Nicola's Reviews > The Post-Birthday World

The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver
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's review
Oct 29, 2008

bookshelves: 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 current partner. Unfortunately, THAT'S IT. That's all it's about: dithering over personal relationships.

It certainly doesn't help that all the characters are boring. Irina, the protagonist, is utterly limp. I didn't like her and I couldn't even find anything interesting about her character. Snoooze. Her suitors aren't much better: it's a tough choice between Mr Boring and Mr Even More Boring. (I will note that I hope Irina's limp characterization was intentional and, in the latter part of the novel, she emerges as strong, vibrant and generally AWESUM. I very much doubt it, though.)

I am compelled to make a quick note about how abysmal Shriver's grasp of the English vernacular is. Brits, much less working-class Brits, do not use the words "top drawer". Like, ever.

I flicked to the end, to see if the novel (miracle of miracles,) got better. (Spoiler: It didn't appear to.) In the process, I found a cheerfully obnoxious note by Shriver explaining the novel. (Yeah, thanks, love.) This only solidified my conviction that Shriver is harbouring under the delusion that she's written a much more literary and insightful novel than the unreadable dreck that I think The Post-Birthday World is.
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