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Big Brother

3.45  ·  Rating details ·  13,065 ratings  ·  2,030 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
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Average rating 3.45  · 
Rating details
 ·  13,065 ratings  ·  2,030 reviews

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Donna P
Dec 31, 2012 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
B the BookAddict
Sep 25, 2013 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 2013 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
Diane Yannick
Jun 28, 2013 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
Elyse  Walters
Sep 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Library Overdrive by Alice Rosengard
plus, my already ebook copy which I own.

I absolutely love Lionel Shriver - yet there are still many books of hers I haven’t read - even though over the past few years - I’ve purchased several of her books I’ve missed. This wasn’t going to be my first choice ‘next’ Shriver book....but while on my way for searching something else - I downloaded “Big Brother” for kicks since it was readily available ( not the first time I’ve impulsively done t
Aug 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
It's 21st century Iowa, and Pandora, in her 40s, running a profitable unique business, married to perfectionist, careful eater and fitness fanatic Fletcher, with his modern art furniture business not doing lickety-spit; and Pandora is step mum to his two kids. She hasn't seen her moderately successful jazz musician brother for 4 years, and when she sees him doesn't recognise at all, as he's become morbidly obese! How will this change how she treats her older brother who she has hero worshipped m ...more
Lorri Steinbacher
Jun 09, 2013 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
Oct 20, 2013 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
Apr 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Despite 'Big Brother' finishing on a sad note, and dealing with sensitive issues like eating disorders and family disputes, it is still a more lighthearted story than her bestselling novel 'We Need To Talk About Kevin'. Shriver managed to pull off a more enjoyable novel without abandoning the serious element of her writing. In between the drama and humour, she writes intelligently about harsh realities, in a way that can have a profound sense of realization on the reader. And yes, her broad voca ...more
Jul 01, 2013 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Susan Tunis
Dec 28, 2012 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
Jun 23, 2013 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
Aug 31, 2013 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
Kristin Strong
Sep 08, 2013 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
Debbie "DJ"
Sep 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, fiction
I love this author! Review to follow...
Nov 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to the audiobook version of this novel, Big Brother,and it was narrated by Alice Rosengard.

Lionel Shriver has become one of my favorite authors. Her novels are brutally honest, insightful and although she doesn't shy away from difficult topics, she writes about them with a great deal of sensitivity. In her novel,Big Brother, Ms. Shriver writes about obesity.... our culture's obsession with food, weight loss, the 'perfect' body type and perhaps most importantly, the emotional toll tha
I almost shied away from this book because the topic of food addiction seemed too close for comfort. And I know that Shriver (who wrote one of my all-time favorites, “We Need to Talk About Kevin”) won’t skirt around any controversial or uncomfortable issue--so in fact I was actually scared to read this book. What if the book made me feel worse about my weight and my relationship to food? I threw caution to the wind and began.
But I just about abandoned the book early on because an editor failed t
Aug 24, 2013 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: adult, fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 18, 2014 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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Anne (On semi-hiatus)
Jul 13, 2013 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
Mar 29, 2013 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
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
What would you do if a loved one was in that bad a shape that it could threaten their life without action? This is what will confront Pandora when her down on his luck brother Edison comes to visit. Her family life is already frazzled thanks to her exercise freak husband who seems the complete opposite of Pandora who loves her cooking and is slightly over-weight. Things though will become infinitely worse when her brother arrives.

Pandora is stunned when she sees that in the four years since she
Nov 08, 2013 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
nomadreader (Carrie D-L)
Jun 19, 2013 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 Brother is the story of Pandora, who grew up in Los Ange
Apr 02, 2013 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
May 11, 2013 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
Nov 04, 2013 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
Dec 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
At 95% I gasped aloud.

At 99% I forgot about everything in my life -- work, children, home, mortgage, eating, laundry, hubby, everything... I was completely engrossed.

What!? That ending! Huh??

This book ate me up completely, pun intended. Here Lionel Shriver took on the issue of extreme obesity, something I actually don't remember reading about in fiction ever before. And then the story morphed into body issues at any size. It was thoughtful, intelligent, creative, complex and unique. I really lo
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Joyce's Reading Log: Big Brother by Lionel Shriver 1 3 Jan 13, 2021 07:31AM  

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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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