cover image The Echo Chamber

The Echo Chamber

Luke Williams. Viking, $25.95 (372p) ISBN 978-0-670-02283-0

Evie Steppman, the narrator of Williams's ambitious debut novel, was born in Nigeria during the final years of British occupation. Now alone, she's isolated herself in a Scottish sea-front house to recount the story of her youth and her family's exile to Scotland during Nigerian independence. From the moment of her conception, Evie's keen "powers of listening" allow her to hear extraordinary things, from the stories her father read to her in the womb to the Earth turning on its axis, creating acoustic memories that have shaped her consciousness. Evie relays events through her strongest sense (others, such as sight, are now failing). Williams takes a playful formal approach and has an admirably broad scope, covering three generations of the Steppman family, a brief history of ancient mapmaking, and the early days of British colonial Nigeria. Of all the strands, Evie's tale is the most complete, a compelling narrative of one woman's attempt to record, observe, and chronicle what she knows and how she came to know it. Williams occasionally loses the thread, but the confusion that arises, we soon learn, lies within Evie's own mind and propels her%E2%80%94and the reader%E2%80%94to question the veracity of memory. (Aug.)