Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan

Exciting Times (2020) by Naoise Dolan, a young Irish writer’s debut novel, is about an Irish millennial expat, Ava, in Hong Kong and the complicated relationships she soon finds herself in with a British banker and a Chinese lawyer. Neither of the romantic relationships in the book resonated with me perhaps because they were so clearly disconnected from the real world. The characters weren’t worried so much about rent or bills. Hong Kong is a wealthy city and the disregard of money was odd. The banker let Ava, the millennial, stay in his flat rent-free. Neither the banker or Ava was bothered by this but I was. Still, however, I liked Ava and laughed at all of her jokes. As did the banker. Ava texted “are you missing the marxist invective or” and he replied “Home is where there’s a small Irish person calling for you to be guillotined.” (p. 240) The writing is crisp and clean. The humor is both droll and political. I had to try to keep up with the slightly dated Brexit jokes but I wanted to keep up.

I was particularly caught up in the Hong Kong setting as I lived there for five years and loved it all. When the author casually mentioned a coffee chain there or a grocery story or the mid-levels outside escalator, I cheered. Hong Kong has been in the news recently with the democracy protests, China’s imposition of the new security law and of course for covid. Enjoy these recent photos of Hong Kong. Readers who enjoyed Normal People or Trust Exercise would likely want to read this as well.