Miss Letting-Go-Getting

Miss LGG’s Book of the Week: The Post-Birthday World
June 28, 2008, 4:14 pm
Filed under: authors, Books | Tags:

One down…twenty-three to go! Remember my personal summer reading program in which I pledged to read two books a week? Yeah, that’s not happening, or at least not at the pace I had hoped. Many of the books I chose are over 500 pages, and I have been sleeping on the bus a lot these days, and it’s summer and all I want to do is ride my bike and sit outside and hang out with friends, and make-out with a certain handsome man and, and, and….

I did, however, finish one of the books on my list…

The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver, 517 pgs.

I first learned about this book from Entertainment Weekly’s yearly recap of the best media. They named this novel by British author Lionel Shriver as their top fiction book of the year which was intriguing to me because it didn’t exist on any other best of the year lists. Here’s what EW had to say:

In a year when nearly everyone was caught up in the story of a young wizard, an ensorcelling book about a mortal adult woman went virtually unnoticed. The heroine of Lionel Shriver’s extraordinary novel The Post-Birthday World is Irina McGovern, an illustrator living in London with her longtime partner, Lawrence Trainer, an earnest policy wonk. They share values and routines, if not a world-beating sex life. As the first chapter ends, Irina finds herself alone with a roguish acquaintance, pro snooker player Ramsey Acton, whom she’s always found dangerously attractive.

Here, the novel branches into two competing narratives. In the first, Irina kisses Ramsey. In the second, she resists. Chapter by chapter, these two richly imagined scenarios play themselves out, eventually meeting up again some 500 pages later. Which was the better choice for Irina — the steamy lover Ramsey or the steady companion Lawrence? Shriver playfully suggests answers, only to snatch them back again.

Before it was co-opted and trivialized by chick lit, romantic love was a subject that writers from Flaubert to Tolstoy deemed worthy of artistic and moral scrutiny. This is the tradition into which Shriver’s novel fits. In 50 years, we’ll still be wild about Harry. And a lucky handful of readers may stumble across The Post-Birthday World and wonder why they’ve never heard of it.

Right on–so true, I have steered clear of any fiction dealing solely with love and relationships because I can’t stand to read formulaic, trite happy-ending crap, which tends to be most of the chick-lit genre. I’m not a total cynic about love, but the fluff love genre of recent years never delves deeply into the workings of romantic relationships or characters’ psyches in general. Shriver’s novel is down and dirty honest, brutal, heartbreaking and so very very real.

Shriver is quickly becoming my favorite contemporary author. Her incredibly thought-provoking We Need to Talk About Kevin had me pondering parent/child relationships and the root of evil for nearly a month. Her writing style is incredibly elegant and dense, yet very easy to read and ultimately her books are impossible to put down.

Seriously, check her out. Good stuff.


Miss LGG


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