The Post-Birthday World
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The Post-Birthday World

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3.48 of 5 stars 3.48  ·  rating details  ·  8,164 ratings  ·  1,424 reviews
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...more
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published March 13th 2007 by Harper (first published January 1st 2007)
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Gregory Baird
Great Premise with Unlikable Results

Being a fan of Lionel Shriver's previous novel, "We Need to Talk about Kevin", I was thrilled to find that she had a new novel out. I was even more intrigued by the novel's beguiling plot: Irina McGovern, a forty-something ex-pat living in London, finds herself at a crossroads, and the novel proceeds in two separate directions. Irina has been in an almost ten year relationship with Lawrence Trainer that has settled into a comfortable if stultifying groove. H...more
Hazel Lee
You know when you express an interest in, say, boats, and then for the next five years all anyone ever gets you has to do with boats? I'm experiencing something similar at the moment. [/irrelevant observation:]

I loved Shriver's other book, We Need To Talk About Kevin, so I was actually a bit nervous about reading this one - I was convinced there was no way it could be as good as the former. And to be honest, I don't think it was, but I still loved it. It teetered on the edge of being too gimmick...more
Kelly
May 07, 2008 Kelly rated it 3 of 5 stars Recommends it for: all women, ever, particularly ones who have been around the block a time or two
Ostensibly the classic chick-lit, romcom, virtuous Victorian type story of the young lady who must choose between prudence, security and morality vs. passion and a "consuming love," the story does much more than that, and delves much deeper than the typical story of the kind would do. It is tempting to compare this to Sliding Doors, since the concept is the same. I.e.: one decision later, what happens in two alternate universes. One she chooses to stay with her safe, stable companion Lawrence, t...more
Katie
Apr 24, 2008 Katie rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommended to Katie by: Jenny
Great conceptualization (I always liked those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books), but lousy execution (not to mention intimation, narration, accentuation and punctuation).

This author knows not the concept of "too much information." Maybe I am on the prudish side, but do we have to be so intimate with a character as to know all their bodily habits and functions? Cervix ≠ sexy.

But when I wasn't curling my lip in disgust, I was banging my head against the wall in frustration and boredom. If not f...more
Stephanie A. Higa
Lesson #1: Don't let your husband make more money than you.
Lesson #2: If you can't decide between two (or more) men, they're probably both wrong for you. Especially if they're, oh, self-centered assholes.

I hated this book from page one. Halfway through I declared it to be one of the worst books I had ever read. I hated the characters, the characters' names, the character's jobs (sorry, I still can't distinguish between pool and snooker), the plot, and the prose, which is annoying and littered wi...more
Abby
I raced through this book because I was so engrossed by the story line(s). I suppose it's chick-lit in the sense that women probably have an easier time relating to the story than men would, but it's so much better than most chick-lit garbage out there (I followed this book with a true chick-lit piece of crap and wanted to pull my hair out). What amazed me about this book is how much is stuck with me after I was done reading it. I kept thinking about the characters and the choices and the outcom...more
Bernie
May 24, 2007 Bernie rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: women who've been in relationships!
.....here is a wonderful novel about the choices we make in love - and how it affects our lives. I was really blown away by this novel and recommend it to all and sundry. The writing was so smart, and not in an "aren't I clever with pop references?" way which many chick-lit authors do. Not that this is "chick lit" - far from it in depth and scope. Although it was hard to follow the parallel worlds at first, I really got into it and was turning the pages with excitement to see what would come nex...more
jillian
This book has a plotline that could have been so cheesy - but comes out so well. In the first chapter, mild-mannered childrens book author Irina McGovern goes on a birthday dinner with Ramsey Acton, a snooker star in London. Irina's long-term partner, Lawrence, is absent, at a conference in Sarajevo, and Ramsey's recent divorce from his wife, mean that Irina and Ramsey are alone for the first time in their history. They end up at his house, against the snooker table, and Irina either does - or d...more
Megan
Like a "Sliding Doors" with class, this book plays out what would happen if a woman stayed with her stable, responsible lover of ten years, and what would happen if she left him for his irresistibly sexy, volatile friend. Since I constantly "Sliding Doors" my own life--how would life be different if I moved to another city? loved a different man? chose a different career?--I was fascinated to see how the author would resolve the dilemma of, love vs. responsibility; attraction versus lifestyle.

W...more
Taylor K.
Sep 02, 2008 Taylor K. rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: people looking for a book with the fun of fluff but the importance of something more substantial
Post-Birthday World is a bit of a mixed bag. I read the bulk of it in two days and was tearing up towards the end. After I set the book down and my mother asked me how it was, my response was, "It was okay," then I proceeded to tell her, at length, about the story, what I liked and what I didn't like.

The story is set in London, where Irina McGovern has lived in domestic comfort with her partner (not husband) of 10 years, Lawrence (both in their 40s). After starting a tradition of having yearly d...more
Chrissy
May 02, 2012 Chrissy rated it 1 of 5 stars Recommends it for: no one
This book utterly bored and irritated me, all at the same time.

The supposed purpose of the book was to show how one seemingly small decision can drastically impact your life, but that your decisions will still result in very similar parallels. The moral I took from this story was essentially to dump the guy before he dumps you. And that if your life is fated to be miserable, it's going to be miserable no matter what you do. Inspiring, don't you think?

The author's obsession with the finer details...more
Sarah Null
Jan 19, 2009 Sarah Null rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Sarah by: ShellBell
Like the main character's path branching in two directions, so did my opinion of this book. Really, I'd give this 2 1/2 stars. At times I liked it, and at times I HATED it. Sometimes I was bored, and sometimes I was riveted. Sometimes I thought Irina was whiney and annoying and a pain in the ass, and sometimes I saw bits of myself in her (although, granted, those were probably my whiney, annoying, PItA bits).

What really bugged me, and what I hoped would resolve itself in the end, was precisely w...more
Meera
The premise of this book was interesting, much like the movie Sliding Doors, what would happen if you made a single decision, and your life could have gone on two alternative paths from that decision? There is a single first, and a last chapter, and apart from that, the other chapters are duplicates of the alternate lives that the protagonist could have led. However, at over 500 pages long, this book was an exercise in patience, especially when it was littered with excessive description and poin...more
Angeld01
As someone who owns "Sliding Doors" and has made a habit of watching it nearly once a year...I love the concept of small changes making a big difference in your life.

But I do not like this book. Some books start slow. Stephen King, my favorite writer of all time, has been known to start slow (at least by me). But this book - stays slow.

Irina is living a content (boring) life with Lawrence. A man whom refuses to marry her, withholds emotion and affection - but whom she is never-the-less proud to...more
Nicola
Oct 29, 2008 Nicola added it
Shelves: unfinished
I'm usually pretty tenacious when it comes to finishing books, but after 100 densely-packed-yet-pointless pages of this, I gave up.

In We Need To Talk About Kevin, Shriver's rambling, circuitous style was reined in by a strong story. This novel has no such anchor. It's just not ABOUT much.

The premise is interesting: a practically-married woman goes on a date with a handsome acquaintance; in one version of events, she kisses him and embarks on an affair, in another, she refrains and stays with her...more
Lanette
Mar 07, 2008 Lanette rated it 1 of 5 stars Recommends it for: someone who has absolutley nothing better to do with hours and hours and hours.
Recommended to Lanette by: Amy (Bookclub, 3/07)
Read the first 100+ pages and decided I couldn't continue on... I simply didn't CARE about what happened to ANY of the characters. I didn't even read the last chapter to see how it ended. After reassurances that it got better, I picked it up again last night. I skimmed the snooker crap, which cut out about 1/2 the remaining 400 pages... while I do admit it DID get a tad better, the sex was unneccessary (not just sour grapes since I haven't gotten any in months) and the characters were not at all...more
Lisa
I read an article in Esquire magazine this morning that laments Sexless Fiction http://www.esquire.com/fiction/sexles.... The author should pick up The Post-Birthday World, which explores grown-up sex and grown-up consequences. This adult choose-your-own-adventure story presents a moral dilemma for a woman in a committed relationship: should she give in to temptation and kiss the attractive/attentive celebrity snooker player, or should she remain true to her steady companion, who never kisses he...more
Laura
I love the premise. Irina chooses between staying with her long-time live-in boyfriend (tried and true, boring) or leaving him for a new one (thrilling, passionate). The story breaks apart at that point and follows each pathway, switching between the two parallel stories. This could have been great, but the parallel stories are too parallel, the men are fairly unlikable, and Irina seems to have few innate personality characteristics of her own (unless you count gorgeous-but-doesn't-know-it).

It'...more
Ruth Seeley
As I was compulsively reading this, I caught myself thinking I hadn't been this caught up in a book about the choices women are called upon to make since Tess of the d'Urbervilles. As soon as I finished it I thought the comparison wasn't quite so specious after all.

Irina Galina McGovern, a Russian American children's book illustrator living in London, faces some tough choices in mid-life. On the surface these choices may seem superficial, a mere matter of choosing between two men. But in fact th...more
Allyson
Wow. Add Lionel Shriver to that list of authors whose work makes me despair of ever writing anything worth reading. Her vocabulary is nearly as impressive as the way she wields it, making even the smallest of moments feel utterly profound and poignant.

The scope of this novel is somewhat ordinary: Our protagonist, Irina, is a middle-aged woman sleepwalking through a decade-long relationship with her live-in boyfriend, Lawrence, when a surprising moment of chemistry presents her with the choice o...more
Tori
This is one of those rare books that may be objectively good but that I still didn’t like all that much. In Sliding Doors fashion, Irina McGovern’s life takes two distinct paths: in one, she submits to temptation and kisses her sexy snooker playing friend Ramsey, resulting in the end of her relationship with the steadfast Lawrence; in the other, she resists temptation and stays put.

The concept is fun and suggests a lot about what stock the author places in soul mates and fate. We all have moment...more
Laura
I really liked this one, very creative! See the review from the Washington Post: Lionel Shriver's wonderful new novel, her latest since the prize-winning We Need to Talk About Kevin, creates parallel universes that indulge all our what-if speculations. Spared any fork-in-the-road choices, Irina McGovern, a children's book illustrator, can have her beefcake and eat it too. A professional, independent woman not enamored of feminist bumper stickers, Irina admits, "The only thing I can't live withou...more
Stephanie
This was a girly book for sure, but I found it incredibly depressing.
This book goes in two parallel stories and begins and ends with the same chapter that suffices for both stories. Basically, there are two chapter 2s, 3s, 4s etc. The chapters that have a black number are the ones where she is rebellious and defiant and the white ones are the ones where she is behaving herself.
To boil this book down to just a few sentences, the main character has a boyfriend she's been with for years. This coup...more
Sonya
The novelist is talented, but squanders her gift. The Post-Birthday World is maddening for many reasons, the first being that the conceit of the novel is strong enough to have made me want to see how Shriver could pull it off so I was compelled to finish and the payoff was not there; the second, that the narrator appears to be Shriver herself, including her condescension toward anyone outside a particular realm--is it impolite to call narrator/Shriver insufferable?; and the third, that the novel...more
Stephanie
I am always hesitant to read books that garner lots of critical attention - those books that seem to be the "must-reads" every few months. However, I really enjoyed this book. At the end of the first chapter, the main character has a choice to act in one of two ways in a certain situation. From there on out, there are two sets of chapters that tell parallel narratives of what happens as result of this choice -- one set follows the "yes" trajectory and one the "no" trajectory. This seemingly smal...more
Joyce
I have always loved the idea of parallel worlds, and I think that is why I find this book an incredibly appealing read. I like how Shriver placed such importance on a single moment, reminding us that not only are our actions consequential, but even the smallest, transient thoughts that run through our minds.

Perhaps some might find Irina self-destructive, but I think that it is her ability to practise mental kindness to the men in her life that made her so tolerant to both Ramsey and Lawrence's...more
ehnonymus
i liked the premise of this book (it's much like sliding doors) and at moments i liked its execution but overall i'd have to say i was constantly irritated while reading it. i hate that the author used the same plot and even dialogue for both stories, just turning it on its head for its regurgitation in plot line b, really it just felt like laziness. and i would have been much more involved in the main character's feelings if she hadn't been quite such a simpering idiot. i spent much of the tale...more
Alicia
From the moment I picked up this book--its cover featured an empty cupcake wrapper with a few crumbs beside it--I knew I'd like it, and I DID! I've never read anything else by Shriver, but I may have to seek some of her earlier works now. Anyway, this is the story of a married woman who is tempted to kiss an old friend. Will she or won't she?? Actually, it's both--both scenarios are played out in alternating chapters (the same narrative structure as the move Sliding Doors). The parallels between...more
Marieke
oof. that was a lot of tension.

ETA: i'm not sure i'm up to writing a review of this. initially i wasn't sure if i was going to like it, but then i settled in. "settled in" isn't quite the right phrase however, because i felt constantly yanked around emotionally. this is not a relaxing book even though shriver's prose is lovely to read. sometimes i liked characters, sometimes i didn't. sometimes i was sympathetic, sometimes i was judgmental. the target of my visceral reactions was constantly chan...more
Laura
Aug 18, 2008 Laura rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: someone with time and a willingness to overlook very obvious character flaws
Shelves: fiction
liked the plot and the idea of the book better than actually reading it...she probably could have gotten the point across in 150 fewer pages.

that said, though, i think the book aptly illustrates that there's no point worrying yourself about what could have been, and that the-grass-is-always-greener-on-the-other-side people will waste half their life resenting their own choices. The heroine was one of those people, and more than the trite passion vs. stability theme that seems obvious, outlining...more
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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
More about Lionel Shriver...
We Need to Talk About Kevin Big Brother So Much for That Double Fault A Perfectly Good Family

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“There is one province in which, sooner or later, virtually everyone gets dealt a leading role--hero, heroine, or villain.... Unlike the slight implications of quotidian dilemmas that confront the average citizen in other areas of life ... the stakes in this realm could not be higher. For chances are that at some point along the line you will hold in your hands another person's heart. There is no greater responsibility on the planet. However you contend with this fragile organ, which pounds or seizes in accordance with your caprice, will take your full measure.” 59 likes
“Lovers communicate not inside sentences, but between them. Passion lurks within interstice. It is grouting rather than bricks.” 25 likes
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