Julian, two of the three main characters in the novel, feel lonely in Hong Kong. You just arrived and you don’t know many people yet. She shares her rented apartment online with three peers who get involved. He is very busy with social life. Julian has co-workers who pay for sex because the relationship takes so much time, he told Ava. Meeting in Julian’s apartment on the 50th floor is practical for both of them. Sometimes Ava stays here, first in the guest bedroom, later in Julian’s bed. They agree that they are not officially in a relationship.

The sex seems reciprocal, it probably is, but according to Ava, that’s okay. Sex is doing her some good now. In Dublin, sex cost her her money. She put every euro she earned from her food-making job into the abortion fund, a bank account that should have held at least 1,500 euros for an abortion trip to England. The biggest advantage of this relationship seems to be Julian’s time abroad. Then Ava, obsessed with Julian’s wealthy income and out-of-the-box, has an apartment of her own. She thinks she might want to be Julian instead of his girlfriend.

There is a big gap between lovers. Julian actually wants a woman of his social class, who also earns a few hundred thousand a year, and hides from his father that Ava has an affair with him. When his friends insulted Seb and Ralph Ava, he didn’t say anything.

“But you see that she grew up in a small house.”
Julian straightened his back. Seb also.
‘How do you see this?’ Ralph asked?
“Oh, Julian seems more knowledgeable,” said the young man. ‘In this area.’
“Which plane?”
“Women’s Plane from Small Houses”.
“But what do they say?” said Ralph.
Seb said, “About women from small houses?”
With a sense of timing, Seb let out a moment of silence.
Then: “Little house, shaved closet.”
Ralph laughed. (…) Julian said nothing.

It is not clear to Ava what she wants. Until I met Edith, a Hong Kong citizen who holds a Canadian passport and studied in Cambridge. Edith, a lawyer and a workaholic like Julian, invites Ava to the stage. They fall in love. The relationship is not without problems. As with Julian, Ava feels that she wants to be Edith because she has the money. Edith lives in an environment, the Hong Kong type of Julian’s group of friends, as everyone else also studied at Uxbridge.

Their relationship status is more prevalent than that of Ava and Julian. Edith doesn’t dare come out and Ava doesn’t dare tell her about Julian and Julian anything about Edith. As long as Julian is not in Hong Kong, this is not a big deal, but once he returns, Ava will have to tell her friend that she not only shares Julian’s apartment, but also the bed. Being good at Edith is much more difficult than being good at Julian, probably because Ava really loves her.

Exciting Times is a novel not only about class, race, and gender identity, but also about language and social media. Ava monitors a lot of parts of the world through social media and comments on what she sees, often with a little sense of humor and always a strong sense of social connections. In terms of subject matter and style, Dolan’s book is reminiscent of the work of his compatriot and contemporary Sally Rooney (1991).

Some people take financial apathy as an adjective. I’ve seen online that Julian’s ex-Charlie lives in Shoreditch, where she says without further ado that she’s “innovating.” If your work is really necessary, then you have no doubt received support from your family fund. Lovely Charlie. Sympathizes that Charlie was a free spirit. For me, the choice always fell on what paid the rent.

A large part, perhaps the “real”, in which Ava does not lie, of the Julian-Ava-Edith love triangle happens in applications that you only write in draft and do not dare to send. Ava is not honest with her mother in Dublin either. She exhausts herself in such obscurity that it becomes painful. Just as Edith can’t be gay in Hong Kong, Ava can’t be in Dublin, even remotely.

When Julian called her “Little Monster” when it came to money and Ava compared herself to a cockroach, a cold climber, things changed. Just as Julian and Edith make spreadsheets in the office every day, she weighs and thinks about what’s best for her: go on with Julian and maybe marry him or take risks with Edith. In the novel’s beautiful and upbeat closing scene, Ava transforms into a different kind of climber, not insects, but someone who rushes to seek happiness there.

Marie Jose Claver

Nowes Dolan – exciting times† Translated from English by Lisette Grasswinkel. Atlas Contact, Amsterdam. 300 pages .22.99€.


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