velveetahead, May 9, 2009 (view all comments by velveetahead)
Irina McGovern is an American children’s book illustrator living in London with her long-time boyfriend Lawrence that might as well be her husband. He is a solid, dependable man who isn’t very romantic or passionate. They have their routines and that’s pretty much what their life has become–a series of routines. That includes having dinner with another couple each year on the husband’s birthday. He’s a famous snooker player in London who is almost past his prime named Ramsey. Lawrence is fascinated with snooker and Ramsey. Irina is pretty bored by the annual dinners until one year after Ramsey gets a divorce and Lawrence is out of town on a business trip, he convinces Irina to keep the annual birthday dinner date with Ramsey. Ramsey is passionate about snooker, drinking and life. After a night of a bit too much flirting and drinking, it comes down to a moment where Irina could kiss Ramsey or leave before things can’t go back to how they were.
That is where the book splits to follow what happens depending on the decision Irina makes in that one moment. From there on out, each chapter alternates between the two different paths. I was surprised how each chapter veered so wildly from one another, but each version would still end up at the same big events throughout the years in Irina’s life.
I could not decide which life was better. All of the characters were so well written. They were fully formed with quirks and flaws. You would love a character one moment and then couldn’t stand him or her the next. I would think one choice was the best one, but then there would be a downside to the situation Irina would find herself in. Then the other one would seem better, but it would also have downsides. No one choice seemed like the best one and the ending brought both sides together in a way that completely made sense. It was a great character book and I highly recommend it.
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Erin Golsen, October 18, 2008 (view all comments by Erin Golsen)
Every decision can change your life; in this book, Lionel Shriver gives us a glimpse of two alternate lives for Irina McGovern, a children's book illustrator faced with temptation. The most fascinating aspect of this story is the way that Irina herself changes depending on what choices she makes. I really enjoyed this book, and the interview with the author in the back was entertaining, too--she sounds like a real character.
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TruBlu, May 23, 2008 (view all comments by TruBlu)
I didn't like Irina McGovern. She drifts through both 'worlds' without guilt, remorse, or any real depth of any emotion. In both worlds she's a rather shallow 'little wife' figure, dependent on her men for both her finances and physical gratification, while emotionally remaining a closed book to both. Yes, she is incredibly narcissistic....
Lionel Shriver is a truly brilliant writer!! Despite disliking the main character so much, I was compelled to find out what happended to her. The story is steeped in cliches of chick lit aspirations, but it's what Shriver does not comment upon that really makes you think. Excellent example of a writer who really knows how to have a proper dialogue with her readers. I loved it and hated it in equal measure :-)
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lark999, April 16, 2008 (view all comments by lark999)
The solipsism was overwhelming. Honestly the voice of the main character was so aloof and condescending I could not take too many pages at once.
It was like reading the blog of the most narcissistic person on earth.
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by Kirkus Reviews,
"A layered and unflinching portrait of infidelity....Readers will wonder which choice was best for Irina, but Shriver masterfully confounds any attempt to arrive at a sure answer."
by Entertainment Weekly,
"Shriver, a brilliant and versatile writer, allows these competing stories to unfold organically, each a fully rounded drama, rich with irony, ambiguity, and unforeseeable human complications. (Grade: A)"
"Shriver's eighth novel is a piercingly funny follow-up to her tragedy-laden 2005 Orange Prize winner....One of the issues that Shriver's expansive yet intimate narrative entertains is whether Irina's love life has been reduced or multiplied by her conflicted affections. It's the good question that powers this titanically game novel."
by Library Journal,
"Original and involving...convincing and beautifully told. Highly recommended."
by Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times,
"That we're able to overlook the flaws of Ramsey and Lawrence is, in the end, a testament to Ms. Shriver's ability to make Irina into a thoroughly compelling character, an idiosyncratic yet recognizable heroine about whom it's impossible not to care."
by Chris Bohjalian, The Boston Globe,
"While I was occasionally frustrated with Irina or I felt I was learning more about snooker than I wanted to know, there were other moments when I found myself riveted by The Post-Birthday World."
"Shriver's eighth novel will attract patient readers ready for the next step after chick lit....This novel is ostensibly formulaic, but the details and the solid writing make it ultimately enjoyable."
"You can't blame Shriver for taking up with a cliche: It's a perfectly enjoyable cliche, one that ought to have delivered a slim, smart, entertaining read. The problem is, Shriver can't seem to find a tone that will let her (and us) have any fun."
by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,
"Shriver succeeds at constantly taking the pulse of the aftermath of betrayal and duplicity. The Post-Birthday World is a steamy examination of the possibilities of what might happen if you give into temptation or what might happen if you don't."
The long-awaited new novel from the Orange Prize-winning author of We Need to Talk About Kevin is an entertaining and deeply human look at love and the choices people make.
It all hinges on one kiss. Whether Irena McGovern does or does not lean in to a specific pair of lips will determine whether she stays with her disciplined, intellectual partner Lawrence or runs off with Ramsey, a hard-living snooker player. Using a parallel universe structure, we follow Irena's life as it unfolds under the influence of two drastically different men. Where Lawrence is supportive and devoted, Ramsey is flighty and spontaneous. Lawrence is emotionally withdrawn to the point of repression; Ramsey is fiery and passionate, but volatile. The contrasts between the two men have ramifications for Irena's relationships with friends and family, for her career as an illustrator, and more importantly, for the texture of her daily life.
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