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Exciting Times

(10 customer reviews)


by Naoise Dolan


The first novel from Naoise Dolan centers on a 22-year-old Irish ex-pat who lives in Hong Kong. Ava is torn between very different people: the mentally guarded banker Julian and the affectionate and proud lawyer Edith. Does she want to be with someone who fits into her life more easily or wants to explore something new? In examining her hero’s choices, Dolan gives a poignant commentary on the division of class and power.


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About this book

237 Pages
4 - 5 Hours to read
64k Total words


“This debut novel about an Irish ex-pat millennial teaching English and finding romance in Hong Kong is half Sally Rooney love triangle, half glitzy Crazy Rich Asians high living—and guaranteed to please.” Vogue 

The New York Times Book Review * Vogue * TIME * Marie Claire * Elle * O, The Oprah Magazine * Esquire * Harper’s Bazaar * Bustle * PopSugar * Refinery 29 * LitHub * Beautiful

An intimate, bracingly intelligent debut novel about a millennial Irish ex-pat who becomes entangled in a love triangle with a male banker and a female lawyer

Ava, newly arrived in Hong Kong from Dublin, spends her days teaching English to rich children.

Julian is a banker. A banker who likes to spend money on Ava, to have sex and discuss fluctuating currencies with her. But when she asks whether he loves her, he cannot say more than “I like you a great deal.”

Enter Edith. A Hong Kong-born lawyer, striking and ambitious, Edith takes Ava to the theater and leaves her tulips in the hallway. Ava wants to be her—and wants her.

And then Julian writes to tell Ava he is coming back to Hong Kong… Should Ava return to the easy compatibility of her life with Julian or take a leap into the unknown with Edith?

Politically alert, heartbreakingly raw, and dryly funny, Exciting Times is thrillingly attuned to the great freedoms and greater uncertainties of modern love. In stylish, uncluttered prose, Naoise Dolan dissects the personal and financial transactions that make up a life—and announces herself as a singular new voice.

  • HarperCollins; June 2020
  • ISBN: 9780062968777
  • Title: Exciting Times
  • Author: Naoise Dolan
  • Imprint: Ecco
  • Language: English

In The Press

“Half Sally Rooney love triangle, half glitzy Crazy Rich Asians high living—and guaranteed to please.”

Additional information


Hardcover, Paperback

10 reviews for Exciting Times

  1. mark henshaw

    Three stars – oh come on! Exciting Times is brilliantly written. Shimmering dialogue and throwaway seemingly effortless description. Not sure I ‘liked’ either Julian or Ava – the first emotionally crippled in that awful educated English male way, the latter similarly crippled by her relentless self-criticism. But Dolan is both smart and funny. Plus she’s absorbed what she’s read whether it’s The Great Gatsby, or Bright Lights – Big City or Susanna Moore’s In The Cut (I’m guessing – but Exciting Times is just as good as either of these). And it’s genuinely, playfully, erotic. I want Edith’s address. And, yes – I’ll be waiting for the sequel. I already am. Mark Henshaw author of The Snow Kimono

  2. Dmno_co

    A Very Exciting Time…but not really. Maybe. I am just jaded, but the story seemed to drag and go nowhere. An aimless 20 something in Hong Kong meets and shacks up with two very different people. The writing is droll and possibly a fan fiction moment to Sally Rooney. Maybe this is a whole thing with young Irish female writers, novels about the mundane. Yes, there is a love triangle, but this is the most boring love triangle possible and the characters perfectly run of the mill.

  3. Iloveteamsthatbreakmyheart

    I found this book through The Adaptables podcast and thoroughly enjoyed the story. Naoise Dolan perfectly captures the insecurity and ego of romantic relationships in your 20s. The characters are well-developed and I enjoyed the power games between Ava, Julian, and Edith. One of my favorite quarantine reads so far!

  4. Maureen C.

    I have to say I loved this book to pieces. It just hit me at the right time. Thank you for Naoise Dolan for her snarky writing and uneven (said in the most loving way) characters!

  5. Ada

    I flew through the pages. Enjoyed the biting dialogue and found the main character oddly relatable. I’m looking forward to Naoise’s next book!

  6. P.B.Reader

    Ava, twenty-two years old, has moved to Hong Kong to decide what to do next in her life. She accepts a low-paying position as a teacher of English in a Hong Kong school. She doesn’t like her flat mates and ends up moving in with a twenty-nine-year-old banker named Julian. When Julian must return to London for three months, Ava finds herself attracted to a lawyer, Edith, a native of Hong Kong.The main character, Ava, is angsty, immature, and shallow. Julian, the man Ava lives with, is distant, controlling, shallow, and, at times, emotionally abusive. What about these characters would make a good novel? In addition, the author doesn’t bother to use Hong Kong to the fullest extent possible. While it is evident that the author wanted to write a novel with complex characters and multiple issues, all she succeeded in doing is writing a novel about self-absorbent and deeply flawed characters.This was not an easy read because of the author’s lack of character development and its stream-of-consciousness style of writing. The author tried very hard to make this novel seem intelligent and oh-so-sophisticated, and all she managed to do is to bore her readers to tears.My thanks to the publisher for an eARC.

  7. Douglas Gordy

    2.5, rounded up.I think my reaction to this debut novel is both a question of being the wrong audience (‘it’s not you, it’s me’, in other words), and also being the wrong book at the wrong time. The first is because it’s a book about and FOR millennials, and the narrator being a 22 year old girl and myself a 66 year old man meant I had almost nothing in common with her. Not only couldn’t I relate to any of her ‘problems’ (issues would be a more apt appellation, since she is one of the whiniest and neediest protagonists I’ve ever encountered), but she is so disagreeable and unlikeable that if I were introduced to her at a social gathering, within five minutes I’d be itching to find any excuse to depart her company. That’s not a great position to be in reading about someone for 256 pages.Secondly, with the glare of the increasing tensions about racial injustice in the US, an unconsciously privileged white girl totally clueless as to such just seemed extremely grating to me right now – I just couldn’t force myself to care a whit about her obsessions as to whether Julian, the man she doesn’t even care about, really loves her or not; nor whether she will mess up (yet again) a seemingly more promising relationship with the more forthcoming Edith (who deserves much better)- it’s not earth shatteringly important to anyone but Ava.That said, Dolan, definitely has writing abilities, even more remarkable when one considers she is ‘on the autism spectrum’, and perhaps Ava’s inabilities to connect and lack of self awareness are reflective of the author’s own issues in that regard. And though I wouldn’t say there is much in the way of the ‘razor sharp wit’ that seems to be a go-to phrase in reviews for this, several lines are indeed clever and warrant a chuckle. And while I can understand all the comparisons to Rooney and Moshfegh, I think it’s a lazy comparison, and ultimately does the book a disservice.

  8. AllyS

    Ava has left Dublin to spend time working as an English teacher in Hong Kong. She doesn’t quite connect with her students or peers but meets a rich English banker with whom she has a relationship. While he is working overseas, she meets a young woman and also has a relationship. A lot of the story involves what is going on in Ava’s head, who she is texting, who she sends imaginary texts to, as she tries to decide which of the two she’d rather be with.The book was not really “exciting”, but it was readable. During this time of quarantine and COVID, and as a middle-aged woman with real-life issues, it’s hard to relate to or empathize with millennials who have more money than they need (beau #1 in the story), can’t decide what to do with their lives, and can’t connect with their parents! I did appreciate the LGBTQ part of the story and feel that is important for mainstream reading and relatability for young people who may have these issues.

  9. KasaC

    Armed with her freshly minted degree, Ava has left Dublin for Hong Kong in order to “find herself” discovers she is unemployable for anything other than teaching English in a posh school to rich kids. What follows is an examination of a life in transition, of a young woman not totally sure of her place or potential, her sexual identity, or even her ability to be attractive to her peers. Naoise Dolan is a writer of wit and talent with an ear for sparkling dialogue, and an ability to create characters that a reader can laugh with even when they are breaking one’s heart.This book is straight out of Sally Rooney land, in which millennials explain themselves to those of us who struggle to understand their culture. Well done.

  10. Amy Vox Libris

    This is one of those books that I think I was supposed to like a lot more than I did, and it’s all due to the beginning. It took a long time to get going, and it took a long time for me to get into it.Ava herself isn’t all that interesting, but I’m not sure she’s intended to be. Rather, she is there to be imprinted upon by Julian and Edith, the former of whom makes his intentions known, even as Ava tries to convince herself otherwise. Edith, on the other hand, is far more direct. You never doubt what she wants.By the time this story clicks and starts moving, you might feel it’s too late. You endured a lot of s-l-o-w plot (and character) development, so when Ava is presented with a dilemma, you may not care as much as you think you should.This book has been recommended by quite a few impressive organizations, and it routinely is labeled as “smart.” Naoise Dolan’s writing is, unquestionably, more high-brow than not, and the ending is perfect. But to compare her to Sally Rooney seems a bit of a stretch.

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