Monday, August 10, 2009

The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver - Guest Review by Sandy Nawrot

The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver
Reviewed by Sandy Nawrot from You've GOTTA read this!

I actually read this book a year and a half ago, but is one that needs to be acknowledged here. It is one that has stuck with me, and has been scribbled down and e-mailed countless times to my friends. Have you ever allowed yourself to wonder "what if"...if you'd made this decision over that one, married this person instead of that one...how would your life had changed? This book allows a delightful opportunity to peer into a parallel life of Irina, our protagonist, and actually see the "what if".

Irina has lived in London with Lawrence, an intellectual think-tank manager, for a decade. Their relationship is comfortable and maybe a little boring. Every year they get together with their friend, Ramsey, a devil-may-care snooker champion, to celebrate his birthday. One year, Lawrence is out of town and Irina decides to continue with the tradition by herself. Irina and Ramsey proceed to get hammered (or in London, "pissed") and approach the fork in the road. You see this coming, right? At this point in the book, there are two "Chapter 2's", "two Chapter 3's", etc. In the first of the two chapters, Irina falls for the dashing Ramsey, ultimately leaves Lawrence, and lives the unpredictable and non-stop life of a snooker wife (or more appropriately a snooker widow). In the second of the two chapters, Irina resists temptation and stays with Lawrence, steadfastly loyal but bored out of her skull. Each outcome is so completely different, and unexpected, and I won't ruin it for you.

Shriver is a very talented writer and is a joy and a hoot to read. This book is FULL of ironies, some absolutely hilarious. The two story lines intertwine fabulously. For example, in one parallel life, Irina and Ramsey visit Irina's family for Christmas, Ramsey gets toasted and trashes the place, and Irina is left apologizing. In the other life, it is Irina that drinks too much and makes a mess, and Lawrence has to pick up the pieces. These clever little slights of hand had me laughing out loud. It was rated in the top 5 must reads of 2007 by Entertainment Weekly, and I know that I will read it again.


Sandy from You've GOTTA read this! kindly volunteered to loan me this review, which was originally posted on her blog in October of last year. I couldn't be more grateful to you, Sandy, for filling in for me like this! And for adding yet another book to my ever growing wish list.

21 comments:

  1. I have this book. I've had this book a long time. Raved about Kevin but somehow never got around to this one. Must take a second look.

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  2. The double story line sounds fun -- especially if sprinkled with humor. I'll add this one to my list...

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  3. Wow, this sounds fascinating. I'm going to have to put this on the TBR list.

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  4. I found the double story line great at first, but got bored of it quite quickly. There are some really good bits in this book, but We Need to Talk About Kevin is far better.

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  5. I keep meaning to read this author as I've heard so many good things but it keeps getting moved to the back burner. This sounds like a good one. Thanks for the review Sandy.

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  6. Interesting premise. Thanks for pointing out the predictability, but you still make it sound interesting; may have to give it a onece-over.

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  7. Oh, you sold me! To be truthful, I think this is the perfect book for me at the moment. :)

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  8. I couldn't get enough of this book...I just didn't want it to end. I think that if you are faced with a fork in the road, whatever it may be, this book will mean even more. (Kailana, go for it! Once you've read it, let me know what you think!)

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  9. I was very impressed with We Need to Talk About Kevin, so I'm going to read this one too. Thanks for posting this review.

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  10. I haven't read this one yet, but it was recommended to me by a friend, so it's been on my list for a while. I hope I can find some time to read it soon.

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  11. I have this one on my shelf, but the size of it has put me off. I've also heard great things about We Need to Talk About Kevin.

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  12. This was my "Book of the Year" for 2008, and it's one that's stuck with me, too. I really liked how the author structured it, and I liked the fact that you couldn't tell which storyline "really" happened - they were both plausible options.

    Thanks for sharing your great review of this memorable novel, Sandy!

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  13. I haven't read this, and I remember picking the book up when it was first released but I didn't buy it. Now you've made me changed my mind, Sandy! ;)

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  14. you had me at "absolutely hilarious"!

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  15. I could use a hilarious book right about now, so I'm adding this to my wish list.

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  16. I also thought this was wonderful - and was so intrigued by the way it ended.

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  17. Thanks for the review -- always wanted to read this book!

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  18. Thank you for the review. I had never heard of this book, another one to ad to my tbr list :)

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  19. I bought this book last year, but it's size has deterredme thus far. Great review!

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  20. Thank you all for stopping by! And thank you again, Sandy, for this great review. I haven't yet read a book by this author, but I do want to. You make this one sound so good.

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  21. I have this one one my TBR pile as well--this makes me want to bump it up to the top!

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