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.
What began as coincidence had crystallized into tradition: on the sixth of July, they would have dinner with Ramsey Acton on his birthday.
Five years earlier, Irina had been collaborating with Ramsey's then-wife, Jude Hartford, on a children's book. Jude had made social overtures. Abjuring the airy we-really-must-get-together-sometime feints common to London, which can carry on indefinitely without threatening to clutter your diary with a real time and place, Jude had seemed driven to nail down a foursome so that her illustrator could meet her husband, Ramsey. Or, no—she'd said, "My husband, Ramsey Acton." The locution had stood out. Irina assumed that Jude was prideful in that wearing feminist way about the fact that she'd not taken her husband's surname.
But then, it is always difficult to impress the ignorant. When negotiating with Lawrence over the prospective dinner back in 1992, Irina didn't know enough to mention, "Believe it or not, Jude's married...
To Shriver's credit, even though both men are in many ways polar opposites, they are never presented as simply right or wrong for Irena, let alone good or bad people in themselves. Both love Irena intensely, both mean well at heart and both are honorable if flawed men - and neither are quite the men that Irena thinks them to be.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (1232 words).
Journalist and author Lionel Shriver
was born Margaret Ann Shriver in 1957 in
North Carolina, USA. She changed her
name to Lionel at the age of 15 because
she wanted to distance herself from the
"girl with the pink ribbons in her hair,
who married her high-school sweetheart
and became an apple-cheeked housewife",
that she felt was implied by the name
Margaret Ann and the expectations of her
She received a BA and MFA from Columbia University and, since then, has lived in Nairobi, Bangkok, Belfast and London.
Her first novel, The Female of the ...
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