29 May 2017

Book Review: The Futures by Anna Pitoniak

Anna Pitoniak’s first novel, The Futures, is the story of love lost — and of a lost generation. Julia and Evan graduate from Yale in 2008, looking forward to brilliant careers and a happy life together in New York City. They come from different worlds — Julia comes from a privileged Boston family, while Evan comes from a small town in the middle of Canada and got into Yale on a hockey scholarship — but they are optimistic about their future as they move in together, learning about life and adulthood.

Yet while Evan thrives at the big hedge fund where he is, to his surprise and pleasure, hired, Julia struggles to find employment, eventually taking a job as an assistant for a foundation run by family friends. As Evan works longer and longer hours, particularly as the financial crisis begins to take hold, Julia feels increasingly isolated and tries to seek purpose and meaning elsewhere. Before long, their lives have diverged and they feel more like roommates than lovers, but surely if they love each other enough, they can survive the pressures the world is throwing at them?

Evan and Julia take turns to narrate chapters of the novel — high-maintenance and demanding, Julia is often a less sympathetic but more convincing character than Evan, who is essentially nice, hard-working and determined to make something of himself, a trait that leads him to make fundamental mistakes as the novel progresses. The Futures also jumps around in time, flashing back to the Yale years — both to happier times and to darker periods in Evan’s and especially Julia’s pasts.

The result is a sad but richly detailed portrait of a very specific period in recent American history that will ring true particularly for readers in their twenties and thirties. Pitoniak’s novel reminded me a lot of Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children, Christina’s Alger’s The Darlings and Jonathan Dee’s The Privileges — they all tell tales of privilege, expectation and disappointment in New York City, and if you enjoyed them, you will probably also like The Futures. I thought Pitoniak’s novel was strong both narratively and emotionally, and although it ended with more of a whimper than a bang, the ending was rather fitting.

Disclaimer: The Futures will be published by Penguin on 1 June 2017. I received a pre-release copy via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

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