The Candy House

Jennifer Egan

The Candy House
Little, Brown Book Group
United Kingdom
14 March 2023

The Candy House

Jennifer Egan

It’s 2010. Staggeringly successful and brilliant tech entrepreneur Bix Bouton is desperate for a new idea. He’s forty, with four kids, and restless when he stumbles into a conversation with mostly Columbia professors, one of whom is experimenting with downloading or “externalizing” memory. Within a decade, Bix’s new technology, Own Your Unconscious - that allows you access to every memory you’ve ever had, and to share every memory in exchange for access to the memories of others–has seduced multitudes. But not everyone.

In spellbinding linked narratives, Egan spins out the consequences of Own Your Unconscious through the lives of multiple characters whose paths intersect over several decades. Egan introduces these characters in an astonishing array of styles - from omniscient to first person plural to a duet of voices, an epistolary chapter, and a chapter of tweets. In the world of Egan’s spectacular imagination, there are “counters” who track and exploit desires and there are “eluders,” those who understand the price of taking a bite of the Candy House.

Intellectually dazzling and extraordinarily moving, The Candy House is a bold, brilliant imagining of a world that is moments away. With a focus on social media, gaming, and alternate worlds, you can almost experience moving among dimensions in a role-playing game. Egan takes her “deeply intuitive forays into the darker aspects of our technology-driven, image-saturated culture” (Vogue) to stunning new heights and delivers a fierce and exhilarating testament to the tenacity and transcendence of human longing for real connection, love, family, privacy and redemption.


This is it. The one we’ve all been waiting for. Jennifer Egan’s follow-up to her Pulitzer Prize-winning, genre-bending A Visit from the Goon Squad. Taking the same patchwork form as Egan’s previous novel, each chapter in The Candy House is told from the perspective of a different character, creating an intersecting narrative that spans decades. Described as a ‘sibling novel’ to Goon Squad, The Candy House stands on its own, but I would recommend giving yourself the pleasure of reading (or re-reading) Goon Squad first. With many characters re-appearing and a timeline of events that follows on from the previous book, this rich read becomes even more rewarding when you can connect the dots between the two.

The Candy House opens in New York City with Bix Bouton, a character we only glimpsed briefly in Goon Squad. Inspired by a professor at Columbia University who is toying with the concept of ‘downloading’ memories, Bix creates the ‘Own Your Unconscious’ technology, allowing users to access their every memory and share and exchange them with others. Paralleling the tech giants we all know and love (or love to hate), Bix’s technology has its adherents as well as its detractors. The consequences of this technology on family, society, culture, privacy, love and human connection are played out across the novel. Much like how Bennie Salazar and the music industry formed the basis of Goon Squad, Bix Bouton and his technology provide the overarching structure to Egan’s interlocking narratives throughout the novel.

As unique, propulsive and readable as ever, Egan has crafted another work with layers of meaning that deserves to be read and re-read for years to come. Egan proved with Goon Squad that she was at the vanguard of the future of fiction. The Candy House shows she isn’t ready to give up that position any time soon.

Tristen Brudy is a bookseller at Readings Carlton.

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