In Dolan’s wry, tender debut, a young Dubliner navigates her love life and sexuality. Ava, 22, has a murky friendship with London-born and Oxford-educated banker Julian, in his late 20s, whom she’d met at a bar during her first month in Hong Kong, where she teaches English. They treat each other with ironic regard, speaking mostly in quips about his privilege and their mutual maybe-attraction. Ava moves into his flat, and they soon start sleeping together. The novel picks up speed after Julian travels to London for work and Ava meets Edith Zhang, who is both different from Julian in many ways—stylish, female, a Hong Kong local—and similar—boarding school, Cambridge, a well-off family. On Ava’s 23rd birthday, Edith kisses her, and they fall headlong into an earnest, garrulous, and secret love, as Edith isn’t out to her family. When Julian writes to say he will be returning in a month, Ava, who hasn’t disclosed the true nature of her and Julian’s relationship to Edith, must decide what she really wants. Dolan starts slowly, but gradually the ironic distancing of Ava’s narration is pierced by questions from Ava’s students and her transformative relationship with Edith. Dolan’s smart, brisk debut works as charming comedy of manners, though it packs less of a punch when it comes to class consciousness.
"Very funny… Extremely sharp – both cutting and tart… A bracing, refreshing first novel."
"Jealousy and obsession, love and late capitalism, sex and the internet all come whirling together in a wry and bracing tale of class and privilege.
New York Times Book Review
In fewer than 250 pages, [Dolan] has captured the touchstone millennial tension between sardonicism and sincerity — the electric ambivalence of figuring out how to be a person in these times. . . . Dolan has buttoned-up elocution, taut phrasing and sharp angles. . . .
Exciting Times is a funny novel (both haha and weird), resisting the pull of melodrama in favor of a sharp point of view and an intense concern with language. . . . [and] is indeed engaged with the ways class, inequality and politics manifest in social life.
"Expert prose.... Speaks from a specific stature of intellect and awareness, with an ambivalence towards engaging in the capitalist economy, while simultaneously longing to be of, and a part of, the world."
"Dolan crafts sharp commentary on the intersection of longing, class and power."
Droll, shrewd and unafraid—a winning debut.”
"I wouldn’t be surprised if it emerges as the book of the summer … A rich, sharply witty story made out of the frictions and complexities of young love … Kept me rapt until the final page."
Fiercely intelligent, brutally funny and written with such heart,
Exciting Times announces an impressive new voice in literature.
Hands down one of the most anticipated debuts of the year ... A piercingly provocative look at modern love and power games.
The prevailing experience of [Dolan’s] endeavor is one of invigoration. “Exciting Times” is a work of phenomenal acuity and vehemence that, in the freshness of its apprehensions and the authority of its voice, is edifying, funny, tender, plangent and rich with the sensibility of an individual who, condemned to conditions that are not of her making, finds the space that she needs to take flight, and who proceeds as the person she was.
"Exciting Times is constant fun."
"Meet the new Sally Rooney... That might sound like hyperbole but this tale brings fresh and on-point insights into modern love that’ll make it a hit with lovers of
A love story packed with irony and introspection.
"Half Sally Rooney love triangle, half glitzy
Crazy Rich Asians high living—and guaranteed to please."
Incisive and funny…. [Dolan’s] bold, sardonic narrative voice is original and, at times, irresistible…. This is a sharp-eyed novel that tackles serious ideas.… Dolan’s novel — wry and jaded, yet sometimes hopeful — understands this volatile era.
"A brisk, bracing read.... Wry and witty, Dolan pokes and prods at all those things that everyone can't help but obsess over: sex and money and, you know, sex and money."
"A fresh and funny debut about love and self-knowledge … affecting and powerful."
"Edna O’Brien. Tana French. Sally Rooney. Enter fellow Irishwoman Dolan, whose knowing, superbly observed debut novel marks the young author as a major force. This sardonic rom-com chronicles the escapades of 22-year-old Ava, a desultory millennial teaching abroad inHong Kong, where she meets Julian, an aloof British banker, and Edith, a wealthy Chinese lawyer. What ensues is an enchantingly neurotic love triangle in a time of economic and existential tumult."
"Wry, stylish.... In this witty satire of the haves and have nots, Dolan explores tender, insightful truths about the vagaries of modern love."
Exciting Times comes a rare and indeed exciting talent, a cacophony of our times, a treat for the socially distanced."
"A dazzling debut … Dolan’s writing is precise, acerbic and enviably good, and her characters are perfectly drawn."
Evening Standard (London)
"Whipsmart… A modern love story…
Exciting Times is an impressive, cerebral debut written with brio and humour… The observations are keen, heartfelt and delivered in a brutally nonchalant style… Heralding for sure a new star in Irish writing."
"What sets Dolan apart is her humour. EXCITING TIMES is riddled with snappy one liners and witty interplay. A fantastic first novel."
"A funny, smart, contemporary love story."
"A love triangle like you've never seen it before.... Wry and sardonic, Dolan relentlessly examines untold truths about love, classicism, and ambition."
Volleying dialogue, rich interiority, and perceptive writing on money, politics, and class. . . A clever and deep novel of sex, connection, and the complexities of self expression.
Booklist (starred review)
"A wonderfully sharp, comic writer, adept at making wisecracks in the caustic, knock-em-off, knock-em-down tradition of Dorothy Parker, Joan Rivers and Nora Ephron … [Ava] is Bridget Jones’s sour sister, or Bridget Jones marinaded in vinegar … I found myself purring with pleasure. I loved
Exciting Times’s snap and its bite … This is comic writing at the highest level."
"Echoes of Sally Rooney's
Conversations with Friends resound in this exacting debut novel about a young Irish woman living in Hong Kong who becomes embroiled in a love triangle with a wealthy man and woman."
DEBUT This delightfully sardonic, insightful debut picks apart life at the whims of the economy, love, and self-sabotage. Ava has moved from Ireland to Hong Kong to teach English to children, a job that's so intense, she is expected not to go to the bathroom all day. She remains very much of working-class Dublin in her nervous dealings with the English and rich Irish people she meets but takes up with one of them, Julian, a stiffly unloving and Eton-ified banker. Ava then falls for a kind Hong Kong woman, Edith, but can't be honest with either partner, let alone herself, about her feelings or desires for the future. The first two sections of the book, which portray Ava's two relationships, are the most satisfying. The last section looks at the love triangle and can be frustrating.
VERDICT Overall, this surprising novel is believable and piercingly written, with many hilarious lines, such as when Ava wonders if a nasty English character is "a real person or three Mitford sisters in a long coat." For fans of Rachel Khong's Goodbye, Vitamin. [See Prepub Alert, 12/2/19.] —Henrietta Verma, Credo Reference, New York, NY
A young millennial finds herself in a love triangle with a man and woman.
In Irish author Dolan's debut novel, 22-year-old narrator Ava relocates from Dublin to Hong Kong to teach grammar at a school for English-language learners. Noting that the school hires only white people, she remarks: “Like sharks’ teeth, teachers dropped out and were replaced.” From the jump, Ava approaches the world with cleareyed humor. In her first months as an expat, she meets Julian—a 28-year-old English banker—who seems aloof about everything except his job. As they fall into a quasi-relationship, Ava moves into his apartment, where Julian allows her to live rent-free. When Julian leaves for London on an extended work project, Ava meets Edith, a Hong Kong local and ambitious lawyer. With Ava still living in Julian’s apartment, she and Edith fall into a quick friendship that evolves into a relationship. Telling neither the full truth about the other, Ava finds herself falling in love with Edith. During an evening stroll, she thinks: “I didn't need to know how other women went about being together. I could see it forever, for us: walking through cities, laughing at things that weren’t that funny.” When Julian tells her he’s returning to Hong Kong, she must navigate the precarious situation she’s inadvertently created. Ava—who has struggled throughout the novel to be vulnerable in often maddening ways—must make a decision: live comfortably or live truthfully. Politics, class, and race anxiously hover over the entire novel. After confiding that she called her college savings account her “abortion fund,” she says: “I knew some women who saved with their friends, and they all helped whoever was unlucky. But I didn’t trust anyone....The richer I got, the harder it would be for anyone to force me to do anything.” Dolan’s preoccupation with power is often couched in humor but always expertly observed. Her elegantly simple writing allows her ideas and musings to shine.
A refreshingly wry and insightful debut.