Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan Audiobook Review

"I could have soft towels and five-star dinners, or I could check my windowsill every morning to see how many cockroaches died there in the night. You see, it’s one or the other, and there’s no accounting for taste."


Ava moved to Hong Kong to find happiness, but so far, it isn’t working out. Since she left Dublin, she’s been spending her days teaching English to rich children—she’s been assigned the grammar classes because she lacks warmth—and her nights avoiding petulant roommates in her cramped apartment.

When Ava befriends Julian, a witty British banker, he offers a shortcut into a lavish life her meager salary could never allow. Ignoring her feminist leanings and her better instincts, Ava finds herself moving into Julian’s apartment, letting him buy her clothes, and, eventually, striking up a sexual relationship with him. When Julian’s job takes him back to London, she stays put, unsure where their relationship stands.

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. Ava has been carefully pretending that Julian is nothing more than an absentee roommate, so when Julian announces that he’s returning to Hong Kong, she faces a fork in the road. Should she return to the easy compatibility of her life with Julian or take a leap into the unknown with Edith?

What I thought

What an absolutely brilliant debut novel from Irish author Naoise Dolan. Appealing in every way, I just adored it. I was on the edge of whether to read this one, not sure if I'd enjoy it, to be honest. But I absolutely did. Being from Ireland myself, I found the book relatable and charming. 

Right from the get go, I fell for the narrator, Aoife McMahon. Her poetic accent was just delightful, and very fitting to what I imagine Ava to be like. It was a reminder of home, the Irish accent, something I long for right now, having not been back for over eighteen months due to the pandemic.

‘I was trying to be funny which was an error, you couldn’t joke with mam on a long distance call.’ 

Ava and I have a lot in common. We both left our homes in Ireland in pursuit of better opportunities in new countries. And like her, I find myself to be quite quirky, with a dry and witty sense of humour.

‘I wasn’t good at most things, but I was good at men, and Julian was the richest man I’d ever been good at’

She's outspoken, loves a good laugh with her mates, and seems to be bold, daring, and absolutely bloody hilarious. She's also brutally honest, too, which I loved. 

I found Exciting Times so utterly pleasant that I wanted to package it up into a little pill form and take a dose of it every morning. 

It was comedic and enjoyable, with understated humour on almost every page. Naoise Dolan is a true Irish gem, and an absolutely fabulous writer. 

‘Sometimes I was good at him, and sometimes he was good at me, sometimes we were good at each other and sometimes neither of us was any good at anything.’

The narrator, with her lyrical and soothing voice truly enhanced the entire experience, soothing me while I went about my day. With me missing home so much, it was absolutely lovely to have the audiobook for this one. I thought it was necessary to really get to know Ava, since her personality really shines through the narrators intonation. And the jokes pack way more of a punch that way, too. I'm not sure if the book alone would do Ava as much justice, so I highly recommend the audio for this one. 

Finishing the audiobook, I have a desire to purchase a hard copy of the book for myself, and a few for friends, who I know will love it just as much as I did. I haven't felt that way about a book for quite some time. 

Naoise Dolan's Exciting Times really ticked all the boxes for me. It was fantastic. If any of my readers have similar recommendations, I would love to hear them! 

Courtesy of W&N

Naoise Dolan
is a queer, autistic, Irish writer born in Dublin. She studied English literature at Trinity College Dublin and Oxford University. Her first novel Exciting Times had an excerpt published in The Stinging Fly by Sally Rooney and became a Sunday Times bestseller.

Exciting Times is available to purchase in hard copy or paperback at Indigo and in audiobook or e-book format on Kobo. Check GoodReads for additional retailers.