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The Post-Birthday World

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In this eagerly awaited new novel, Lionel Shriver, the Orange Prize-winning author of the international bestseller We Need to Talk About Kevin, delivers an imaginative and entertaining look at the implications, large and small, of whom we choose to love. Using a playful parallel-universe structure, The Post-Birthday World follows one woman's future as it unfolds under the In this eagerly awaited new novel, Lionel Shriver, the Orange Prize-winning author of the international bestseller We Need to Talk About Kevin, delivers an imaginative and entertaining look at the implications, large and small, of whom we choose to love. Using a playful parallel-universe structure, The Post-Birthday World follows one woman's future as it unfolds under the influence of two drastically different men. Children's book illustrator Irina McGovern enjoys a quiet and settled life in London with her partner, fellow American expatriate Lawrence Trainer, a smart, loyal, disciplined intellectual at a prestigious think tank. To their small circle of friends, their relationship is rock solid. Until the night Irina unaccountably finds herself dying to kiss another man: their old friend from South London, the stylish, extravagant, passionate top-ranking snooker player Ramsey Acton. The decision to give in to temptation will have consequences for her career, her relationships with family and friends, and perhaps most importantly the texture of her daily life. Hinging on a single kiss, this enchanting work of fiction depicts Irina's alternating futures with two men temperamentally worlds apart yet equally honorable. With which true love Irina is better off is neither obvious nor easy to determine, but Shriver's exploration of the two destinies is memorable and gripping. Poignant and deeply honest, written with the subtlety and wit that are the hallmarks of Shriver's work, The Post-Birthday World appeals to the what-if in us all. (jacket)


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In this eagerly awaited new novel, Lionel Shriver, the Orange Prize-winning author of the international bestseller We Need to Talk About Kevin, delivers an imaginative and entertaining look at the implications, large and small, of whom we choose to love. Using a playful parallel-universe structure, The Post-Birthday World follows one woman's future as it unfolds under the In this eagerly awaited new novel, Lionel Shriver, the Orange Prize-winning author of the international bestseller We Need to Talk About Kevin, delivers an imaginative and entertaining look at the implications, large and small, of whom we choose to love. Using a playful parallel-universe structure, The Post-Birthday World follows one woman's future as it unfolds under the influence of two drastically different men. Children's book illustrator Irina McGovern enjoys a quiet and settled life in London with her partner, fellow American expatriate Lawrence Trainer, a smart, loyal, disciplined intellectual at a prestigious think tank. To their small circle of friends, their relationship is rock solid. Until the night Irina unaccountably finds herself dying to kiss another man: their old friend from South London, the stylish, extravagant, passionate top-ranking snooker player Ramsey Acton. The decision to give in to temptation will have consequences for her career, her relationships with family and friends, and perhaps most importantly the texture of her daily life. Hinging on a single kiss, this enchanting work of fiction depicts Irina's alternating futures with two men temperamentally worlds apart yet equally honorable. With which true love Irina is better off is neither obvious nor easy to determine, but Shriver's exploration of the two destinies is memorable and gripping. Poignant and deeply honest, written with the subtlety and wit that are the hallmarks of Shriver's work, The Post-Birthday World appeals to the what-if in us all. (jacket)

30 review for The Post-Birthday World

  1. 4 out of 5

    Gregory Baird

    Great Premise with Unlikable Results Being a fan of Lionel Shriver's previous novel, "We Need to Talk about Kevin", I was thrilled to find that she had a new novel out. I was even more intrigued by the novel's beguiling plot: Irina McGovern, a forty-something ex-pat living in London, finds herself at a crossroads, and the novel proceeds in two separate directions. Irina has been in an almost ten year relationship with Lawrence Trainer that has settled into a comfortable if stultifying groove. H Great Premise with Unlikable Results Being a fan of Lionel Shriver's previous novel, "We Need to Talk about Kevin", I was thrilled to find that she had a new novel out. I was even more intrigued by the novel's beguiling plot: Irina McGovern, a forty-something ex-pat living in London, finds herself at a crossroads, and the novel proceeds in two separate directions. Irina has been in an almost ten year relationship with Lawrence Trainer that has settled into a comfortable if stultifying groove. He's sturdy, reliable, intelligent, and reasonably attractive, but he's also stubborn, judgmental, strict, and their relationship has become exceptionally passionless. He won't even marry Irina because he's against marriage. Enter Ramsey Acton, a beguiling pro Snooker player that is Lawrence's polar opposite: smoldering to Lawrence's blandness, passionate to Lawrence's stoicism, daring where Lawrence is cautious. And here lies the predicament that Irina finds herself in after being left alone with Ramsey for his annual birthday dinner: give in to fiery, passionate temptation ... or remain loyal to the tried-and-true life she has grown accustomed to. Thus, in storyline 'A' Irina gives in to temptation and leaves Lawrence for Ramsey, while in storyline 'B' she takes smug satisfaction in her own strength of character and loyalty. For a while the back and forth is quite enchanting and clever, and the reader delights in Shriver's carefully concocted parallel structure. But by page 300 those very same parallels that were intriguing and smart become oppressive to the plot and render it hopelessly predictable. If something happens in storyline A you can rely on its counterpoint occurring in B: if Irina has to act as a mediator during a public spat in A, she will be the one causing the scene in B; if she receives a special something in A she will be denied it in B; and so on until the novel's ultimate counterpoint that I cannot reveal here. What was so exciting, at least to me, about the premise of the book was the concept of exploring two different scenarios, and Shriver squanders the opportunity to explore what might have been by slavishly adhering to form -- creating two stories that move in parallel lines instead of diverging ones. Suddenly an otherwise intelligent novel becomes dull and plodding, and the ultimate disappointment is that both A and B's endings are also entirely predictable since both are foreshadowed earlier on. One would have easily been touching and heartfelt if you hadn't been cued to see it coming, and the other might have been shocking if it hadn't been portended earlier on. Shriver also has a periodic way of getting sidetracked by politics in her novel, which spans roughly fifteen years starting in the 1990s and taking us to the post-9/11 era. They are distracting, and woefully out of place. She takes swipes at Bill Clinton for failing to catch Osama Bin Laden and potshots at Hillary for being ambitious. She decries Britain's National Healthcare system as a hackneyed operation doomed to failure. She even contrives to have all of her characters in Manhattan on the eve of 9/11 for no real reason, since ultimately the atrocity will have very little to do with the plot except to serve Shriver's purpose in analogies for the remainder of the novel -- which is ironic because one character opines that to reduce the scope of that tragedy to such (comparatively) trivial matters is "surely a vain misappropriation of national tragedy". But that didn't stop Shriver from doing it anyway. The aforementioned political asides feel disjointed and don't belong in the plotline, and ultimately neither did 9/11. Had it ultimately had more to do with the plot it would be fine, but it just pops in and then out again as suddenly as it happened. It's a shame that it is becoming commonplace for such a tragic event to be used as a go-to plot device in novels, and while Shriver's depiction of the day is about a million times better -- and more accurate -- than the shockingly offensive turn Claire Messud gave it in last year's "The Emperor's Children", it still feels like a cheap trick. But what I really disliked about 'The Post-Birthday World" in the end was Shriver's sadistic treatment of Irina. In both storylines she is doomed to apologize for other people's messes in addition to hers, to accept a grotesquely unfair portion of the blame for every misdeed committed, and to be misused and taken advantage of. It comes down to the men in her life. Ramsey is a brash lush whose raging temper has him emotionally abusing Irina from the beginning of their relationship. Lawrence is such an unrelentingly arrogant, narcissistic jerk that he smothers Irina at every turn. What you would really like is for her to toss them both on the street and tell them to sod off, but Shriver seems more interested in antagonizing Irina than in letting her off the hook even a little bit. Book clubs would have a field day with this novel because it certainly leaves itself open for debate, but I can't imagine really imagine recommending it to anyone looking for a pleasurable read. For that, I would point them to Shriver's previous effort: "We Need to Talk about Kevin". In that book, her protagonist had some cause to be put through the wringer, but it just feels degrading to watch Irina sink lower and lower.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Hazel Lee

    You know when you express an interest in, say, boats, and then for the next five years all anyone ever gets you has to do with boats? I'm experiencing something similar at the moment. [/irrelevant observation:] I loved Shriver's other book, We Need To Talk About Kevin, so I was actually a bit nervous about reading this one - I was convinced there was no way it could be as good as the former. And to be honest, I don't think it was, but I still loved it. It teetered on the edge of being too gimmick You know when you express an interest in, say, boats, and then for the next five years all anyone ever gets you has to do with boats? I'm experiencing something similar at the moment. [/irrelevant observation:] I loved Shriver's other book, We Need To Talk About Kevin, so I was actually a bit nervous about reading this one - I was convinced there was no way it could be as good as the former. And to be honest, I don't think it was, but I still loved it. It teetered on the edge of being too gimmicky for my tastes - ::coughDaveEggerscough:: - but overall I think it worked. And I think it will strike a personal chord for anyone who's been through more than one relationship. It certainly did for me. The premise of the novel is the question, "what if...?" - the protagonist is happily married to one man yet feels strangely attracted to another, and one night she finds herself alone with him, on his birthday, and feels the overwhelming urge to kiss him. [Killers:] It was only a kiss! [/Killers:] And from that point the story splits into two possibilities - does she, or doesn't she? It's an interesting idea: one small decision can change the course of your life. And how. The chapters alternate between the two storylines - in one, Irina did kiss the other man; in the other, she didn't. Oddly reminiscient of the "choose your own adventure" books of the 80s. Shriver, for the most part, is a master at nailing human emotion into hard words. Her writing always evokes for me the lines from "The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock" - And I have known the eyes already, known them all Eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase It's the kind of phrasing that makes you furrow your brow and think, yes, I've felt that way before, except I've never been able to put it into words like that. Sometimes her scenes are painful to read as a result. It's been almost refreshing, though, since for the past few months I've been indulging in frilly, sweet fantasy novels, which hold a pleasure of their own but like most things work best in small doses. I was also afraid that the ending would be a typical "oh look, she made the right/wrong decision!" but it ends on a rather ambiguous note, and I was left pondering whether there ever was a better choice to begin with. Perhaps the message we can take from this book is not that little decisions made big changes, but that no matter how big the changes seem, life still muddles on with its ups and downs, and perhaps, in some fundamental way, nothing ever does change. The Post-Birthday World reminded me, in the end, of Eternal Sunshine - not because of the content, exactly, but more because of how I think readers will react to it. I think Eternal Sunshine is an absolutely brilliant movie and it makes me cry buckets, but I have friends who don't really see what the fuss is all about. I think it boils down to your own experience. This book will definitely speak to those who've had some kind of painful relationship experience; who've ever had a moment of wondering what their lives would have been like if they had turned right instead of left.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Great conceptualization (I always liked those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books), but lousy execution (not to mention intimation, narration, accentuation and punctuation). This author knows not the concept of "too much information." Maybe I am on the prudish side, but do we have to be so intimate with a character as to know all their bodily habits and functions? Cervix ≠ sexy. But when I wasn't curling my lip in disgust, I was banging my head against the wall in frustration and boredom. If not f Great conceptualization (I always liked those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books), but lousy execution (not to mention intimation, narration, accentuation and punctuation). This author knows not the concept of "too much information." Maybe I am on the prudish side, but do we have to be so intimate with a character as to know all their bodily habits and functions? Cervix ≠ sexy. But when I wasn't curling my lip in disgust, I was banging my head against the wall in frustration and boredom. If not for Jenny's positive review, I would not have made it through 517 pages inside main character Irina's inane brain. Her unbelievably long, overly descriptive sentences, creating unbelievably long chapters, with thoughts and themes covered twice to create her parallel-universe... only to tell us things any reader could pick up from the sub-text. That violates my cardinal rule of pleasure reading (and music listening): don't bore us, get to the chorus. To sum up the cast of characters: Irina - self-destructive lo-ser. Her boyfriend Lawrence - controlling A-hole. Alternative lover Ramsey - hot but 1-note. But don't even get me started on the italics! Bloody hell! ON EVERY SINGLE PAGE. Don't you think they no longer provide emphasis when you use them ON EVERY SINGLE PAGE? And lastly, I wish I had counted how many times she used ludicrously pretentious terms like "folderol," "postprandial," "mention versus use." If that's how all American ex-pats in London talk, God save the Queen!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie A. Higa

    Lesson #1: Don't let your husband make more money than you. Lesson #2: If you can't decide between two (or more) men, they're probably both wrong for you. Especially if they're, oh, self-centered assholes. I hated this book from page one. Halfway through I declared it to be one of the worst books I had ever read. I hated the characters, the characters' names, the character's jobs (sorry, I still can't distinguish between pool and snooker), the plot, and the prose, which is annoying and littered wi Lesson #1: Don't let your husband make more money than you. Lesson #2: If you can't decide between two (or more) men, they're probably both wrong for you. Especially if they're, oh, self-centered assholes. I hated this book from page one. Halfway through I declared it to be one of the worst books I had ever read. I hated the characters, the characters' names, the character's jobs (sorry, I still can't distinguish between pool and snooker), the plot, and the prose, which is annoying and littered with a multitude of metaphors so bad they made me cringe. (Do you want snooker to seem classy? Then don't compare the position of the red balls to a whore's open legs!) Bad dialogue too. 90% of this book consists of petty arguments between petty people. Nothing remotely tragic or exciting happens, unless you count the contrived incorporation of 9/11. The review on the back lauds Shriver's characters. OK, I suppose they could have passed for well-developed if the machinations weren't so obvious. I get it, Lawrence and Ramsey are EXACT OPPOSITES. (Although I was a bit attached to Lawrence for a while because he reminds me a bit of myself. But while Shriver pushes the equality of the two men, the story seems tipped in Ramsey's favor.) No matter what decision Irina would have made, she would still be the same insecure, boring, racist, self-hating American tool. Which reminds me..."the Asian"? "The small brown man"? "American cultural backwash"? And yes I normally try to ignore these sort of markers, but here, they appeared to be just as much the property of the characters as of the narrator. But: there is one saving grace. I could have put down this book at any time. I wanted to, especially when it started making me feel homicidal (as in The Corrections), but frankly, I was hoping for some insight. And eventually there was, toward the ending. Most of this book is chick lit trying to pass itself off as literary fiction (and failing), but the ending is good. It isn't the cop-out I was expecting. And I suppose it did strike a chord within me-- or perhaps force me to think about parts of my own past which I have tried to tuck away. But I prefer other artistic manifestations of the same basic idea: Third Eye Blind's "The Background", or maybe even Frame and Match, the astronomer vs. snooker-player book Irina writes.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    Ostensibly the classic chick-lit, romcom, virtuous Victorian type story of the young lady who must choose between prudence, security and morality vs. passion and a "consuming love," the story does much more than that, and delves much deeper than the typical story of the kind would do. It is tempting to compare this to Sliding Doors, since the concept is the same. I.e.: one decision later, what happens in two alternate universes. One she chooses to stay with her safe, stable companion Lawrence, t Ostensibly the classic chick-lit, romcom, virtuous Victorian type story of the young lady who must choose between prudence, security and morality vs. passion and a "consuming love," the story does much more than that, and delves much deeper than the typical story of the kind would do. It is tempting to compare this to Sliding Doors, since the concept is the same. I.e.: one decision later, what happens in two alternate universes. One she chooses to stay with her safe, stable companion Lawrence, the other she chooses to throw caution to the wind and have a stoned, drunk kiss with a famous British snooker player (BTW: I freely admit I had no idea what snooker was. I'm American.) But this is done in a much more literary way. It is a chick lit subject with Serious Novel writing. I'm more apt to compare it to an estrogen packed version of Ian McEwan's style of writing than Sliding Doors. A single event/moral dilemma that changes the life of the protagonist, leading them into consequences they never would have dreamed possible for so small a thing. There were so many lines in there that just rang so true to me. I undertook my normally hated practice of underlining things in a book, because I couldn't bear that I didn't remember them later on. That is, until I got too caught up in the story to care. But I'm going to put down a few that I did underline here just to give you an idea of the writing: In the version of the story where she chooses to cheat, the night after: "She truly did not understand why, when she had such a powerful motivation not to rock the boat, she would keep being so provocative, or on an evening when she was desperate not to attract close examination, she would be have in an erratic, irritable fashion sure to bring maximum scrutiny. Did she want him to know? Maybe she was forcing him to play a parlor game, like Botticelli: I'm a famous person, and my name begins with a scarlet A. Or maybe Lawrence was supposed to play hangman on the back of a program, and since he would never in a million years guess that she'd chosen F-A-I-T-H-L-E-S-S H-U-S-S-Y, proceed to noose himself, letter by letter." "This is what the coward in Lawrence had opted for: that they never kiss. That they never look at each other. That he see only the blurred profile of her head; that she always stare at the wall. That she never be permitted to meet those imploring brown eyes and watch them get what they begged for... He loved her so much that it was scary, and he would no more look into her eyes while they were fucking than stare into the face of the sun." Just an example or two I came across randomly. Shriver is sure to point out that both endings have their problems, and that there is no black and white. I think it depends on the personality of the reader which life they side with, though the end of the book makes it pretty clear which way she feels. Up until that point, both futures could be equally miserable or equally happy, depending on your point of view in life. I love that the ending is just that, a chosen ending. The story goes on in both ways, and you can choose which to believe, draw your own morals. It was particularly engrossing for someone like me who second guesses nearly all her decisions and always wonders 'what might have been'. Problems with the book: Shriver seems to get sidetracked with a number of digressions on subjects that she's apparently interested in but which don't seem to fit in with this book. She has characters give odd rants that seem out of character, and her words are just a little too fierce. She is especially sanctimonious on the issue of Americans in London or abroad in general. Shriver also clearly has a huge socioeconomic, national, and also British guilt complex. There's a lot in here about what one "should," do, and big causes of the day (the book takes place between 1997-2003, largely) are mentioned all over the place. It is partially to make a point, so I'll forgive her that, but nonetheless, she seems to be trying to explore her own guilty feelings and impulses on the page in places that don't really fit. There's several rants about the romance of being poor, for instance, the possessive grief after 9/11 (which was actually rather insightful- who "owned" 9/11 after it), stuff about virtuously watching the news every night and caring about the Third World. Yes, part of one of the characters... but a bit too much for it to have been just that. Also, I have to admit the quality of the writing was somewhat uneven. I'd say the majority of it was good, but there were several spots where she left behind perfectly nuanced, lovely explorations for unsubtle metaphors and heavy handed, clunky expressions. Overall, it still worked for me though. I liked it quite a bit.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Laurie Neighbors

    I chuckle each time I skim through the goodreads reviews for Lionel Shriver books -- including this book -- to see goodreads readers giving her the old low-star on account of how depressing and unlikable her characters are, how there's too much detail. And, of course, how every book besides We Need to Talk About Kevin is so disappointing because it's not just like WNTAK. So, yes. It's true. The book is lush. But all of that detail functions as a kind of third plot line in the book -- or a unifyi I chuckle each time I skim through the goodreads reviews for Lionel Shriver books -- including this book -- to see goodreads readers giving her the old low-star on account of how depressing and unlikable her characters are, how there's too much detail. And, of course, how every book besides We Need to Talk About Kevin is so disappointing because it's not just like WNTAK. So, yes. It's true. The book is lush. But all of that detail functions as a kind of third plot line in the book -- or a unifying narrative, I suppose. Admittedly, at first I was afraid that the repetition of small details would serve as just a gimmick or a sad attempt to unify two independent streams. Then, when I saw that the detail was bringing the two stories closer together, I worried a bit that the repetition would be didactic. But as the novel starts breathing harder and expanding from its central point (and coming closer and closer together in the ways that it does), those details became the guide, in a sense, to the complexity of the novel. And yes, it's true that the book can be quite sad at times. You can hardly complain about that if you got here from any of Shriver's latest other books. If this was your first Shriver book and you're complaining about the depressing nature of her closely drawn, daily-life characters -- well, I'll give you something to complain about: go read the rest of her list. You got off easy this time. Often, Shriver's books are sad and characters "unlikable" because she won't let go in her examination until she gets to the core of individuals and the circumstances that put their orientations and values in place. The two-plot character shifts of minor characters in this novel are examples of this -- Irina's mother and sister, for instance. And Jude. You may not like them, but there is something behind their representation that you should know and apply to your interactions with people in the real world. This is the fourth Lionel Shriver book I've devoured this year, and I'm in awe of her range. I read WNTAK first, also. But unlike so many other reviewers on this site, each subsequent book I have read has left me increasingly impressed with Shriver's talent and skill. And each one is stick-to-your-ribs delicious.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Abby

    I raced through this book because I was so engrossed by the story line(s). I suppose it's chick-lit in the sense that women probably have an easier time relating to the story than men would, but it's so much better than most chick-lit garbage out there (I followed this book with a true chick-lit piece of crap and wanted to pull my hair out). What amazed me about this book is how much is stuck with me after I was done reading it. I kept thinking about the characters and the choices and the outcom I raced through this book because I was so engrossed by the story line(s). I suppose it's chick-lit in the sense that women probably have an easier time relating to the story than men would, but it's so much better than most chick-lit garbage out there (I followed this book with a true chick-lit piece of crap and wanted to pull my hair out). What amazed me about this book is how much is stuck with me after I was done reading it. I kept thinking about the characters and the choices and the outcomes and what it all meant. The characters struck me as very human in their flaws, not just characters in a book, so it made their stories compelling to me. As I was reading the book, I vaguely remembered the movie "Sliding Doors" and thought about its relevance to this story (I only kind of remember the movie, so it wasn't much of a comparison) and I think what I like better about the book is that its events unfold based on a choice made by the main character, not a chance occurance beyond her control. It's all about free will and choice and decisions, not random circumstances. I'm frankly surprised at how many negative reviews there are on here. To each his own, I suppose, but this book reached me at a deeper level than anything I've read in a while. Perhaps I connected with Irina more than other people did. At the end of this book, I was emotionally "knackered," to use a British phrase that is better at describing how I felt than any Americanism. I didn't mind the length of the book and in fact, was sad when it was done because I wanted to know more. Overall, I simply got this book. I suppose it's not for everyone, and is perhaps most interesting to people who are in or have been in serious relationships. I just loved how human it felt, how real it felt.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    Like a "Sliding Doors" with class, this book plays out what would happen if a woman stayed with her stable, responsible lover of ten years, and what would happen if she left him for his irresistibly sexy, volatile friend. Since I constantly "Sliding Doors" my own life--how would life be different if I moved to another city? loved a different man? chose a different career?--I was fascinated to see how the author would resolve the dilemma of, love vs. responsibility; attraction versus lifestyle. W Like a "Sliding Doors" with class, this book plays out what would happen if a woman stayed with her stable, responsible lover of ten years, and what would happen if she left him for his irresistibly sexy, volatile friend. Since I constantly "Sliding Doors" my own life--how would life be different if I moved to another city? loved a different man? chose a different career?--I was fascinated to see how the author would resolve the dilemma of, love vs. responsibility; attraction versus lifestyle. What makes this book so nuanced and compelling is that she doesn't. In each of the lives that the main character chooses, a sizable amount goes wrong. I was riveted to the novel, because the plot had all the twists and turns of real life--if the main character wasn't rewarded for "going with her heart" as is the cliche, neither was she lauded for being faithful to her original man. Each choice has its rewards, but as the novel plays out each life informs the other until you realize at the end that the perfect, ideal "compromise" life you would wish for her is not only unlikely, but impossible. In the end the book becomes about more than, this man or that, but about the finite possibilities of each life's existence, and the tiny moments of happiness that we must grasp to survive whichever life we choose. This sounds harsh, but somehow in Lionel Shriver's clear-eyed, sharp, sympathetic hands, it feels strangely comforting.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Chrissy

    This book utterly bored and irritated me, all at the same time. The supposed purpose of the book was to show how one seemingly small decision can drastically impact your life, however, your decisions will still result in very similar parallels. The moral I took from this story was essentially to dump the guy before he dumps you. And that if your life is fated to be miserable, it's going to be miserable no matter what you do. Inspiring, don't you think? The author's obsession with the finer details This book utterly bored and irritated me, all at the same time. The supposed purpose of the book was to show how one seemingly small decision can drastically impact your life, however, your decisions will still result in very similar parallels. The moral I took from this story was essentially to dump the guy before he dumps you. And that if your life is fated to be miserable, it's going to be miserable no matter what you do. Inspiring, don't you think? The author's obsession with the finer details of snooker for 500+ pages literally drove me to tears of boredom. Her overuse of the thesaurus-feature on Word showed how desperate she was to impress (although I'm not sure whom), while her frequent use of British colloquialisms left me wondering what exactly her characters were trying to say. My favorite thing about the book was the protagonist's frequent references to “how much she needed a man in her life to take care of her,” and she justified this by claiming to be fully aware of how anti-feminist her statements were. Because that made it completely acceptable to state that her purpose in life was to take care of a man and that she didn't feel complete whenever her man was away. My opinion, I can think of a thousand ways to better spend your time than reading this.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bernie

    .....here is a wonderful novel about the choices we make in love - and how it affects our lives. I was really blown away by this novel and recommend it to all and sundry. The writing was so smart, and not in an "aren't I clever with pop references?" way which many chick-lit authors do. Not that this is "chick lit" - far from it in depth and scope. Although it was hard to follow the parallel worlds at first, I really got into it and was turning the pages with excitement to see what would come nex .....here is a wonderful novel about the choices we make in love - and how it affects our lives. I was really blown away by this novel and recommend it to all and sundry. The writing was so smart, and not in an "aren't I clever with pop references?" way which many chick-lit authors do. Not that this is "chick lit" - far from it in depth and scope. Although it was hard to follow the parallel worlds at first, I really got into it and was turning the pages with excitement to see what would come next. I am an avid reader and have read many many books for the past 20 years and am always looking for a new voice. This book really spoke to me about the nature of love, commitment, the pull and mystery of sex. CHECK IT OUT!! I loved it and recommend it to any woman, esp. in late 20's-40s, when the choices of partner one makes defines our world (yet at an age where we can still think about the 'what if' factor). WONDERFUL NOVEL. I can see why Lionel Shriver has won awards with her writing. P.S. Another treat, for me, was reading about expatriate life in London. For anyone who's lived abroad or experienced the UK - resonates!

  11. 4 out of 5

    jillian

    This book has a plotline that could have been so cheesy - but comes out so well. In the first chapter, mild-mannered childrens book author Irina McGovern goes on a birthday dinner with Ramsey Acton, a snooker star in London. Irina's long-term partner, Lawrence, is absent, at a conference in Sarajevo, and Ramsey's recent divorce from his wife, mean that Irina and Ramsey are alone for the first time in their history. They end up at his house, against the snooker table, and Irina either does - or d This book has a plotline that could have been so cheesy - but comes out so well. In the first chapter, mild-mannered childrens book author Irina McGovern goes on a birthday dinner with Ramsey Acton, a snooker star in London. Irina's long-term partner, Lawrence, is absent, at a conference in Sarajevo, and Ramsey's recent divorce from his wife, mean that Irina and Ramsey are alone for the first time in their history. They end up at his house, against the snooker table, and Irina either does - or does not - decide to kiss him and commit adultery. The book unfolds from there, with each chapter written in two timelines: what would have been if Irina kissed Ramsey, and what would have been if she did not. What I found so amazing was that the characters in the book were so well defined that they still acted consistently, even in radically different timelines. That action might involve hypocrisy, as it does for the women in Irina's life that advise her against a relationship with Ramsey in one storyline, and then admire him as a handsome man when there is no consequence to it - but it is all still in character. Some of the dialogue is even the same in both worlds, albeit used in different contexts, to different people, but that just shows how well-developed the characters really are. Of course, the same external events happen no matter what, and the crux of the book is how Irina is affected by 9/11. As an American - albeit one living in London - it affects her differently in each reality. The same snooker tournaments still take place, but depending on his relationship with Irina - or his ex-wife, Jude - Ramsey wins or loses in a spectacular success or a miserable failure. Irina writes an award nominated children's book in both storylines, which takes from her relationship with the man in her life, but in one it's a commercial success, and in the other world, it isn't. The book also addresses one of the most important issues for every woman on the planet: security or sexual chemistry? Does Irina go for the excitement, drama, thrills and despair of Ramsey, to whom she has an insatiable sexual attraction? Or does she stay with the steady, secure, caring Lawrence? The decision she makes, and how it reflects on her self-image, the way her decision affects her self-imposed characteristics, is so far-reaching and so well-explored that it opens up both the not only the immediate good and bad aspects of each path, but the far-reaching consequences that ultimately change how Irina sees herself, and the woman that she becomes. I thought this was a brilliantly written book, which was not only clever and engaging, but very thoughtful as well. This book showed how one decision could unleash so much inside one person as to re-shape their life - and yet bring it full circle. For, just as the first chapter applies in both storylines, the last chapter could as well.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Taylor

    Post-Birthday World is a bit of a mixed bag. I read the bulk of it in two days and was tearing up towards the end. After I set the book down and my mother asked me how it was, my response was, "It was okay," then I proceeded to tell her, at length, about the story, what I liked and what I didn't like. The story is set in London, where Irina McGovern has lived in domestic comfort with her partner (not husband) of 10 years, Lawrence (both in their 40s). After starting a tradition of having yearly d Post-Birthday World is a bit of a mixed bag. I read the bulk of it in two days and was tearing up towards the end. After I set the book down and my mother asked me how it was, my response was, "It was okay," then I proceeded to tell her, at length, about the story, what I liked and what I didn't like. The story is set in London, where Irina McGovern has lived in domestic comfort with her partner (not husband) of 10 years, Lawrence (both in their 40s). After starting a tradition of having yearly dinners with Ramsey Acton (slightly older), a celebrity sportsman/snooker player, on his birthday, Lawrence is out of town on Ramsey's birthday one year and urges Irina to have dinner with Ramsey so that he's not left alone. In the past, Irina found she didn't have much to say to Ramsey and ends up dreading the event, but sets it up, anyhow. Then - surprise, surprise - on the occasion that the two of them are left alone, they have a fun time together, and Irina finds herself in an eye-lock with Ramsey, questioning whether or not to give in to her all-consuming desire to kiss him. Here, the story splinters, following two plot lines - one that examines what would happen if she kisses him, one that examines what would happen if she doesn't. It's two age-old debates for the price of one. Firstly, which kind of love is more suited to long-term happiness: the passionate yet volatile kind, or the comfortable, reliable kind? And secondly, is there such a thing as fate? Can one action, even a small one, change the course of your life? Just a hundred or so pages in, I found myself annoyed with Irina. I assumed I would like her in some way as the book went on, and I did to some degree - but at the same time, as the story progressed, her tragic flaw became that much more apparent. What is her tragic flaw? Her lack of any kind of self-interest. She constantly grapples, mentally, with whether or not it's okay for a woman's life goal to be having a solid relationship with a man - but in practice, there isn't much struggle. The fact that she lets the men in her life decide to such a tremendous degree how hers ends up only shows how out of her own hands she allows her life to be. She says that, ideally, she likes the idea of an independent woman, but when Lawrence is out of town for 10 days, she's despondent. She's only confident about how she looks when it's acknowledged by a man. There are only a few times when she's ever satisfied when she's alone, and that's when she forces herself to be happy, out of spite, when Lawrence goes to Russia without her, or when she's engrossed in working on her own book (something she does all of once during each plot line). She argues that you can only derive so much satisfaction from a career and even I, in my career-driven ways, can agree with that - but Irina's interest in her own career is passing. Sure, she reaches the same career mark in both story lines, but everything else is determined by who she's with at the time. Even when she writes her book, does something that should be hers, it's completely influenced by the man in her life. It's pathetic! It reminded me of the comments I got on a short story I wrote in my fiction class senior year about - oh, you bet - a woman deciding between two men. My professor - also a woman - told me that I didn't include enough of the main character's career, that it was hard to get a strong sense of who the character was if her life and ambitions were consumed by men, and I'd argue the same is true of Post-Birthday World. She doesn't even really have many friends - she only ever hangs out with two of them, one of whom she stops speaking to, and the other who she sees only once. But even going beyond my tough-girl response to Irina, the book itself had a tragic flaw, which was its tendency to want to fit things in convenient little boxes. Everything was heavy-handed, from the metaphors to the characters of Lawrence and Ramsey. I more or less knew how the book was going to end (even before Shriver basically spells it out for us a little over halfway through). It felt a little too-dumbed down and required a little too much suspension of belief - which is a bit ironic, in a way, considering that Irina's character kept saying that she hated when people dumbed down a book just because it's for children. This dumbing down is all sort of inter-connected, but for starters, the male characters were not remotely complex. Lawrence, the "responsible" one, was highly intelligent, average looking, thrifty, constantly critical, anti-social and not particularly exciting or fun. Ramsey, the "wild one," is incredibly charming, incredibly handsome, not especially knowledgeable on world events, throws money around, loves to go out, is spontaneous, and a voracious substance user (particularly alcohol). Not once do these characters break out of their stereotypes, even in small ways, until - gasp! - the big revelation ending. I'm not in my 40s, and I'm far from a homebody, but I find it completely hard to believe that even the most homebody couples never go out to movies, go out to concerts, go out to the theater, meet up with friends or go on trips - but Irina and Lawrence seem to leave their house about once a year, otherwise contended with staying in and watching TV. In reality, the most domesticated couples I know go on camping trips or go out to movies, and even the older people I know get out of the house far more than the Irina & Lawrence paring did. Likewise, I found it hard to believe that Ramsey, upon returning from months on the road, wanted to go out to dinner every single night. I certainly don't hear about or see sports players out on the town every night during off-season. In connection to the simplicity of their personalities, I'm assuming to really cement the fact that the men are veritable opposites, the events flip from black to white and the men act as black to white. For example, when Irina is cheating on Lawrence, he doesn't seem to suspect a thing. Ramsey, on the other hand, thinks Irina is cheating when she isn't. Where Lawrence didn't want to get married, Ramsey wants to get married right away. When a bowl of sour cream spills at Christmas, Lawrence cleans it up immediately, where Ramsey could care less. Lawrence and Irina are apt to fight when they go out, and Ramsey and Irina are apt to fight when they stay in. I don't know that such a polarizing contrast was needed for the reader to get the idea. In connection to that - and this is where the suspension of belief really comes in - despite the fact that the entire book is, to some degree, an argument that something as simple as a kiss can change the course of your life, Shriver's characters will have the exact same conversation in the different plots. Oh, sure, the context changes, but you've got to be fucking kidding me! The first time she did it, it didn't irk me, but she does this throughout the entire book, and eventually I was rolling my eyes every time it happened. "Oh, how ironic, it's the same conversation, but now she's lying in it and before she was telling the truth." Even though Irina's life changes drastically in many regards based on her decision, even though the lives of other people change based on her decision, two people will still have the exact same conversation. She didn't limit this to conversations, either, she did it with events - regardless of what choice she makes, someone ends up with a car for Christmas, someone spills sour cream on the rug, someone ends up out in the rain forgetting their coat, someone lets the spices go stale. It was painful. Thing is, Shriver is a good writer, in the sense that he has a way with words, and her descriptions/similes/metaphors, when not heavy-handed, are killer. That's what makes this book so much more tragic to me, because if she hadn't dumbed down the men or the plot, had she made the characters more complex and the story-lines completely different instead of overlapping, it would have been such a phenomenal book. Instead, I got the sense that she simply didn't have much imagination - and this is one of many ways that Shriver is connected to her main character. Just like Irina couldn't write something more out of her own imagination, Shriver seems unable to, as well. However, she also manages to completely envelop you, to hook the reader, even with one-dimensional characters and a flawed plot. There's something to be said for novels that make you think about not only the novel, but its relation to your life, that leave you with a lot to say and talk about, and Post-Birthday World is absolutely that kind of book. It's a book you'll want your friends to read, because one's response says a lot about them, because most people - in either gender - face this kind of decision or this kind of situation, where you wonder what path you should take or what would have happened if you do this instead of that, and because Shriver does, to some degree, leave it up to the reader to decide which story line is "better." I don't have much doubt about which she preferred, but she doesn't hit you over the head with it, and thank god for that. As I mentioned before, part of it even made me cry. Going into this, I didn't consider it chick lit, but having finished it, I don't know that I can classify it as anything but. And perhaps that starter mindset is responsible for my mixed response to it, perhaps if I had gone into it thinking of it as fluff, I would have been pleasantly surprised instead of a bit disappointed.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Leo Robertson

    It's a pretty long way to go for the payoff, but I appreciated the message more this time, especially how it was contexualised in the wider scope of what's going on in the world. Like, sure, you might have these epic yearnings for two different men—but there are also wars going on, so we'll discuss it, but also, maybe deal with it? Or I think I get more out of reading in general as I get older as I take more and more from books what I need to, or what I want to. For example I don't precisely know It's a pretty long way to go for the payoff, but I appreciated the message more this time, especially how it was contexualised in the wider scope of what's going on in the world. Like, sure, you might have these epic yearnings for two different men—but there are also wars going on, so we'll discuss it, but also, maybe deal with it? Or I think I get more out of reading in general as I get older as I take more and more from books what I need to, or what I want to. For example I don't precisely know if the above was Shriver's message, but it is what I took from it. I'm also more careful to work out the author's reasons for writing the book. Shriver has mentioned she had very personal reasons for writing this, so I always wonder if the way the characters treat one another—even though Shriver's stories can be quite harsh—is sometimes idealised. I love the notion that a divorced couple can have cheated on one another and still be like, "Well, let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater, we had mostly good times, how are you doing?" There's a huge difference, for example, between what my relationship has managed to withstand and what might be done to it over the course of an evening. Something like what we've built simply cannot be destroyed overnight if you're willing to see it that way. Really we're allowed to react to life however we want, aren't we? But back to that "idealised" comment: if Shriver cheated, or seriously considered doing so—fine, whatever—she might be incentivised to play down the impact of that when she wrote a book about it. But that's fine, I'm an adult, I can make up my own mind. The cliche about cheating and so on is the telenovela, somebody stabs somebody thing. (Probably because it's a very cheap way to create drama: just needs three people, one room and a prop knife/gun.) But really, who gives a shit? There are more important things going on, and "love means never cheating" is just a weird old traditional notion we came up with to stop us lopping one another's noses off in Medieval times or something—I'm not a historian (can you tell??) Of course it doesn't directly translate to that. We're learning so much about people's lived experiences of sexuality and gender now that polyamory, as some people have interpreted, is just another type of sexual preference. Isn't that possible? This year I brought new friends and a new cat into my life and my heart and life have expanded with love. They have also expanded with the possibility of more grief or loss if something goes wrong, but those two things go hand in hand, that's just how it works. Can't love anything without risking the possibility of losing it. So I don't know: multiple relationships might be a way of expanding the love in your life. Why suppress that? Because it's inconvenient for large corporations to move anything but nuclear families for work purposes, therefore this fundamental unit should be encouraged with heavy doses of internalised shame? Fuck that!! But this is also a grass-is-always-greener story. Your life is finite. You won't do everything, which means you may well idealise the things—and people—you're not doing ;) These are the great messages of literature that are made more explicit and simplified by de Botton's School of Life, which commends the enormous courage it takes to get up every day and live an ordinary life, reaching the end of it without knowing what it was about then probably eventually being completely forgotten. Why would anyone bother, right? Hopefully because they enjoyed it or found enough meaning in doing so. But even a life enjoyed is filled with these inevitable tensions and yearnings, and in so being inevitable, they don't make you a bad person if you have them. What a relief it was for me to learn, through taking up meditation, that you are not your thoughts. Essentially the same nonsense is spinning through everyone's heads. Better to take less ownership of it. I'll leave my previous review below, and encourage readers of my reviews to notice that, if there's even like a year since I wrote a review, I'm no longer the person who wrote it, haha: Ramble ramble ramble ramble ramble ramble ramble ramble ramble ramble ramble ramble ramble *deep breath* ramble ramble ramble ramble ramble ramble ramble ramble ramble ramble I just watched that Community episode that has the "Nicolas Cage: Good or Bad?" class. Shriver is the writer equivalent of Nicolas Cage, though far less prolific than I'd like. Some pages you're like, 'Omg, she can't say that! Well, who's stopping her? That's so true and hilarious and dark and compassionate at the same time!' other times you zone out for four, five pages and you're like 'What the hell did those pages say? Nothing important? Oh. Then why are they there?' It's so weird! In some respects Shriver's plotting has gotten a lot better but her writing style is exactly the same as when she started. I have a rule I never really thought of before, because it seems so intuitive, but if you have a plot point, you should put the reader in the scene when you reveal it: have the characters act it out. If you are doing a "montage"-type thing that passes the time or digresses into some point you want to make inspired by what's happening in the story, you should write in narrative summary. Shriver flips between scenes and montages unpredictably and with no apparent pattern, such that the progression of the story can happen in the middle of a digression about snooker players, you know? It's so unnerving and difficult to follow. It's not a looseness of the text, though there is certainly that: it's a lack of skill. Who is telling her she can use speech tags like "'Blah blah blah', Irina despaired.' It's insane! Few people were reading this poor woman's books ages ago, likely because of the impenetrable style and rambling- she cracks it with Kevin then editors are too afraid to tell her what to do and she carries on rambling! It's nuts! Well, that marks the last of the books of hers I'll read for now until the new one next year. Lord of War/ Leaving Las Vegas/ National Treasure/ Pay the Ghost/ : 1. We Need to Talk about Kevin. 2. So Much For That. 3. Big Brother. 4. A Perfectly Good Family. 5. Double Fault. 6. The Female of the Species. 7. Checker and the Derailleurs. Vampire's Kiss/ Con Air/ Face Off/ The Wicker Man/ Left Behind: 1. Game Control. 2. Ordinary Decent Criminals. 3. The Post-Birthday World.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Allyson

    Wow. Add Lionel Shriver to that list of authors whose work makes me despair of ever writing anything worth reading. Her vocabulary is nearly as impressive as the way she wields it, making even the smallest of moments feel utterly profound and poignant. The scope of this novel is somewhat ordinary: Our protagonist, Irina, is a middle-aged woman sleepwalking through a decade-long relationship with her live-in boyfriend, Lawrence, when a surprising moment of chemistry presents her with the choice o Wow. Add Lionel Shriver to that list of authors whose work makes me despair of ever writing anything worth reading. Her vocabulary is nearly as impressive as the way she wields it, making even the smallest of moments feel utterly profound and poignant. The scope of this novel is somewhat ordinary: Our protagonist, Irina, is a middle-aged woman sleepwalking through a decade-long relationship with her live-in boyfriend, Lawrence, when a surprising moment of chemistry presents her with the choice of kissing another man. What happens next is anything but ordinary. The author divides the novel into alternating chapters that describe the unfolding of parallel futures for Irina and those in her life. On one path, she kisses Ramsey, pursuing first an affair and then a tempestuous relationship with him. On the other path, she resists and returns home, nursing her secret crush only through sexual fantasies. In both, we get to live in Irina's interior world, which Shriver portrays with exquisite detail, fresh metaphors, and brutal honesty. Both stories (for they are practically two novels) are at turns exciting, moving, predictable, frustrating, and fascinating. Just as real life is. And I found her point--that oftentimes such a choice is neither right nor wrong, but simply is a fork in the road with the end results unknowable until you're living them--very philosophical and true. As a New Yorker who experienced 9/11 in a very first-hand way, I especially appreciated the author's treatment of that infamous day. It is in no way central to either story, but as it occurs during the time span of the story it had to be dealt with. Under Shriver's skilled hand, it maintains appropriate weight and seriousness with regard to the impact it has on Irina in both futures without the stories, or our protagonist, becoming insincerely dramatic or skipping over things in an embarrassed rush. I loved the moment she compares a devastating event in her personal life to the fall of the Twin Towers, and the way she immediately feels abashed for doing so...a very realistic and sensitive moment. This is one I will return to for many examples of a writer doing things right!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Like the main character's path branching in two directions, so did my opinion of this book. Really, I'd give this 2 1/2 stars. At times I liked it, and at times I HATED it. Sometimes I was bored, and sometimes I was riveted. Sometimes I thought Irina was whiney and annoying and a pain in the ass, and sometimes I saw bits of myself in her (although, granted, those were probably my whiney, annoying, PItA bits). What really bugged me, and what I hoped would resolve itself in the end, was precisely w Like the main character's path branching in two directions, so did my opinion of this book. Really, I'd give this 2 1/2 stars. At times I liked it, and at times I HATED it. Sometimes I was bored, and sometimes I was riveted. Sometimes I thought Irina was whiney and annoying and a pain in the ass, and sometimes I saw bits of myself in her (although, granted, those were probably my whiney, annoying, PItA bits). What really bugged me, and what I hoped would resolve itself in the end, was precisely what the author DIDN'T want resolved. Irina McGovern's entire future apparently hinges on one decision: whether or not to cheat on her partner of 10 years and kiss another man. From there, two Sliding Doors-esque parallel futures unfold. In one, Irina does kiss him, and leaves her common law husband for him. In the other, Irina does not give into temptation and stands by her man. The problem was, no matter which decision Irina made, she didn't seem happy. When she was with Lawrence (her "husband"), she tried to commit herself to the relationship but felt unsettled and unsatisfied sexually. Lawrence was a class-A asshole who never kissed her and wouldn't even have sex face-to-face. She still harbored lustful thoughts for Ramsey, the other guy, who appeared to be a classy and passionate alternative to the cold Lawrence. In the other future, when she is with Ramsey, he's a histrionic, self-centered, alcoholic prick whose only redeeming quality is that he's dynamite in the sack. Irina spends most of her time with this man fighting with him and wistfully remembering Lawrence, who may not have been as passionate in bed, but in whom she found a more compatible domestic partner. Lawrence, in this future, never turns into the class-A asshole but instead remains a virtuous, faithful, and supportive friend to Irina in spite of the fact that she cheated on him with and left him for one of his friends. In both futures, Irina believes the grass to be greener on the other side. As it turns out, the author makes it pretty clear that the point she's making with this book is that a person doesn't have only one destiny. That any decision a person makes on any given day can totally shape their future and send it in a different direction. Although she accomplished that by never really telling the reader whom Irina should have ended up with, in a way she does give Irina only one desitny: to be unhappy. Also, in each parallel story line, very similar events would happen but in slightly different ways. It was like the two futures were the same ball game, with the only difference being that in one Irina was playing for the blue team and in the other, for the red. And speaking of ball games, much of the book involves the game of snooker, as Ramsey is a professional player. Irina (a Russian-American ex-patriate living in London) often remarks on the fact that Americans don't know or care about snooker, and she was right. There were far too many detailed descriptions of matches that bored me, and that I skimmed over. The book probably could have been a good 100 pages shorter without all that snooker (though snooker actually was also a metaphor of sorts). All that said, I stayed up last night until 2:00 so I could finish it. I still don't know, though, if it was because I was anxious to finish it or anxious to get it over with.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Cher

    2.5 stars - It was alright, an average book. The author has a way with words and I enjoyed the beauty of several passages. However, the plot did not do it for me and it felt like the book was repetitive, taking forever to advance the storyline. Overall a mixed bag, but I would definitely consider reading another novel by Shriver. ------------------------------------------- Favorite Quote: But one of the things you lose in the wisdom of age is the wisdom of youth. Education is not a steady process 2.5 stars - It was alright, an average book. The author has a way with words and I enjoyed the beauty of several passages. However, the plot did not do it for me and it felt like the book was repetitive, taking forever to advance the storyline. Overall a mixed bag, but I would definitely consider reading another novel by Shriver. ------------------------------------------- Favorite Quote: But one of the things you lose in the wisdom of age is the wisdom of youth. Education is not a steady process of accrual, but a touch-and-go contest between learning and forgetting, like frantically trying to fill a sink faster than it can empty through an open drain. First Sentence: What began as coincidence had crystallized into tradition: on the sixth of July they would have dinner with Ramsey Acton on his birthday.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    I remember once, fresh out of college, telling a former boss that the music he listened to just didn't do it for me. I said I liked my music "tidier." I saw the disappointment/pity wash over his face. I wish I could tell him now, 20 years later, that I appreciate less produced, less polished tracks. And that I adore the deliciously messy world of Lionel Shriver. If you want to read about my girl crush on Lionel, it's documented here, an ode published shortly after reading one of Shriver's more cha I remember once, fresh out of college, telling a former boss that the music he listened to just didn't do it for me. I said I liked my music "tidier." I saw the disappointment/pity wash over his face. I wish I could tell him now, 20 years later, that I appreciate less produced, less polished tracks. And that I adore the deliciously messy world of Lionel Shriver. If you want to read about my girl crush on Lionel, it's documented here, an ode published shortly after reading one of Shriver's more challenging novels. Let's just say that after The Post-Birthday World, my fifth read by Shriver, my crush is cemented, alive and kicking, right beside Tana French and Jhumpa Lahiri. Shriver paints an uncomfortable world, with flawed, unlikable characters: ones you are ashamed you can relate to. And while her books are sometimes longer than they need to be, or you don't agree with a turn here or there, they are all so original and brilliant, I can't bring myself to nitpick at anything. I'm surprised it took me so long to get to this one, as the premise is probably the most mainstream and accessible of all Shriver's subject matter: infidelity (well, infidelity and the decidedly less mainstream British cue sport snooker) - the choices we make, and the choices we live with. Ultimately, what is the right choice? Can we ever know, or be satisfied? What if we went back to the pivotal moment and we followed both branches, like that Sliding Doors movie, so we can see the future out? Well, that's the ride that Shriver takes us on, and what a meandering, bumpy, crazy ride it is. You'll get carsick, the cops might even pull you over, but ultimately it's a joyride, and a profound one at that. 5 shining stars, but be forewarned: Shriver doesn't play it safe enough to please everyone. Read it, don't read it, do what you want. I won't be blamed if you're offended by Shriver's balls (the snooker balls, you pervs).

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ruth Seeley

    As I was compulsively reading this, I caught myself thinking I hadn't been this caught up in a book about the choices women are called upon to make since Tess of the d'Urbervilles. As soon as I finished it I thought the comparison wasn't quite so specious after all. Irina Galina McGovern, a Russian American children's book illustrator living in London, faces some tough choices in mid-life. On the surface these choices may seem superficial, a mere matter of choosing between two men. But in fact th As I was compulsively reading this, I caught myself thinking I hadn't been this caught up in a book about the choices women are called upon to make since Tess of the d'Urbervilles. As soon as I finished it I thought the comparison wasn't quite so specious after all. Irina Galina McGovern, a Russian American children's book illustrator living in London, faces some tough choices in mid-life. On the surface these choices may seem superficial, a mere matter of choosing between two men. But in fact they aren't simple choices, because they go to the heart of what really matters in life: what matters more, stability or excitement, habit or challenge, being kind to oneself versus being kind to others. Alternating chapters follow Irina's life as it unfolds in parallel universes. In one she takes the road less travelled. In the other she chooses stability. I won't spoil the plot, because it's superbly done. I particularly loved the irony of events reused and repurposed in the alternating chapters. Superb characterization here, as well as flawless writing. Lionel Shriver, where have you been all my life?

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I wanted to maybe give this two stars, because I recognize that Shriver is a good writer, and I want to give her credit for the idea she tried to execute in this book. I also appreciate a good character study. But in the end, I don't think there was much about this book I liked, so I can't find anything to warrant giving it two stars. Very early in the book, like maybe chapter 2, it seemed to me the only way this book could have a satisfactory ending was if Irina ended up ditching both Ramsey and I wanted to maybe give this two stars, because I recognize that Shriver is a good writer, and I want to give her credit for the idea she tried to execute in this book. I also appreciate a good character study. But in the end, I don't think there was much about this book I liked, so I can't find anything to warrant giving it two stars. Very early in the book, like maybe chapter 2, it seemed to me the only way this book could have a satisfactory ending was if Irina ended up ditching both Ramsey and Lawrence on her own terms and spending time getting to know herself. Throughout the book Irina says that she is only happy when she's with a man/in a relationship with a man, but I saw no evidence of that. If it was meant to be a delusion she had about herself, she never realizes that. So either way, it doesn't work: on the one hand it seemed like a lie the author told the reader and on the other like a lie the character told herself. But in the latter case, those lies are only useful in a narrative if the whole construction of the narrative is to contradict that lie, even if the character never comes to the realization it's a lie, OR if the character does confront and eschew the lie. I'm not convinced it's meant to be a lie by the author, either. The whole book tried hard to convince me that Irina needed to end up with one or both of these men. It goes so far as to have Irina say that she longed for a perfect romance and thus had trouble settling for how flawed people and romances are in real life. I can get behind that sentiment in general. In the end I think the reader is meant to see that Irina finally comes to terms with the imperfections in Ramsey and Lawrence. The problem with that is that neither Ramsey nor Lawrence are imperfect. They're abusive. Ramsey is so incredibly emotionally abusive that I could not believe the narrative arc concluded with Irina staying with him. Oh, sure, he softens when he's dying of cancer. But if that kind of terminal disease is what it takes, there's a pretty major, inherent problem going on with that character. Lawrence is so controlling that it goes beyond him being a stick in the mud (how Irina more or less comes to define him). He's constantly denigrating Irina, destroying her self-worth, belittling her, treating her like a child. Oh, but then he turns around and helps her get her book published! 1) Just another way to make sure he has total control over her life and 2) at that point clearly done out of guilt that he was cheating on her. Talking about cheating: I knew from the first Lawrence-centric chapter that he was going to end up cheating on Irina. I was hoping she would find out and leave him early on, and that story line would be about something other than her life in relation to an abusive man, but alas. She sticks with him, and when she finds out he's cheating near the end of the book she can't even work up any anger, and then is advised by Ramsey to make amends. My biggest problem with Irina, though, was the intense internalized misogyny going on. Not even because of her cheating/close brush with cheating, which is at least understandable because society does indoctrinate women with the idea that if they are not virtuous they are sluts and those are the only two options. But even in chapter 1, there are like two or three digs at "feminists" and "feminism" that seem out of the blue. This continues throughout the book. And the way Irina interacts with the few other women in the book also displays her misogyny. I wanted so badly for the character development in this book to confront that, to make her realize that what she felt when she wanted to kiss Ramsey is a natural feeling and that it didn't make her a slut. That even cheating on Lawrence with Ramsey didn't immediately negate all her other good qualities and reduce her down to just a cheater (I do not condone cheating but I think the self-flagellation we're supposed to engage in when it happens isn't particularly helpful to getting to the root of the problem: the WHY it happened part). In another review of this book someone talked about how throughout both stories Irina is constantly apologizing for things that aren't her fault and making excuses for her partner's behavior—are those not classic signs of an abuse victim? She makes the excuses in her head and to other people. On the few occasions she does hold a hard line, she ends up either too exhausted to hold for long or in a stalemate where she eventually either lets the whole thing go or goes back to apologizing. The only chapters that remotely redeemed the rest of this book for me were both versions of Chapter 9: no surprise, the ones that didn't revolve around Ramsey and Lawrence. The ones where Irina took her experiences in each story and turned them into art. The ones where I THOUGHT she was going to learn the lessons she was writing the books about. Although this did feel a bit like Shriver's attempt to make sure the reader ~understood~ what she was getting at in each story line, as if she somehow thought she was being too obscure earlier (she wasn't), the problem isn't the readers' comprehension: it's Irina's. In Frame and Match the kid has to learn to make his choice and that he can't go back, that each possibility will have ups and downs. An admirable message, but one that Irina utterly fails to accept in that story line, even after writing a whole book about it. And in her case it's not an unintentional message. Irina herself says that is the point of the book. A similar failure to learn her own lesson happens in the other story line. And the two chapters about Sept. 11 felt so exploitative to me that any empathy I wanted to have after Chapters 9 completely vanished. While the idea of ownership of a tragedy could be interesting if handled properly, it is a tricky topic and in my opinion not handled well in this book. In the Lawrence version, Irina says: "I'm glad we're in New York. If we were back in Britain, I'd feel left out." I'm not sure how a reader is supposed to feel any sympathy toward Irina after that. In the Ramsey version it's no better: "For the attack would never belong to Irina. Not one whit." [She was in Britain when it happened in that plot.] Instead of then examining how someone could even "own" a tragedy on that scale, or why someone might feel that way, the whole event of 9/11 is then used in a shoddy attempt to force Irina to put her life in perspective—especially with the Ramsey story. She thinks all their fighting and whatnot was petty in the face of such a tragedy, and they resolve to never fight again. Does that mean that only major world events should matter to anyone? That the day to day struggles (emotional as well as physical) everyone faces shouldn't matter? We can only feel badly about gruesome events like 9/11, but not when the person we love treats us like crap? We should overlook those small things? I'm sure Shriver doesn't mean all of that, but the implications are there and never addressed. The fact is that people can care about things both large and small, global and personal, at the same time. And if 9/11 hadn't occurred, would Irina and Ramsey have just continued fighting? It's kind of sad to me that two middle-aged people can't put their own lives in perspective without the aid of a massive tragedy. (I kept forgetting Irina was supposed to be in her early-late forties throughout the book; her behavior so reminded me of an early twenty year old.) To make matters worse, when Ramsey gets cancer and Lawrence's cheating is revealed, Shriver then keeps referring back to 9/11 by using metaphors and allusions to buildings collapsing, to terrorism and implosions. It just seemed in poor taste. At one point Irina, when thinking one of those comparisons, admits it's in poor taste, but that doesn't stop her from continuing to make those comparisons through the end of the book. And I thought Shriver could have done more with the separate story lines. In the end they were too similar; I wanted something more 'butterfly effect', where one small difference (kissing or not kissing Ramsey) really changes everything. Instead, everything felt repetitive—to the point where sometimes the same lines of dialogue are spoken (or internal dialogue thought) but in a different context. Or Irina would sometimes think about how she felt as though another version of her life were running parallel to whichever current story was taking place. It started to get too self-referential for my tastes. Granted, having two very similar lives unfold from one jumping off point is also a reasonable scenario; at times the two lines just came too close to converging for me. It's unfortunate because overall I could get behind the general messages Shriver wanted to convey: being happy with reality, not constantly pining for the past, loving someone for their flaws as well as their strengths (to name a few; the book is 500 pages, so there are many other themes floating around). These aren't inherently bad messages, but the execution of them in this book failed.

  20. 4 out of 5

    N

    I'm usually pretty tenacious when it comes to finishing books, but after 100 densely-packed-yet-pointless pages of this, I gave up. In We Need To Talk About Kevin, Shriver's rambling, circuitous style was reined in by a strong story. This novel has no such anchor. It's just not ABOUT much. The premise is interesting: a practically-married woman goes on a date with a handsome acquaintance; in one version of events, she kisses him and embarks on an affair, in another, she refrains and stays with her I'm usually pretty tenacious when it comes to finishing books, but after 100 densely-packed-yet-pointless pages of this, I gave up. In We Need To Talk About Kevin, Shriver's rambling, circuitous style was reined in by a strong story. This novel has no such anchor. It's just not ABOUT much. The premise is interesting: a practically-married woman goes on a date with a handsome acquaintance; in one version of events, she kisses him and embarks on an affair, in another, she refrains and stays with her current partner. Unfortunately, THAT'S IT. That's all it's about: dithering over personal relationships. It certainly doesn't help that all the characters are boring. Irina, the protagonist, is utterly limp. I didn't like her and I couldn't even find anything interesting about her character. Snoooze. Her suitors aren't much better: it's a tough choice between Mr Boring and Mr Even More Boring. (I will note that I hope Irina's limp characterization was intentional and, in the latter part of the novel, she emerges as strong, vibrant and generally AWESUM. I very much doubt it, though.) I am compelled to make a quick note about how abysmal Shriver's grasp of the English vernacular is. Brits, much less working-class Brits, do not use the words "top drawer". Like, ever. I flicked to the end, to see if the novel (miracle of miracles,) got better. (Spoiler: It didn't appear to.) In the process, I found a cheerfully obnoxious note by Shriver explaining the novel. (Yeah, thanks, love.) This only solidified my conviction that Shriver is harbouring under the delusion that she's written a much more literary and insightful novel than the unreadable dreck that I think The Post-Birthday World is.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Baba

    Another wonderful novel by Shriver, essentially via a dual perspective for Irina McGovern, children's book illustrator, what happens if she stays with Mr Sensible Vs what happens if she goes off with Mr Exciting… a surprising surprising and good read. Lionel Shriver's follow up to We Need to Talk About Kevin, covers in large and also surprising small detail the the outcomes, outputs and feeling that result from whom we choose to love, using this playful parallel-universe style of storytelling. 7 Another wonderful novel by Shriver, essentially via a dual perspective for Irina McGovern, children's book illustrator, what happens if she stays with Mr Sensible Vs what happens if she goes off with Mr Exciting… a surprising surprising and good read. Lionel Shriver's follow up to We Need to Talk About Kevin, covers in large and also surprising small detail the the outcomes, outputs and feeling that result from whom we choose to love, using this playful parallel-universe style of storytelling. 7 out of 12

  22. 5 out of 5

    Gitte - Bookworm's Closet

    Irina is in a safe relationship with Lawrence. One evening she finds herself attracted to one of their mutual friends, Ramsey, and here the story splits in two. In one version she leans forward and kisses Ramsey, falls in love with him and leaves Lawrence in favor of Ramsey. In the second version she rushes home and is relieved that she did not give in. We follow the two parallel stories. But perhaps instead she was doubly blessed, and her passion hadn’t been divided in half, but multiplied b Irina is in a safe relationship with Lawrence. One evening she finds herself attracted to one of their mutual friends, Ramsey, and here the story splits in two. In one version she leans forward and kisses Ramsey, falls in love with him and leaves Lawrence in favor of Ramsey. In the second version she rushes home and is relieved that she did not give in. We follow the two parallel stories. But perhaps instead she was doubly blessed, and her passion hadn’t been divided in half, but multiplied by two. Life with Ramsey is wild and passionate. He is very jealous and they argue about the tiniest details. The question is whether the passion can last? Life with Lawrence is safe and somewhat boring. The question is whether anything is truly safe? It was fun reading the two parallel stories, with similar scenarios played out differently. A good example is when Irina has dinner with a friend. In the version where she gives in and kisses Ramsey, her friend is horrified, and reminds her of how good a man Lawrence is. In the version where she stays with Lawrence, her friend accuses Lawrence of being boring, and says it would serve him right if Irina had an affair. Sometimes acting out of character was like breaking out of jail. Great idea for a book, but unfortunately poorly conducted. There were so many unimportant details in the book. Irina could not ride a train, go shopping, or eat a sandwich without it being described in detail page after page. It was almost unbearable. It made the book incredibly boring. It was only when I neared the end that it began to be just a bit interesting. … as if another life were running alongside this one, perhaps no better or worse but certainly different, and she liked to reach out and touch it from time to time, like dipping her hand into the river from a canoe. Moreover, everything was over-explained. The point of the book is that there are no right or wrong choices in life, and this was explained again and again. The plot itself explained it - in both versions. Then Irina writes a children's book, where it's explained again. The last chapter explains it again to be sure that everyone gets it. And then, when the story has come to an end, the author steps in and explains her point AGAIN! She actually writes "No harm in spelling it out." Yes, there is harm in spelling it out if you're talking down to your readers, Lionel Shriver!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Meera

    The premise of this book was interesting, much like the movie Sliding Doors, what would happen if you made a single decision, and your life could have gone on two alternative paths from that decision? There is a single first, and a last chapter, and apart from that, the other chapters are duplicates of the alternate lives that the protagonist could have led. However, at over 500 pages long, this book was an exercise in patience, especially when it was littered with excessive description and poin The premise of this book was interesting, much like the movie Sliding Doors, what would happen if you made a single decision, and your life could have gone on two alternative paths from that decision? There is a single first, and a last chapter, and apart from that, the other chapters are duplicates of the alternate lives that the protagonist could have led. However, at over 500 pages long, this book was an exercise in patience, especially when it was littered with excessive description and pointless self-musings. This is the third book I have read by this author, and Shriver seems to be from the school of writing of "why use one descriptive term when you can use ten, and an obscure or pretentious metaphor or simile to boot". To make matters worse, all the characters are thoroughly unlikeable, especially the protagonist who is either self indulgent in one version, or completely helpless and dependent in the other, and seems to spend the majority of the book not liking the life she has chosen, but thinking about what would have happened if she'd chosen the other scenario. Oh, and as I'm actually english myself, the irritating way the author tries to write in Ramsey's british accent is so fake, and completely condescending. Don't bother, just watch Sliding Doors. I can't see how people are rating this one of the best books of 2007.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Pechi

    3.5 * Spoilers ahead. Borderline racist and extremely problematic though Lionel Shriver might be, her novels are captivating, funny, worldly, and intense; they pack a lot of substance, they dramatize the crap out of ambivalence and every single one I've read so far has been a hell of a ride. I have read all her post-Kevin novels (with the exception of the latest one) and I find them brilliant. They have a quiet force to them, and even if I do not agree with some of her opinions, I love the no-hol 3.5 * Spoilers ahead. Borderline racist and extremely problematic though Lionel Shriver might be, her novels are captivating, funny, worldly, and intense; they pack a lot of substance, they dramatize the crap out of ambivalence and every single one I've read so far has been a hell of a ride. I have read all her post-Kevin novels (with the exception of the latest one) and I find them brilliant. They have a quiet force to them, and even if I do not agree with some of her opinions, I love the no-holds-barred storytelling. Her novels are usually about the terrifying ways in which one's life can go wrong - career failure, evil offspring, cancer, the collapse of society, etc. In PBW, it is the sudden loss of love - one day your partner wakes up and realizes that they don't love you anymore - and the screeching halt of a relationship. It also covers the discovery of an electric new love and adultery. The Post-Birthday World is about alternate trajectories in life and love. It reminded me of Shriver's Double Fault - another of her novels primarily exploring relationships and heavily featuring a sport. It also reminded me of Paul Auster's 4 3 2 1 which is also about the might-have-beens of a life. The protagonist, Irina Galina, an illustrator, is an American expat living in England with her long-term boyfriend Lawrence. He is steady and supportive, but extremely controlling, condescending, and stuck-up. She is briefly attracted to a snooker player Ramsey - who is very romantic and passionate but with emotional baggage of his own, and the subsequent course of her life hinges on her pursuit of this attraction. After Chapter One, we get two versions of each chapter. Irina is depicted as a passive character who is heavily dependent on her partners and places their well-being above her own. She is easily manipulated by her beaux, does not assert her will strongly, and can very much be seen as a regressive character. Very 50 shades-y. She cooks all the time and her partners don't seem to share the domestic duties. Overall, the book presents a bleak picture of women who continue to live in the forbidding shadow of patriarchy. BUT. People like Irina do exist; expecting women writers to only write progressive women is a form of sexism in itself; it is set in the 90s after all - I could excuse Shriver on these grounds. While there isn't as much nuance as some would expect, the depiction is not condoning, and Shriver was not wrong to refrain from explicitly condemning her character for her lack of independence. It is glaringly obvious that Irina isn't or shouldn't be the ideal Modern Woman. If she prioritizes her relationships over her career, it is her own choice and nature, and it should be respected. What I loved the most about PBW is Shriver's portrayal of the intricate dynamics of relationships. With Irina's mindscape as the canvas, we get a glorious picture of how relationships work, in all their psychological minutiae: especially how people tend to easily forgive and willingly blind themselves to their partner's faults when in love. Shriver is very astute, and a whirlwind of insights makes its way through this gripping novel, leaving the reader soaked in minute observations and grand epiphanies. I could also connect a lot with Irina's experience of domestic life, especially as this pandemic has left most of us looking at infinite repetitions of the same quotidian chores. I enjoyed the cultural/linguistic differences Irina felt as an American expat. The novel was occasionally hilarious, too. Among the two men, Lawrence came off as a bit cartoonish with all his churlishness. He is the designated villain among the boyfriends and that was a bit grating. Though we do have a glimpse at his nicer side later in the novel, I found it hard to believe that Irina would continue to be in a relationship with this insufferable man for ten years if only out of a sheer need for stability. Apart from providing professional motivation for Irina, he does not have many redemptive qualities. It was also stretching credulity that Irina would continue ignoring repeated signs of his infidelity. She readily absorbs all the unpleasantness and conflicts in their relationship and sacrifices her self-respect way too often for the sake of being with Lawrence. This was lazy writing and needed better reasoning even if Irina was so self-abasing. Similarly, with Ramsey, she does not see their financial ruin coming despite how obvious it seemed. Ramsey is much more pleasant and passionate, but is very jealous and verbally abusive. Here too I found Irina's tolerance annoying and I wanted her to stand up to him. The men are polar opposites, in every which way and I'm not sure that was necessary. Irina ultimately believes that she made the right choice to kiss Ramsey, and given how dismal her alternative was, we might have to concur. In both scenarios, despite her choice of partners, Irina's futures aren't that dissimilar (I hated when this same thing happened in 4 3 2 1 - I wanted the alternate realities to be as wildly different as possible). Some milestone events remain the same and her life isn't drastically altered by her choice. Some loose ends persist, but I believe Shriver might have been trying to convey the fact that the baseline trajectory of any life would remain tied to the character and motivations of the person, and wouldn't dramatically deviate by choice of partners(How existential!). Also, in both versions, Irina is never completely happy - she believes that grass is always greener on the other side. Some readers are put off by Shriver's fancy vocabulary, but I do not find her choice of words incongruous anywhere. She might be showing off, yes, but nowhere does it strut out of context. And, it is always nice to learn some new words. PBW is not as great as some of her other works. It is clunky and not wholly engrossing. But, despite its blind spots and loose ends, it is still a trademark Shriver novel propelled by perspicacious prose that is as wise and worldly as it is compelling.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    I was really captivated by this thought experiment, the two parallel timelines, the writing and the authentic characters. Yes, some of it was a bit obvious or gimmicky, but was still well thought out, fun to read and made me race through the second half. I'm only knocking one star off because the protagonist didn't learn all that much. Yes, she understands that there is not a single perfect way to live your life, but she is still convinced she needs a man to be happy. Ugh. I was really captivated by this thought experiment, the two parallel timelines, the writing and the authentic characters. Yes, some of it was a bit obvious or gimmicky, but was still well thought out, fun to read and made me race through the second half. I'm only knocking one star off because the protagonist didn't learn all that much. Yes, she understands that there is not a single perfect way to live your life, but she is still convinced she needs a man to be happy. Ugh.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Aj Sterkel

    Goodreads, I read a romance book, and I didn’t completely loathe it! I only kind of loathed it! The premise and structure of this novel are very intriguing. The story happens on two timelines. Both of them start with the main character going to dinner with a minor celebrity. In one timeline, she has an affair with him. In the other, they become friends, but she stays with her husband. It’s a really cool idea. Unfortunately, I had issues with other parts of the book. The writing style is pretenti Goodreads, I read a romance book, and I didn’t completely loathe it! I only kind of loathed it! The premise and structure of this novel are very intriguing. The story happens on two timelines. Both of them start with the main character going to dinner with a minor celebrity. In one timeline, she has an affair with him. In the other, they become friends, but she stays with her husband. It’s a really cool idea. Unfortunately, I had issues with other parts of the book. The writing style is pretentious and heavy handed. The main character is hard to care about because she’s bland, racist, and lets self-centered men completely control her life. I wish the timelines had diverged a little more. If something happens in one timeline, you know the opposite will happen in the other timeline. It gets repetitive. Still, this was such a unique idea for a novel!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I am always hesitant to read books that garner lots of critical attention - those books that seem to be the "must-reads" every few months. However, I really enjoyed this book. At the end of the first chapter, the main character has a choice to act in one of two ways in a certain situation. From there on out, there are two sets of chapters that tell parallel narratives of what happens as result of this choice -- one set follows the "yes" trajectory and one the "no" trajectory. This seemingly smal I am always hesitant to read books that garner lots of critical attention - those books that seem to be the "must-reads" every few months. However, I really enjoyed this book. At the end of the first chapter, the main character has a choice to act in one of two ways in a certain situation. From there on out, there are two sets of chapters that tell parallel narratives of what happens as result of this choice -- one set follows the "yes" trajectory and one the "no" trajectory. This seemingly small choice has big and small effects. It is interesting that the two narratives do run very parallel, often overlapping in some ways, and that, by the end, the main character ends up in much the same place - which ties both narratives together. This would be a very interesting book group or discussion book -- it raises issues of chance, choice, fate/destiny, coincidence, and timing. I'm curious to see what Lionel Shriver's other work is like.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Joyce

    I have always loved the idea of parallel worlds, and I think that is why I find this book an incredibly appealing read. I like how Shriver placed such importance on a single moment, reminding us that not only are our actions consequential, but even the smallest, transient thoughts that run through our minds. Perhaps some might find Irina self-destructive, but I think that it is her ability to practise mental kindness to the men in her life that made her so tolerant to both Ramsey and Lawrence's I have always loved the idea of parallel worlds, and I think that is why I find this book an incredibly appealing read. I like how Shriver placed such importance on a single moment, reminding us that not only are our actions consequential, but even the smallest, transient thoughts that run through our minds. Perhaps some might find Irina self-destructive, but I think that it is her ability to practise mental kindness to the men in her life that made her so tolerant to both Ramsey and Lawrence's emotional abuse. In Irina's case, her kindness made her a vulnerable target to Lawrence's somewhat apathetic nature and to Ramsey's bullies. Of course, this concept of parallel worlds also provide ample opportunity to explore the lives of living with the Reliable/ Predictable Guy vs. Spontaneous/ Passionate Guy. I love that Shriver did not favour one over the other, but rather gave her readers the idea of possibilities...

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sheryl Sorrentino

    I wish I had more time to really delve into this one and write a thorough and lengthy review. Maybe I will at a later date. Suffice it to say, I just loved Lionel Shriver's The Post-Birthday World. The writing was crisp and witty throughout. At first, when I saw the parallel timelines, I worried the ending would not satisfy, as we'd never be told which story was the "real" one. But I found that didn't matter. Both scenarios (and endings) were thought-provoking and poignant--though I must say, I I wish I had more time to really delve into this one and write a thorough and lengthy review. Maybe I will at a later date. Suffice it to say, I just loved Lionel Shriver's The Post-Birthday World. The writing was crisp and witty throughout. At first, when I saw the parallel timelines, I worried the ending would not satisfy, as we'd never be told which story was the "real" one. But I found that didn't matter. Both scenarios (and endings) were thought-provoking and poignant--though I must say, I preferred the Ramsey "ride" with all its fine shenanigans. I loved these characters precisely because they were so exasperating--and so human--each in his or her own way. And the pacing, though leisurely, had the feel of a delicious, unhurried meal. I highly recommend it, especially if you're a fan of "Brit Lit."

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lanette

    Read the first 100+ pages and decided I couldn't continue on... I simply didn't CARE about what happened to ANY of the characters. I didn't even read the last chapter to see how it ended. After reassurances that it got better, I picked it up again last night. I skimmed the snooker crap, which cut out about 1/2 the remaining 400 pages... while I do admit it DID get a tad better, the sex was unneccessary (not just sour grapes since I haven't gotten any in months) and the characters were not at all Read the first 100+ pages and decided I couldn't continue on... I simply didn't CARE about what happened to ANY of the characters. I didn't even read the last chapter to see how it ended. After reassurances that it got better, I picked it up again last night. I skimmed the snooker crap, which cut out about 1/2 the remaining 400 pages... while I do admit it DID get a tad better, the sex was unneccessary (not just sour grapes since I haven't gotten any in months) and the characters were not at all developed. I predicted The Lawrence Revelation way back in the first chapter (and I NEVER predict correctly, so that tells you how predictable that was) and the ending was anticlimactic. Bottom line... don't waste your time. What was Entertainment Weekly thinking??????

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