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.
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).
The New York Times - Julia Scheeres
Shriver puts more effort into describing a rhubarb-cream pie than explaining Ramsey’s appeal .... Her prose can also grate .....
Shriver stumbles across provocative themes — the private erotic fantasies of long-time lovers, unplanned pregnancy in middle age, the sexuality of anger — but doesn’t dwell on them long enough to enliven her characters or her story ... she seems to have rushed out this new book, churning through tired themes of infidelity and regret without offering fresh insight or even an entertaining story.
The Boston Globe - Chris Bohjalian
[W]hile I was occasionally frustrated with Irina or I felt I was learning more about snooker than I wanted to know, there were other moments when I found myself riveted by The Post-Birthday World.
The Seattle Times - Robert Allen Papinchak
It's a tantalizing endeavor that often includes a great deal of repetitive detail. In lesser hands, this technique would fail. But Shriver's adept, simultaneous narratives rarely stumble. Replaying whole scenes with slight changes is like listening to a symphony's variations on a theme.
Cleveland Plain Dealer - Vikas Turakhia
At first, these dueling stories start off as a gimmicky game of opposites; but Shriver is sure-footed as she moves the reader along Irina's dual trajectories ....But as Irina ends up in much the same place despite her choices, the reader is left to wonder if her decisions - and Shriver's well-written story - matter much at all.
Entertainment Weekly - Jennifer Reese
Shriver teases out a knotty set of questions: Does happiness reside in everyday contentment or passionate connection? How important is sex? By the same token, how important are shared values? The novel will provide juicy fodder for animated book-club conversation. A.
The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani
Although the decision to depict Ramsey and Lawrence as such polar opposites makes for a schematic story line, this flaw is steamrollered by Ms. Shriver’s instinctive knowledge of her heroine’s heart and mind and her ability to limn Irina’s very different relationships with these two men. Relying on the same gift for psychological portraiture that she used in her award-winning 2003 novel, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Ms. Shriver makes palpable both Irina’s magnetic attraction to Ramsey and the ease and comfort she feels with Lawrence.
The Daily News - Sherryl Connelly
Certainly one of the questions posed in this stunningly intense novel is whether it is better to betray or be betrayed? Another asks, for whom?
With Jamesian patience, Shriver explores snooker tournaments and terrorism conferences, passionate lovemaking and passionless sex, and teases out her themes of ambition, self-recrimination and longing. The result is an impressive if exhausting novel.
Booklist - Debi Lewis
This novel is ostensibly formulaic, but the details and the solid writing make it ultimately enjoyable.
Library Journal - Barbara Hoffert
Sometimes one story is more engaging than the other, but the two versions are seamlessly knit, and in the end both are convincing and beautifully told. Highly recommended.
Starred Review. Better yet, the author is more interested in raising questions about love and fidelity than in pat moralizing. Readers will wonder which choice was best for Irena, but Shriver masterfully confounds any attempt to arrive at a sure answer.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Elyse Not for Everybody I barely got through 3 chapters of this book before deciding it wasn't for me. I just didn't buy the protaganist's actions, nor her husband's. It was a book I was doubtful of from the beginning, but I saw it at my library and decided to give it a... Read More
Rated of 5
by Jennifer Incredible Technique! As a story, this book is okay (twice). It was not the kind of book I "couldn't put down" until the last few chapters, when I absolutely HAD to know how things were going to turn out in each universe. For a while, I'd think one life was better; then... Read More
Rated of 5
by Wayne of Canberra Ho-hum The Post Birthday World could have been a mildly entertaining short story if, say, you had nothing else to read in the house, but 517 pages? Shriver's prose is like the smarty-pants kid in the class who has just learned all these big words and... Read More
Rated of 5
by Jenny What If? The plot of this novel is a love triangle where book illustrator Irina leaves her defacto husband, the reliable but dull Lawrence, for the sexy, handsome snooker champion Ramsey. That is one option however as what we have is a parallel universe... Read More
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
Species, was published when she was
29 (1986), and was followed by
Checker and the Derailleurs (1987),
Ordinary Decent Criminals (1990),
Game Control (1994), A
Perfectly Good Family (1996) and
To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret, and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal. Lyrical and thrilling, Middlesex is an exhilarating reinvention of the American epic.
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