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The New Republic

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Ostracized as a kid, Edgar Kellogg has always yearned to be popular. A disgruntled New York corporate lawyer, he's more than ready to leave his lucrative career for the excitement and uncertainty of journalism. When he's offered the post of foreign correspondent in a Portuguese backwater that has sprouted a homegrown terrorist movement, Edgar recognizes the disappeared larger-than-life reporter he's been sent to replace, Barrington Saddler, as exactly the outsize character he longs to emulate. Infuriatingly, all his fellow journalists cannot stop talking about their beloved "Bear," who is no longer lighting up their work lives.

Yet all is not as it appears. Os Soldados Ousados de Barba—"The Daring Soldiers of Barba"—have been blowing up the rest of the world for years in order to win independence for a province so dismal, backward, and windblown that you couldn't give the rat hole away. So why, with Barrington vanished, do terrorist incidents claimed by the "SOB" suddenly dry up?

A droll, playful novel, The New Republic addresses weighty issues like terrorism with the deft, tongue-in-cheek touch that is vintage Shriver. It also presses the more intimate question: What makes particular people so magnetic, while the rest of us inspire a shrug? What's their secret? And in the end, who has the better life—the admired, or the admirer?

377 pages, Hardcover

First published March 27, 2012

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About the author

Lionel Shriver

52 books3,606 followers
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 has appeared in the Guardian, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. She lives in London and Brooklyn, New York.

Author photo copyright Jerry Bauer, courtesy of Harper Collins.

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5 stars
184 (9%)
4 stars
431 (23%)
3 stars
708 (38%)
2 stars
371 (20%)
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152 (8%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 301 reviews
Profile Image for B the BookAddict.
300 reviews651 followers
September 21, 2018
Published in 2012, The New Republic was completed in 1998 between Shriver's Double Fault and We Need to Talk About Kevin. While it does deal with the weighty issue of terrorism, it is probably the most comedic and witty of her novels. She is very respectful of the terrorism issue but she has a lot of fun with her characters. Set in an perversely quixotic country with a curious storyline, Shriver presents characters who are larger than life with brilliantly satirical dialogue.

Edgar has gone through life so far being an admirer when really he want to be admired. So, at 37, he chucks his job as a lawyer and after six months, gets a stint as a reporter chasing the story of a reporter gone missing in Barba, a backwater in Portugal. This is where Shriver's ironic wit begin to show and, for me, the fun begins.

Barba is home to the SOB, 'Soldiers of Barba' who have been claiming responsibility for a series of recent terrorist attacks around the world. It's a wretched place, dismal with nearly gale force winds all year round and it's only product is the hairy pear. The SOB have been quiet for the same amount of time as Barrington Saddler, the reporter Edgar has been sent to track down, has been missing. And Barba is being run by Tomas Verdade who will neither confirm nor deny whether his political party is, in fact, the SOB. Edgar finds a group of world weary reporters, all of whom revere Sadler and Edgar is soon heartily sick of the sound of the man. And he is thwarted at every turn by Verdade and ironically by Sadler. Edgar finds himself living in Sadler's house, looking for Sadler and has been befriended by Sadler's lover.

Shriver says “Post 9/11, Americans became if anything too interested in terrorism. Thus for years after the calamity of New York, I was obliged to put the book on ice, because a book that treated this issue with a light touch would have been perceived as in poor taste.
Yet the taboo seems to have run its course. Sensibilities have grown more robust. I am hopeful that this novel – whose themes have become only more trenchant since it was written – can now see print without giving offense.”

The New Republic is part parable and part adventure story but it also addresses the topics: What does make certain people more magnetic? And which situation is better: being an the admirer or being the one who is the admired? Shriver displays a superlative, tongue in cheek manner: adeptly witty and mischievous, a side to the author not often seen. I hope she had as many laugh out loud moments writing it as I had reading it. She displays an inordinate sense of irony here and I imagine she hopes you will appreciate same. In the acknowledgements, she refers to The New Republic as a “boy-book written by a girl” - this girl Goodreader had an awfully good time reading it. Highly Recommended 4★
Profile Image for JenniferD.
1,006 reviews361 followers
January 4, 2016
Dear Lionel Shriver,


That sort of hurt my head a bit, Lionel. It started out interesting and zippy - full of potential. But then there was some really, really, really horrible writing:
Such a piercing whistle sang through window cracks that Edgar's headache was immediate. As the hump-fendered sedan galumphed down the road, it swayed in and out of lane, though the driver wrestled manfully with the wheel. Now and again a thud sounded against the doors as if a linebacker had assaulted the cab with a running tackle."

Here are the book's pros:

1. You are great at writing the opposite sex. It was believable and seamless.
2. You come up with very interesting ideas.
3. Your sense of the absurd is spot-on.
4. You're funny.
5. You are Lionel fucking Shriver!

Here are the cons:

1. You completed this manuscript in 1998 and the version published this month is nearly exactly the same as the original manuscript. It felt very dated and clunky and could have been improved monumentally.
2. It became predictable.
3. Moments of the novel were painful to read. Like, really amateur stuff. To the point that, less than 80 pages from the end, I debated chucking the whole thing.
4. Given the strength of We Need to Talk About Kevin and The Post-Birthday World, this really seemed like a dirtshow dressed up with pearls and, finger's crossed, nobody notices otherwise.


It hurts my heart to give this only one-star.

I do love you, Lionel. But, sometimes, tough-love is needed. You can do way, way, way better!! I know it. (And I suspect you do too.)

Sincerely yours,


edited, 17oct12: and i am not alone in my thinking.
Profile Image for Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer.
1,718 reviews1,157 followers
May 11, 2018
A strange book. It was written (as Shriver tells us in a very confident if not arrogant afterword) well before 9-11 but attracted no interest then due Shriver says to a lack of interest in terrorism. After 9-11 the book's satirical nature (Shriver uses the words "funny" and "playful" but the book is anything but) made it unpublishable. She admits her own fame with "... Kevin ..." also made publication easier.

The treatment of terrorism is interesting - Shriver clearly believes strongly that terrorists are given too much attention and influence (she rails against the way that one failed shoe bomber affects aircraft passengers globally and indefinitely by prolonging security checks) and makes the assertion that were terrorists to ask for achievable goals (rather than a worldwide caliphate) the West would capitulate.

However a number of areas mar the book: the satire is often clumsy and jars with the book's basic unpleasantness (not of the subject matter but of the almost universally unlikeable characters and often nasty and pointed dialogue, internal dialogue and descriptions); the characters are an unconvincing mix of English and American mannerisms with almost Dick van Dyke level of authenticity of the English; the basic premise of huge unclaimed atrocities simply doesn't correspond to reality; the other theme - the reasons for charisma, the burden of being popular, is forced, uninteresting and unconvincing.
206 reviews2 followers
May 24, 2013
I've read everything Shriver has written and until 'We Need To Talk About Kevin' she was a very ordinary author at best. WNTTAK was brilliant and Post-Birthday World even better. Here was an incredibly talented author, a great intellect and a master prose stylist. Her book following Birthday World, "So Much For That" was a big disappointment, and not just because I expected more from Shriver - it simply had nothing to recommend it - plot, ideas, prose. So when "The New Republic" came out in 2012, I held my breathe - had LS exhausted her brilliance on those two earlier novels? Then it turned out she actually wrote New Republic in 1998 but didn't try to get it published until 2012. Well it's back to LS at her best - witty and savagely funny, bursting with provactive ideas, great prose and challenging vocabulary. Those people who read this as a satire on journalism are missing the point (though it is a good satire on journalism). It is actually a satire on terrorism! Who but a rebellious spirit like LS would try that, and succeed with it.

Perhaps it's easier for a non-American to see how successfully she challenges so many of the now-accepted "truths" about terrorism and terrorists. (I'm a Canadian.) But, my American friends, you really have been brainwashed by your government. This book stands with 1984 in using fiction to reveal the dangers to individual freedom posed by governments controlled by true believers and shallow intellects, aided and abetted by a bottom-line oriented media.
Profile Image for Thomas Edmund.
883 reviews50 followers
November 7, 2017
My review of this book could be easily summarised by the beginning author's note, revealing this novel was written two decades ago but remained unpublished until this point. Of course this is due to the theme being 'poisonous' at the time, and the 2012 audience, becoming more recpetive. Nothing to do with Shriver becoming an international bestseller in the meantime.

I hate to do this negative review because I loved ..Kevin and enjoyed So Much for That, but I suspect this novel wasn't published earlier is simply because: It is not a very good novel.

The themes of terrorism and social cult of personality's jarr together despite in theory being ideal partners. Our cynical protag, Edgar is relate-able, but uncompelling, and the clunky prose makes a 400ish page novel feel like George RR Martin.

All in all, Shriver almost creates something special here, a fun-poking piece that could've been the modern catch-22. Instead we have a mash of humour, philosophical

2017: WTF I've already read this book? I seriously didn't remember a single word, wow I'm getting old.

2017's review: According to the foreword (I confess I'm always interested to hear the the backstory of the actual story) The New Republic was written in the 90's when no-one cared about terrorism, but was too irreverent to be published in the 00's and thusly was published when Shriver's fame met with appropriate cultural timing post 9/11.

Firstly I must confess I didn't feel the tale was that hard hitting to really be bothered. Perhaps the topical jokes would have fallen on deaf ears, or been too on the nose but for the most part the story just 'was what it was'

In The New Republic our MC Edgar Kellogg drops Lawyering to become a journalist and is sent to fictional Barba to cover local terrorist groups the SOB (yes that is their name) and the disappearance of his predecessor Barrington. While trying to make sense of the man's disappearance and the politics of the situation Kellogg comes to grips with his own problems, namely that he is a chronic 'follower' clinging to idols and simultaneously despising them.

The overall tone of the story is one of irreverent satire which is for the most part fine, but at times undermines the tension. While the story sort of promises a comedic character study of Kellogg (and by proxy Barrington) the plot kind of devolves into a sort of action style comedy and in my opinion provides a succinctly ironic/sad but ultimately half-assed resolution. There were some good twists along the way and some of the gags were pretty funny (such as the white supremacist group "WWWWP") however much like Kellogg I found myself chronically unsatisfied with the tale.

I don't regret reading the book, but I would rate it more as a pleasant and interesting distraction, that lacked the pure mind-**** of Kevin, and the touching convolutions of So Much for That
Profile Image for cheryl.
391 reviews10 followers
February 9, 2012
In progress and generally enjoying despite being offended during an insomnia bout by a former prep school superstar saying "So I tossed it. I didn't apply to Yale or Harvard, but Haverford."
Updated: Like many, I came to "meet" Shriver in We Need to Talk About Kevin. Enjoyed is an odd word for such a dark novel, but I found it very well-done. As such, I jumped on the Shriver pick when it became available as an advance read from my lovely Harper pals. I wish I hadn't.

This is a novel about reporting, terrorism, and truth. Edgar Kellogg is a former lawyer (one would think this would attract me, a fellow ex-attorney) who is making a move to journalism (hey, I write too...I should love this). He lacks the journalistic credentials so is shipped off to cover a sorta-story in Barba, a fictional region in Portugal that has potential terrorist ties. Kellogg finds himself in the shadow of his predecessor, again feeling like an also-ran in life. He becomes steeped in the enclave of Barba hacks and more intimately involved with the purported terrorists than he ever imagined.

I truly sturggled to finish this one and it was only stubborness that propelled me. Two stars for some interesting ideas but the execution did nothing for me. I didn't like the style, wasn't compelled by the characters or plot, and just found it a difficult journey. I did not have an issue with the terrorism plot being played a bit humorously, I just didn't think it was well done.
Profile Image for Alex Templeton.
640 reviews31 followers
December 30, 2012
This was one of the more frustrating novels I've read in a long time. I love Shriver's work generally, but this one...just...dragged. For a long time it was one of those dreaded books that sucks the joy out of reading for awhile, simply because you don't look forward to going back to it. Anyway. The first two-thirds of the book follow new journalist Edgar Kellogg as he lands an assignment in the (imaginary) backwater land of Barba, which is struggling from independence from Portugal. He casts about this imaginary land, learning more about its made-up history and getting involved in the community of disgruntled journalists as he tries, and fails, to live up to the mystique of the amazing Barrington Saddler, his predecessor. The final third of the book redeemed it to three-star status as the action (finally) began to pick up, as it is finally revealed just why the terrorist attacks in Barba stopped and then started up again, and just what Edgar's desire to be seen as someone Powerful and Important will cost him (and, actually, the world). Upon finishing it, I wasn't sorry I read it, but I was sorry it took me so damn long to reach that opinion of it.
Profile Image for Jeanette (Ms. Feisty).
2,179 reviews1,879 followers
April 13, 2012
What happens when a clutch of journalists is left in a remote posting with nothing to report? Might some of them be tempted to fabricate news or massage the truth to keep the paychecks coming and avoid being called home?

The New Republic is set on a fictional peninsula called Barba that is trying to gain independence from Portugal. Terrorist attacks all over the world have been claimed by the Soldiers of Barba, or "SOB." Barba residents are angry at the tide of Muslim immigrants flooding their territory.

The terrorist attacks seem to have stopped, and journalists assigned to Barba have little to do but gather at the local watering hole and snipe at each other. Their favorite topic is the mysterious disappearance of fellow hack Barrington Saddler, a man of limitless animal magnetism.

When rookie reporter Edgar Kellogg is sent to replace Saddler, he feels overshadowed by the legend of yet another man he could never be. All his life Edgar has been the also-ran, the sidekick, the guy who never quite had the goods. With a little imagination and a lot of stupidity, Edgar manages to outdo Saddler in sheer audacity and self-serving behavior, slipping into the self-delusion that often accompanies great success at others' expense.

The book's great strength is the way it raises questions about media coverage of volatile situations. How does the mere presence of reporters influence the behavior of those being reported upon? Does media coverage cause events rather than just observing them? And what part does self-interest play in the way journalists spin their stories? Aside from this one trenchant theme, the plot contains a lot of devices and weaker themes serving mostly to distract or irritate. A tightening up of the manuscript would have been helpful, cutting away extraneous material to let the strengths shine more brightly.

The New Republic will find an appreciative audience among fans of farcical fiction. Readers who are easily offended should tiptoe around this one. While I was not offended, neither was I much amused. A lot of the intended humor has a "nudge, nudge, wink, wink" kind of cleverness that doesn't quite let us in on the joke. In fairness, I have to say I did get some good laughs from a few of the word plays.

The way the book ends left me puzzling over whether the author was subtly condoning unethical behavior. And finally, I have to question the tastefulness of turning terrorism into comedy, regardless of how many years have passed since the tragedies of 9/11.

2.5 stars
Profile Image for Britta Böhler.
Author 8 books1,838 followers
June 25, 2016
Only Shriver dares to make fun of terrorism.
Originally written in 1998, but unable to find a publisher, Shriver finally got her novel out in 2012 (after the success of We Need to Talk About Kevin). A prescient satire about terrorism and the unholy relation between terrorism and journalists, hilarious and dark-humoured. Michiko Kakutani hated it - there should be NO fun-making about terrorism - and called it a 'ghastly novel'. Which just about proves Shriver's point...
Profile Image for Nora.
Author 29 books42 followers
March 5, 2012
As she explains in her author's note, Lionel Shriver wrote this comic novel about terrorism in 1998, but was unable to sell it because of American lack of interest in terrorism. So now it's a novel set in an alternate past. I found it quite funny.

The main character Edgar is an unpleasant, chauvinistic guy who feels he's always second best. He's always jealously hero-worshiping someone else. Even though the character was a jerk and kept making poor decisions, I felt sympathetic to him and I was rooting for him. He doesn't understand other people and views them in the most shallow way. I think it's tricky to pull off an awful but likable main character, and the whole novel is consistently in his voice. Edgar has thrown over a career in law to become a journalist, and is assigned to a (fictitious) area of Portugal. Again, making up a country is something that could go very very wrong but I thought Lionel Shriver got it just right.

Edgar is replacing another journalist, Barrington Saddler, who has mysteriously vanished. Barrington was a larger-than-life person who was everyone's favorite guy, and all the people left behind compare Edgar unfavorably to the legendary Barrington. Why can't Edgar ever have the charisma of someone like Barrington? It just so happens that when Barrington arrived in Barba a horrifying terrorist movement arose there, and when he disappeared it stopped. I can't say that I was surprised by the twists and turns of the plot, but I enjoyed them. I was also anxious for Barrington Saddler to finally reappear, and I wasn't disappointed by the way it happened. Journalists, academics, terrorists and the people who love them all get skewered in this farcical story. Obviously, terrorism isn't really funny, and again I think Lionel Shriver got a difficult thing just right.

Lionel Shriver's prose is very ornate. I'll give you the first sentence as an example--"Whisking into his apartment house on West Eighty-Ninth Street, Edgar Kellogg skulked, eager to avoid eye contact with a doorman, who at least got a regular paycheck." You'll either love it or hate it. But I stopped even noticing it after a few pages because I found the story so absorbing. It also made me nostalgic for that bygone time when Americans had floppy disks, used AltaVista for their search engines, didn't have cell phones, and never gave terrorism a thought except to blithely donate money to the IRA.

I guess my only complaint about this novel is about the supporting characters who were journalists in Barba. There were five to seven of them, and each one was thinly sketched and then I was supposed to remember them all. Some of them end up being important, like Nicola and Henry, so I got a grasp on them. But others made no impression, so by the end of the book I still could not tell the difference between Win and Ordwray, if indeed those are two different characters.

I received this book through a Goodreads giveaway, and I'm glad I did.
Profile Image for Robert Davis.
687 reviews60 followers
July 29, 2012
I won't say that I loved this book, but I will say that I found it fascinating. I was completely enthralled by it. Ostensibly about pseudo-journalist turned pseudo-terrorist Edgar Kellogg, who is sent to a political backwater known for it's pungent fruit and gale force winds. His assignment is to cover the local terrorist group who has been making waves, while investigating the mysterious disappearance of his charismatic predecessor.

Originally written in the late 1990's and shelved for a decade and a half, in part because of the tricky subject of humor in terrorism, this is a showcase of Ms. Shriver's talent not only as a writer, but as a descriptive world builder. She invents a lowly country, Barba, a windswept beard on the chin of Portugal, whose only would be cash crop is a noxious hairy purple pear whose taste is so putrid that no one wants them. Terrorism therefor, is the main export.

What is really at the heart of this book is not the machinations of terrorists, political intrigue or espionage, but the examination of charisma and what it takes to be the center of attention, even when Mr. Popularity isn't in the room. It is sort of a travel back in time back to the Rocking 1990's, pre-9/11, when we were all a bit more innocent and terrorism seemed like a foreign problem. Using terrorism as a backdrop to investigate charisma is a unique and original experiment that I think deserves a lot of conversation. There is a lot to admire in this book.
Profile Image for Rod Raglin.
Author 30 books26 followers
April 8, 2014
As a journalist, I’ve been one of those who lived in anticipation of covering “a big story”, and when it happened; be it a natural disaster, horrific accident or multiple murder, almost gleefully sought out the gory details since the more casualties, the more dramatic the story, and the more likely my byline would appear on the front page.

Lionel Shriver, a journalist herself, knows this rush and how being in the right place at the right time can make a career, just as poor timing and bad luck (for the journalist) can consign one to mediocrity.

So how far would a journalist go so a “big story event” would land in their lap, where he or she would be on the scene, the go-to person for updates, the reporter other reporters are reporting on?

When anonymous bombings take lives of civilians and no group comes forward to claim them, Shriver’s protagonist, Barrington Sadler, a larger than life character with a name to match, decides to attribute them to a fictitious terrorist group in a backwater part to the world he is assigned to cover. This provides him with the best of all possible situations for a journalist - being on the spot and having inside information (since he created it).

When Sadler disappears, his replacement, Edward Kellogg, figures out the scam but rather than expose it, continues with it for the same reasons Sadler did.

Shriver’s satirical novel asks important questions, specifically is the media complicit with terrorists when they give in-depth coverage of the carnage and background context about their cause?

Shriver’s creation of the setting (fictitious) and political and economic grievances (contrived) all have the ring of authenticity as do her characters; the cynical media hacks, the pious spokesperson for the terrorists, and the academic apologists.

The only thing this novel lacks is a sympathetic character, one the reader could align themselves with and cheer for. Everyone is self-serving and nasty.

Though quite brilliantly conceived and written, once the message has been delivered the story peters out. It’s like the author imbued the characters with the necessary qualities, they did their job conveying various aspects of the story, and then she had no idea what to do with them. The protagonist almost literally rides off into the sunset.
Profile Image for Judith.
1,479 reviews71 followers
May 29, 2012
I chose this book because I so enjoyed the last two of hers I read: "So Much for That" and "We need to Talk About Kevin". But this one stinks. Notably, it was written before the other two and withheld from publication by the author till recently. She should have withheld it longer. I was her biggest fan, raving about the afore-mentioned.

But this one is a tedious tale of a bunch of unlikeable journalists posted in a small fictional country waiting for a continuation of terrorist activities to report on. Not only are the characters dull and nasty, but all their conversations sound like they are on stage in some kind of Noel Coward play, but not in a good way. I couldn't get past the first third of the book.
799 reviews134 followers
April 1, 2012
Silly me, thinking We Need to Talk About Kevin would come out with another fantastic book, especially considering that her books have been increasingly bad since WNTTAK. This one fit into her recent need for political diatribes and was coupled with the worst of her writing - heavy dialogue, overt analysis interwoven into people's daily observations, lines that seem to be poised in front of a waiting audience. But worst of all is the leading man, or loser, Kellogg, who in his late thirties just wants to be popular, darn it. Seriously? Unlikable characters still need to be endearing, Lionel, and this one really fell short. I see nothing redeeming here.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,506 reviews737 followers
June 5, 2020
A ‘satire about terrorism’ and a look at the nature of charisma. A clever melding of a social and sociological(?) topics, to create quite a decent satire. Very well written with great central characters as ever by this great writer. 7 out of 12.
Profile Image for Kelly.
856 reviews113 followers
November 2, 2018
Wisecracking and whip-smart, Lionel Shriver's The New Republic is a rollicking ride of a read. Though it was completed in 1998, it wasn't published until after Shriver achieved international success with We Need to Talk About Kevin, for me a 5-star read. While it was written in the 90s, and there are some inevitable time capsule moments (like the fact that only one journalist has a cell phone), the book and its themes - of immigration, a rising tide of Muslim movement, fracturing nations and "national self-determination", terrorism - is incredibly timely. With a 20-year gap between its completion date and today, some would say it's almost prescient.

Shriver is a muscular writer who is madly intelligent, but also wildly aggressive in her tone and crass in her use of language. There are a ton of phrases in here that would make the meek quake ("fudge packer" and other slanderous uses of slang). While the crackling intelligence of the prose had me racing through the first half of the novel, it did become slightly too "in your face", most notably when Edgar gets his kicks out of .

So many of the discussions about nationalism and immigration were well-formed and well-researched, and the arguments were powerful (both for and against various law, policy, and action plans). I found myself intellectually stimulated, but did I enjoy this book? Not as much as many others, yet I really respect it, and I think Lionel Shriver is brilliant. This is my 4th of her books, my previous reads being We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Post-Birthday World and Big Brother. There's something difficult, challenging and defiant in her style, regardless of the topic, which makes finishing her works rewarding (if not googly-eyed over how much I "loved" it), so I'm going with 4 out of 5 stars.
Profile Image for Laura Tenfingers.
555 reviews87 followers
November 4, 2018
I ended up really enjoying this book after almost abandoning it halfway through because it was dragging.

Overall, I'd say magnetic personalities and terrorism are not subjects I'm particularly drawn to. So when I started losing interest I figured that was why. But loving Lionel as much as I do I decided to not give up. It was a good call. She had me laughing at her cutting social commentary and she dissects her topics so well that you can't help but get interested in them afterall. I really got into the MCs head and got carried along quite well in the end.

Not as good as Kevin (what is?) or Big Brother, but pretty good.
Profile Image for Kressel Housman.
966 reviews217 followers
May 2, 2018
This book basically follows two tracks with two messages: the personal and the political. The protagonist is Edgar, a middle-aged lawyer who quits his boring but steady job to pursue a more exciting career in journalism. He’s always been the solid guy in the background, never the popular star of the show, and he’s sick of it. But once he arrives at his new beat in a fictional town in Portugal, he discovers that the journalist he’s replacing was the star of the show, and once again, he’s overshadowed.

The social dynamics between Edgar and the other journalists make up the first half of the book. If you like thinking about social politics, you’ll enjoy it, but for many readers, it might be too much talk and not enough action. The action starts when the terrorism starts, and though much of what the author is conveying is relevant for today, it seems absolutely prescient when you realize when she wrote it. Not only did she write it pre-Trump; she wrote it in the 90’s, i.e. before 9/11. In fact, the reason she couldn’t publish it at first was because of 9/11. Moslems do play a role in this, but as immigrants that the natives resent. They aren’t the terrorists. Actually, the author said that she modeled her fictional town and its struggle on the conflict in Northern Ireland.

I definitely liked the personal thread of this book more than the political. Lionel Schriver creates compelling, three-dimensional characters. She also describes her style as “quasi magical realism,” which is a way of saying that even though she doesn’t use supernatural elements, what you see is not necessarily what is really happening, and you have to wait till the end to really get it.

None of the characters in this book are admirable. Edgar is likable, but he’s sometimes a jerk. But if you’re like most people and you felt you were on the outside looking in while the cool kids ran the show, you may enjoy the insights this book has to offer.
Profile Image for Mary Schumann.
155 reviews5 followers
December 5, 2012
this book had a limited check-out time from the library and I tried hard to make it through. I got onto Lionel Shriver as most did with We Need to Talk about Kevin - I read that book in 12 hours and could not stop thinking about it (still can't!) this one I'm 2 weeks into and I just can't make it. I'm even having trouble sleeping because the plot enters my dreams and I feel as if she can't possibly be so obvious, and there must be some fabulous surprise ending that I will adore but at this point I no longer care to spend my time finding out. Even the setting for this novel grates on me - and that would be fine if it weren't for everything else grating on me.

There are too many other options waiting to be enjoyed and I don't want to waste anymore of my limited time on the planet with this particular book. (that sounds harsh, but this is really not my cup of tea)
428 reviews3 followers
April 6, 2012
Actually to say I read this book is a lie. I read part of it and got so bored with it I stopped.

The characters were so annoying.

The plot never materialized (by page 120).

I didn't even get any sense of time or place and since the author had created the place, I think she could have put a bit more effort into helping readers picture it.

But mostly it was plain boring.
Profile Image for Nancy.
589 reviews14 followers
November 29, 2014
It's pure satire but it didn't make me laugh. Not because the absurd plot was about terrorism, but because I couldn't sympathize with any of the characters and got tired of the same bitter, knowing voice coming out of all of their mouths. Shriver's books are almost always at least thought-provoking, but I didn't get much out of this one.
Profile Image for Paul.
122 reviews4 followers
January 8, 2022
Advocaat in de grote stad wil journalist worden en wordt correspondent in een deel van Portugal waar een onafhankelijkheidsbeweging actief is. Zijn voorganger is verdwenen, maar alomtegenwoordig. In de loop van het verhaal treedt de hoofdpersoon steeds meer in zijn voetsporen. Boek begint veelbelovend, maar wist mijn aandacht niet vast te houden.
Profile Image for Lara Ramos.
141 reviews11 followers
December 13, 2020
Infelizmente pra esse livro, Lionel Shriver escrevendo mulheres é incomparável
Profile Image for Esther.
62 reviews8 followers
May 15, 2021
Op zich een interessante plot, maar ik vond de uitwerking nogal saai.
21 reviews
January 7, 2018
Great writing, good story and characters. There's one plot element that I wasn't a big fan of, but despite that it was a quick, engaging read.
Profile Image for Leo Robertson.
Author 35 books429 followers
November 26, 2018
She uses descriptions like "Her mouth assholed" and "He grinned like Santa Claus thumbing through kiddy porn."

Lionel... your prose aside, the story's kinda dull also.
Profile Image for Stephen Gallup.
Author 1 book56 followers
January 8, 2014
This novel is an earlier effort than Shriver's masterful We Need to Talk About Kevin , and to me her handling of the material felt just a little heavy-handed. But I didn't mind that. Her basic theme here--the interaction between larger-than-life people who have some kind of natural magnetism and their clingy sidekicks--deserves lots of serious attention.

All of his life, Edgar has been in the shadow of one or another figure that he (and others) have viewed as a Great Character. He has resented and envied the ease with which such people command everyone's attention, and has hated himself for being so easily influenced by them. Consequently, in his late thirties he has cultivated a talent for being unduly critical of almost everyone. He also is now coming to terms with the perception that life may not be all that rosy for the larger-than-lifers, because to be mythologized is to be distorted: "There was no such thing as larger-than-life; there was life-size and 'other people's bullshit.'" Worse, someone who is excessively admired is in danger of believing the adulation, becoming one of his own fanciers, and eventually descending into demeaning self-parody in hopes of keeping the fabrication alive. In other words, both parties lose.

I didn't pick up the book looking for a treatment of that subject. My understanding was that the story concerned news coverage of a terrorist organization, which of course it does. And the way that situation is handled, and tied in with the above insight, is truly priceless. I can't help suspecting that The New Republic may reflect the truth about much of what we take as real news, i.e., that mere hot air is at the core of more than we imagine, just as there is little substance to the leaders we magnify. I don't read fiction for life lessons, but there are takeaways from this that could apply both in our social relations (I too have lionized certain friends past the point of healthy friendship) and--dare I say it?--in our voting.
Profile Image for Berenice.
139 reviews1 follower
April 20, 2014
I saw some reviews of this implying it wasn't a very good Shriver book - I have to disagree, this was a well written book with excellent characterisation and Lionel Shriver's highly readable prose.
As we have come to expect from Shriver, the topic is slightly unexpected and original, something I really value - not another predictable love/war story, or unreadable over-arty literati offering.
In this book a lawyer-turned-journalist, Edgar Kellogg, takes up his first posting in a far flung corner of Portugal, Barba, which is seeking independence and apparently using a terrorist arm to increase notice in the world. Edgar's predecessor, the fascinating and popular Barrington Saddler, has mysteriously disappeared. Edgar has to make his way into Saddler's inner circle of press hounds, impress his former editor and live in his deserted but palatial house.
As the story unfolds, Edgar becomes embroiled in everything Barrington, stepping into his shoes in more than one way. The entertaining but cautionary tale that unfolds shows us the result of interfering in things we can't control, parodies the antics and tragic results of terrorism and the influence the media has on real events.
Lots of philosophical and political points, all meld in a novel that may not be 'WNTTAK' but is still a good read. I'm not going to spoil the ending, but it wasn't quite what I was expecting!
It also stands up well to the test of time, given that Shriver left it under-wraps for a few years due to the 9/11 incident. Probably the right move, but I'm glad it finally saw the light of day!
Profile Image for Skye.
577 reviews
May 12, 2014
My third? fourth? Lionel Shriver.

Got a little tiring towards the end, but here are my favourite parts:

"He thought they fell for a decoy. After all, when you love someone, what do you love? What's he good at? If a woman only loved your writing or your aptitude as a solicitor, you'd be disappointed. I think you could even make a distinction between a person and a personality. Barrington's retinue trotted after what he had. Not who he was."

"Edgar learned to scuba dive; he got bored with it. He learned to ski; he got bored with it. He got bored with Angela and Jamesie, he got bored with New York. He got bored with being a lawyer, and with half a chance he could get good and bored with journalism, too. Captivation was slavery. Boredom macht frei."

"Have you any idea what it's like when your every acquaintance is desperate to please?" Saddler volunteered flatly. "It's living hell."

"You think Picasso really relished the fact that in his heyday he could play tic-tac-toe on a napkin and sell it for thousands of francs? I doubt it very much. A market that blindly elevates your every sneeze to genius invites disdain for your own enterprise."

"Ever hear of the imposter syndrome? It's a problem especially for professionals- doctors, lawyers. You work and study and aspire away and suddenly someone hands you a piece of paper that says, okay, you're a lawyer. A lawyer! And you don't feel any different. You think you're a fraud. It can get pretty bad, this terror of being discovered."

"Why do you think I vanished? Maybe I was tired of mattering so much."
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