The Invisible Circus – Jennifer Egan

“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 is the third Egan novel I’ve read, and it is by far my favourite. Although it’s not as quirky as A Visit from the Goon Squad or deep and complex as Look At Me, it has a simple, intriguing storyline that hooked me in from the beginning.

Phoebe has been in the same town all her life, haunted by the ghost of her sister, Faith, who lived from moment to moment with a larger-than-life, transient personality. When she went travelling, moving from country to country with her boyfriend, Wolf, she never came back. It’s the loss of her beloved sister, the main focus of her family and the shocking, quiet absence of such a loud life that has kept Phoebe in her stagnant, safe life. One day, a chance encounter shocks her out of her usual routine and she decides to follow in her sister’s footsteps around the world, using the postcards Faith sent wherever she went, to find out the truth behind her death.

Along the way, Phoebe lives more extravagantly and spontaneously than she ever has before, trying to fill the shoes Faith has left behind. Walking in her sister’s faint footsteps, she finds Wolf, and in turn finds truth – the truth about Faith, the truth about her family and the truth about herself. It is this truth which turns her life upside down but eventually forces her onto a new path, finally able to keep the shadows of her sister behind locked doors – a feat she has never managed before.

The Invisible Circus is a stripped-down version of what I’ve come to expect from Egan; a simple story, a not-so-simple love story, flawless writing and an intriguing method of storytelling. As usual, Egan wraps fiction around history, making for a fascinating, literary read.

Many thanks to Constable & Robinson for the review copy.

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4 thoughts on “The Invisible Circus – Jennifer Egan

  1. Sarah says:

    I’ve just finished this and I did enjoy it although I found the character of Phoebe very annoying. I’ve put a link to your review on my blog if that’s OK.

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