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Big Brother

3.39  ·  Rating Details  ·  8,924 Ratings  ·  1,615 Reviews
For Pandora, cooking is a form of love. Alas, her husband, Fletcher, a self-employed high-end cabinetmaker, now spurns the “toxic” dishes that he’d savored through their courtship, and devotes hours each day to manic cycling. Then, when Pandora picks up her older brother Edison at the airport, she doesn’t recognize him. In the years since they’ve seen one another, the once ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published June 4th 2013 by Harper Collins (first published 2013)
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ag Berg It was disappointing but not completely unexpected from Lionel Shriver
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Apr 29, 2013 Donna rated it liked it
I am a big Lionel Shriver fan. I loved her books "Let's Talk About Kevin" and especially "So Much for That." So I was looking forward to reading her new book "Big Brother," particularly since it deals with an issue that (unfortunately) is near and dear to my heart - being overweight.

The story is narrated by Pandora - a forty-something woman who lives with her husband Fletcher and her two teenage step-children. Pandora's marriage is already strained by her husband's fanatical obsession with healt
Diane Yannick
Jun 28, 2013 Diane Yannick rated it it was ok
This book disappointed me in so many ways. Pandora, the narrator, marries Fletcher a man who just happens to be an extreme health nut. Enter her brother, Edison, who has recently gained hundreds of pounds and will eat anything that doesn't run away from his fat fingered grasp. (Do you have to paint such broad strokes, Lionel?) The plot is absurd. I do understand that the author's brother died from obesity and that she wished she could do more. However, the way she "did more" in this story is rid ...more
B the BookAddict
Jan 02, 2016 B the BookAddict rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: moi
If you have not read Shriver before , then start with this,her latest novel, Big Brother. Shriver seems to be less acerbic than she has in her previous novels:less outrage and shock are dealt by the writer's hand here.

Telephone calls which come in the middle of the night rarely are for good news. And when Pandora is woken with a call about her brother Edison, the same is true. Pandora, a successful business owner and Edison, a talented jazz pianist, have always been close. They have grown up in
Lorri Steinbacher
Jun 09, 2013 Lorri Steinbacher rated it really liked it
I will read anything that Shriver writes. I am completely tuned in to her sensibility. She always picks topics and themes that other authors tend to ignore or who will write about sensationally. Shriver does not shy away from politicizing or making bold statements, but she does so in such a matter-of-fact, specific (yet humanizing) that her books don't feel sensational. That she also takes her stories from her own experiences helps that along. I felt Pandora's revulsion when she picks her brothe ...more
Susan Tunis
Dec 28, 2012 Susan Tunis rated it it was amazing
High-concept and high-calorie

I’m a sucker for novels with high-concept hooks. I can summarize Lionel Shriver’s latest in just a few sentences. Pandora Halfdanarson, a married, mid-western entrepreneur, hasn’t seen her older brother in four years. Edison is a successful jazz pianist out of New York, and this is the longest they’ve ever been apart. A friend of his calls her, indicating that Edison’s fallen on hard times, and she invites him to come stay for a visit. At the airport, she fails to re
Jul 01, 2013 Joyce rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 23, 2013 M rated it it was ok
2.5 - sometimes even 2.75

Reading this book reminded me of one of the worst dates I ever had. From the initial phone call, it was clear the guy had been around the block a few too many times (hence earning the name 'Burn Out Boy'), and the date, from his perspective, and then soon enough from mine, was over before it began. I don't know if it was boredom, desperation, or irritation, but I found myself slipping into this awful persona, using every big word I knew, giving intense answers to small t
Jun 25, 2013 Carol rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
If the issues of obesity and weight make you squeamish this is not the book for you. As a person who was much heavier than I am today, I found Big Brother an uncomfortable read. This however, did not keep me from reading on.

If you have a less than perfect relationship with a sibling this too might not be the book for you. Yet, Shriver's exploration of her main character, Pandora's closeness to her brother Edison and the scrutiny in which she examines the meaning of family, both familial and mar
Jessica Buike
Dec 20, 2013 Jessica Buike rated it really liked it
I had to stew on this for a few days before deciding how to rate this book.

Honestly, the entire first part was boring, and a lot of the language used throughout was completely unnecessary. I am all about utilizing the English language intelligently, but sometimes it's more impressive to read a book that is simplistically beautiful than one that feels artificially full of large words. In fact, I sometimes wondered if the author was just trying to hit a word count rather than make a point.

That b
May 27, 2014 Rose rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 11, 2013 Elizabeth rated it it was ok
Shelves: adult, fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 17, 2013 Anne rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, 2013
This is the first book I have read by Lionel Shriver. I started reading it with huge expectations based on rave reviews of this and earlier works. Perhaps that set me up to be disappointed.

The main protagonist and narrator of Big Brother is Pandora, a name that means, "gifted," and/or "the all-giving." (See Wikipedia). The novel is a play on these terms: on how important it is to be gifted (or not), all-giving (or not). It uses the story of Pandora and her titular "big brother," to address thes
Jun 06, 2014 Kyle rated it really liked it
I loved this book. I found the characters to be so well defined and I loved the simple plot of one woman finding herself stuck between two, contrary ideologies.

Lionel Shriver usually impresses me though. she finds relevant subjects to write about, timely, as if they had been ripped right out of that morning's headlines. and then, she doesn't jus show two sides to the story, she shows MANY sides. Sides to the story that I had never even thought about.

Of course,the topic of obesity is a touchy on
I really enjoyed this book throughout. Pandora, sister to has-been jazz musician, Edison, meets her brother at the airport - and almost walks right past him - he’s about 165 pounds heavier than she remembered him (90kg, for those of us who work best in metric). After initially turning a blind eye, she appoints herself as his personal weight loss coach.

As a dietitian, some of Pandora’s weight loss ideas make me cringe a little, however at least she involves a GP, at least at the start. Shame she
nomadreader (Carrie D-L)
Feb 08, 2014 nomadreader (Carrie D-L) rated it really liked it
(originally published at

The backstory: Lionel Shriver is an author whose work I've enjoyed immensely in the past. After raving about So Much For That(I gave it 5 stars), I also enjoyed We Need to Talk About Kevin(I gave it 4.5 stars) and The New Republic (I gave it 4 stars.) I'm utterly fascinated with both her work and her as a person, because her books and characters are so distinct.

The basics: Big Brotheris the story of Pandora, who grew up in Los Angeles wi
Kristin Strong
Sep 11, 2013 Kristin Strong rated it it was ok
I don't have time to get into all the things I disliked about this book, but here are a few. They're mostly about the language, but some are about the writing.
The relationships are woefully underwritten. I know nothing about the siblings' childhood that would lead me to believe they were, as they narrator insists, each other's crutches and very intertwined during a difficult time. She says they were, and we have to believe her.
I do not for an instant buy that they were so close as
Mar 29, 2013 Victoria rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lit-fic, family
Wow! A few years ago, I first became acquainted with Lionel Shriver’s writing after reading We Need To Talk About Kevin. I think I read it in just one sitting - completely blown away by her storytelling skill. As the years have passed, more of her titles have joined the ranks in my To-Be-Read stacks, but this is this novel’s intriguing premise made me unable to resist immediately reading it.

The book opens with Pandora’s older brother, Edison, and his impending and prolonged stay at her Iowa hom
May 12, 2013 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Pandora Halfdanarson lives with her husband, 'food fascist' Fletcher, and her two teenage stepchildren in Iowa. She runs a successful business with her fantastic Baby Monotonous Dolls ( I hope the author has patented the idea,they would be sure to be a real life success) and is something of a rut when we meet her. Pandora's childhood was somewhat unusual - her father was in a successful television show and all the members of her family are either distant or no longer alive, apart from her adored
Apr 09, 2013 Jill rated it liked it
It is no accident that I read Lionel Shriver’s Big Brother almost directly after Michael Moss’s excellent non-fiction book Salt Sugar Fat: how the Food Giants Hooked Us. Through a feat of investigative reporting, Mr. Moss painstakingly revealed how companies use salt, sugar and fat to addict us and linked his findings to the emerging obesity epidemic.

So here is Lionel Shriver, putting a face on the back-stories and statistics. The face is that of the once handsome and charismatic Emerson Appaloo
Nov 04, 2013 Carol rated it did not like it
One of the other reviewers here wrote that this was a bunch of the author's own feelings about fat people disguised as a novel. I couldn't agree more. The main character, while admitting that she herself has an extra thirty pounds to lose, doesn't hold back on the criticism of her fellow Americans, whom she accuses of forgetting how to eat and gorging themselves while blissfully ignorant of their expanding middles, but the worst treatment is reserved for Edison, the morbidly obese character, who ...more
Aug 31, 2014 A. rated it did not like it
Review based on ARC.

Anyone who was around me while I was forcing my way through this book suffered for my having to finish it. Why did I have to finish it? Because it was an advanced readers' copy, and I felt like I needed to finish the whole book in order to fairly review it.

But oh, the pain.
So, the premise. I was interested in this book and definitely wanted to read it because of its premise! (this is no more spoiler than what appears on the back cover) Main character (Pandora) picks up her br
Jun 06, 2013 Renee rated it really liked it
No time for a big review today but will come back to it later.

Big Brother did not disappoint, and I have a huge bias with Lionel, she is my favorite ever since reading "We Need To Talk About Kevin", it made form an "art"form for me. I imagine a lot of readers struggle sometimes to relax and read, as her prose is pointy, particular and precise. It can be "work" to read Shriver - she likes to make you earn the story as you read. This book is easier than most of them, a return to a more confident
Sarah Beth
I received an Advance Reader Copy from HarperCollins.

I was intrigued by the premise of Big Brother - Pandora, owner of a highly successful business and cooking aficionado, sees her brother Edison for the first time after many years only to learn that he is now morbidly obese. After two months of Edison crashing with Pandora, her husband Fletcher, and Pandora's two stepchildren, Pandora decides to move in with Edison and help him lose weight rather than send him back to New York City with empty
Catherine Howard
Apr 30, 2013 Catherine Howard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I should say at the outset two things: (i) We Need To Talk About Kevin is one of my favourite novels of all time, and (ii) dieting and weight gain and liquid protein diets is a topic I know all too much about. I also heard Shriver speak about this title at ChipLitFest recently, so I was dying to get into this book.

Shriver for me is the perfect writer. She's literary enough to shine a new light on what you thought was an ordinary area of life, and show you something new about it. But her p
Nick Davies
Apr 08, 2016 Nick Davies rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was my pick this year for the book group I'm a member of, chosen on the strength of having not necessarily enjoyed, but very much appreciated the merit of, 'We Need to Talk About Kevin'. I was appreciative and admiring of this novel too - and actually found much of it a pleasure.

The story is told by Pandora, an Iowa businesswoman, wife and stepmother, and mainly discusses the consequences of a visit from her older brother, who turns up substantially heavier than the last time she saw him.
Hannah (fullybookedreviews)
'Fat' is such a loaded word, and Lionel Shriver's Big Brother certainly takes a look at society's screwed up attitude to eating - over or under - and society's screwed up reactions to the fat/thin dichotomy as a whole.

I took off a star for the ending, however, because I felt a bit cheated - you're led to believe one thing when it's actually another - and it turns into a 'what-if' scenario. (But I won't say anything else because spoilers, obviously.)

But the book is more than just about fat - it'
Anna Maria Ballester Bohn
This gets three stars because somehow, Shriver managed to keep me reading and interested even though I *knew* the whole premise was absurd. Maybe it's just because I needed something light to snort up. Also, yes, there are *some* interesting thoughts about food. Some. But this definitely wasn't the book this issue needed (like "We need to talk about Kevin" *was* very much the book the issue of motherhood needed).

No matter how high my respect for the author, I found this book flabby and overwrou
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
I do this weird thing where, if I like the first book I read by an author, I sort of assume that all their other books will be great despite evidence to the contrary. I first read Shriver's Post-Birthday World, and even though it wasn't anywhere near a perfect read, I was impressed with it, the concept especially. When I saw an egalley available of The New Republic, I nabbed it and thought it was largely awful. Despite that, I still signed up for the TLC Book Tour for Big Brother. I acknowledge ...more
Jun 24, 2013 Scott rated it it was amazing
I've always really enjoyed Lionel Shriver, but totally understand that she's not for everyone. It's almost like, for each of her novels, she picks a theme, or a topical issue that she wants to explore, and then builds a story around it. Her characters in So Much For That, for example, talk and interior-monologue endlessly, intelligently and, to me, engagingly about the deplorable state of health care in America. (By the way, this book has the most satisfying stick-it-to-the-man ending of any I'v ...more
Apr 10, 2014 Sarah rated it it was ok
Shelves: general-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Lionel Shriver's novels include the New York Times bestseller The Post-Birthday World and the international bestseller We Need to Talk About Kevin, which won the 2005 Orange Prize and has now sold over a million copies worldwide. Earlier books include Double Fault, A Perfectly Good Family, and Checker and the Derailleurs. Her novels have been translated into twenty-five languages. Her journalism h ...more
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“Whoa, that's the kind of little sister I can dig!" said Edison.
"Yes, we're all alike," I said. "We cover for you, we lie for you, we take the heat for you. We clean up your messes and mollify our parents for you. We never fail to come across with undying adoration, whether or not you deserve it, and we can't take our lives as seriously as yours. We snuffle up the crumbs from your table on the rare occasions you notice we're alive.”
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