- Hardcover: 528 pages
- Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (March 13 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0061187844
- ISBN-13: 978-0061187841
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 4 x 22.9 cm
- Shipping Weight: 839 g
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #412,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Post-Birthday World Hardcover – Mar 13 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
The smallest details of staid coupledom duel it out with a lusty alternate reality that begins when a woman passes up an opportunity to cheat on her longtime boyfriend in Shriver's latest (after the Orange Prize–winning We Need to Talk About Kevin). Irina McGovern, a children's book illustrator in London, lives in comfortable familiarity with husband-in-everything-but-marriage-certificate Lawrence Trainer, and every summer the two have dinner with their friend, the professional snooker player Ramsey Acton, to celebrate Ramsey's birthday. One year, following Ramsey's divorce and while terrorism specialist "think tank wonk" Lawrence is in Sarajevo on business, Irina and Ramsey have dinner, and after cocktails and a spot of hash, Irina is tempted to kiss Ramsey. From this near-smooch, Shriver leads readers on a two-pronged narrative: one consisting of what Irina imagines would have happened if she had given in to temptation, the other showing Irina staying with Lawrence while fantasizing about Ramsey. 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. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Shriver's eighth novel will attract patient readers ready for the next step after chick lit. With dual parallel narratives, Shriver offers two paths for his protagonist, Irina, to tread: stay with her dull but stable boyfriend or run off with the exciting but volatile public figure she's only known in passing and for whom she suddenly lusts. The story lines split at a cinematic-style moment when Irina feels the urge to kiss this new love interest. In one version of the story, she kisses him, and in another, she resists temptation. Both story lines unfold predictably, but what will hook the reader is watching each run its respective course. In each version of her life, she makes choices with excruciating slowness. Her naivete notwithstanding, something about the narrative arc keeps the reader rooting for her. The addition of subplots--her relationship with her demanding and uncompromising mother, the drama of the world of British championship snooker, the unavoidable nature of international terrorism--contribute depth. This novel is ostensibly formulaic, but the details and the solid writing make it ultimately enjoyable. Debi Lewis
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
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I felt the author dipped in and out of the two life options in a clever manner, showing how a phrase in one story line could mean something quite different in the other. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who has thought about what their life would have been if they had taken that other path.
Then there is the language. Pretentious when it need not be, especially considering the characters.
My book club found this one of the worst books we've read.
Do yourself a favour and give this a miss...complete waste of time. Read The Postmistress instead. Far more superior and a pleasure to read.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Then I went to Goodreads to read the other reviews posted and found out that seemingly everyone but me had advance notice that the book was an alternative universe with Irina kissing/not kissing Ramsey on his birthday, the pivotal event in her life.
I feel a book should stand on its own, and there is an indication of what it is contained in the book that Irina writes that wins/doesn't win the children's prize. Unfortunately it came too late to rescue the book for me.
Aside from the first and twelfth chapters, the twelfth concluding the narrative, Irina's point of view bifurcates into two alternate worlds which are informed by the choice she makes, the first choice causing her to act, and the second to abstain after an eventful birthday dinner. Sophisticated readers know all about alternate endings in contemporary literary fiction, but Shriver achieves much more than this as the two narrative strands feed into and inform upon each other and remarkably unify the entire text. Shriver's craft is so skillful and deft that my resistance to her characters surrendered and swallowed me in, such that even the most ardent rebel to modern middle class domestication cannot help but to have their preconceptions challenged by a master story teller as Shriver has without a doubt proven herself to be. It is not much of a stretch to believe that one day her work will be taught along side Austen as a standard bearer of the literary arts.
One generality about life showcased here is that some people are never happy no matter what course they choose--the fault isn't in our stars but in ourselves and all that--which is of course a true observation. It is also an obvious one, and just as dealing with this type of person in real life is unpleasant and tiresome, so too is reading about this perpetually whining character. I don't object to whining per se, in fiction or in life, but the whiner ought at least to have some other compelling traits that make the whining worth the listen. I'd go so far as to say that the protagonist, merely a milksop in one strand of the narrative, is downright dislikable in the other--which actually succeeds in somewhat redeeming that half of the story and why I've added an extra star, as being habitually perverse adds a very slight edge to this diffident damsel in distress (though even here the reader seems expected to take much of this perversity as hard-to-swallow, wide-eyed guilelessness).
I also have to mention that this book cries out for a competent editor. The repeated use of the word bar instead of barre to refer to the prop used during ballet exercises drove me absolutely bananas.