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The Post-Birthday World

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  13,591 ratings  ·  1,917 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, First Edition (US/CAN), 528 pages
Published March 13th 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published 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
Hazel Lee
Apr 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 16, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Stephanie A. Higa
Jan 27, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Mar 26, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Laurie Neighbors
Nov 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I chuckle each time I skim through the goodreads reviews for Lionel Shriver books -- including this book -- to see goodreads readers giving her the old low-star on account of how depressing and unlikable her characters are, how there's too much detail. And, of course, how every book besides We Need to Talk About Kevin is so disappointing because it's not just like WNTAK.

So, yes. It's true. The book is lush. But all of that detail functions as a kind of third plot line in the book -- or a unifyi
Jun 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
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.

Mar 27, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
May 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: women who've been in relationships! 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
Aug 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 21, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  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
Aug 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Leo Robertson
Sep 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
It's a pretty long way to go for the payoff, but I appreciated the message more this time, especially how it was contexualised in the wider scope of what's going on in the world. Like, sure, you might have these epic yearnings for two different men—but there are also wars going on, so we'll discuss it, but also, maybe deal with it?

Or I think I get more out of reading in general as I get older as I take more and more from books what I need to, or what I want to. For example I don't precisely know
Jun 28, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Sarah by: ShellBell
Shelves: owned
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
Mar 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: contemporary
2.5 stars - It was alright, an average book.

The author has a way with words and I enjoyed the beauty of several passages. However, the plot did not do it for me and it felt like the book was repetitive, taking forever to advance the storyline. Overall a mixed bag, but I would definitely consider reading another novel by Shriver.
Favorite Quote: But one of the things you lose in the wisdom of age is the wisdom of youth. Education is not a steady process
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I remember once, fresh out of college, telling a former boss that the music he listened to just didn't do it for me. I said I liked my music "tidier." I saw the disappointment/pity wash over his face.

I wish I could tell him now, 20 years later, that I appreciate less produced, less polished tracks. And that I adore the deliciously messy world of Lionel Shriver.

If you want to read about my girl crush on Lionel, it's documented here, an ode published shortly after reading one of Shriver's more cha
Ruth Seeley
Jan 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 03, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: kfbc
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 29, 2008 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
Another wonderful novel by Shriver, essentially via a dual perspective for Irina McGovern, children's book illustrator, what happens if she stays with Mr Sensible Vs what happens if she goes off with Mr Exciting… a surprising surprising and good read. Lionel Shriver's follow up to We Need to Talk About Kevin, covers in large and also surprising small detail the the outcomes, outputs and feeling that result from whom we choose to love, using this playful parallel-universe style of storytelling. 7 ...more
Gitte - Bookworm's Closet

Irina is in a safe relationship with Lawrence. One evening she finds herself attracted to one of their mutual friends, Ramsey, and here the story splits in two. In one version she leans forward and kisses Ramsey, falls in love with him and leaves Lawrence in favor of Ramsey. In the second version she rushes home and is relieved that she did not give in. We follow the two parallel stories.

But perhaps instead she was doubly blessed, and her passion hadn’t been divided in half, but multiplied b
Nov 28, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Mar 15, 2021 rated it liked it
3.5 *

Spoilers ahead.

Borderline racist and extremely problematic though Lionel Shriver might be, her novels are captivating, funny, worldly, and intense; they pack a lot of substance, they dramatize the crap out of ambivalence and every single one I've read so far has been a hell of a ride. I have read all her post-Kevin novels (with the exception of the latest one) and I find them brilliant. They have a quiet force to them, and even if I do not agree with some of her opinions, I love the no-hol
May 09, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
I was really captivated by this thought experiment, the two parallel timelines, the writing and the authentic characters. Yes, some of it was a bit obvious or gimmicky, but was still well thought out, fun to read and made me race through the second half. I'm only knocking one star off because the protagonist didn't learn all that much. Yes, she understands that there is not a single perfect way to live your life, but she is still convinced she needs a man to be happy. Ugh. ...more
Aj Sterkel
Aug 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult
Goodreads, I read a romance book, and I didn’t completely loathe it! I only kind of loathed it! The premise and structure of this novel are very intriguing. The story happens on two timelines. Both of them start with the main character going to dinner with a minor celebrity. In one timeline, she has an affair with him. In the other, they become friends, but she stays with her husband. It’s a really cool idea. Unfortunately, I had issues with other parts of the book. The writing style is pretenti ...more
Jul 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sheryl Sorrentino
Jul 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I wish I had more time to really delve into this one and write a thorough and lengthy review. Maybe I will at a later date. Suffice it to say, I just loved Lionel Shriver's The Post-Birthday World. The writing was crisp and witty throughout. At first, when I saw the parallel timelines, I worried the ending would not satisfy, as we'd never be told which story was the "real" one. But I found that didn't matter. Both scenarios (and endings) were thought-provoking and poignant--though I must say, I ...more
Feb 25, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
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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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