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The Post-birthday World - Lionel Shriver
Member Name: UK1981_female
The Post-birthday World - Lionel Shriver
I picked up 'The post-birthday world' written by Lionel Shriver from my local library. I have just finished reading it and will start off by saying that I really enjoyed it, as it was different and unique!
The main character of this book is Irina McGovern, a woman in her early forties. She has been in a relationship with a man called Lawrence for approximately 10 years. They are not married, but do live together. They have no children, but every part of domesticated life is shared between them. Lawrence is a dependable man, one she can rely on and feels she can trust. In every relationship, things are bound to be a certain way eventually, especially after 10 years. But they love each other and are companions. One night however, Irina is faced with the possibility of her life taking another direction altogether - one where she leaves the reliability of Lawrence for another man, Ramsey, who is passionate, spontaneous and lustful. From this point (which is at the end of the first Chapter), we see how Irina's life pans out, depending on whether she stays with Lawrence, or chooses to be with Ramsey.
I found the idea behind this book simply brilliant. I think in life we all wonder how our lives might be if we'd made certain decisions differently. In this book, we get to see Irina's life if she stays with Lawrence, and the pros and cons of her doing so. But in an almost parallel universe we can see how life is if she leaves Lawrence.
I think sometimes, if not always, the grass is always greener on the other side. But in this book, Lionel Shriver demonstrates that whatever path you do decide to take, there are always going to be ups and downs - no single path is perfect, and we sometimes forget that when things are not so great in our lives. This aspect of the book really made me think about my own life and decisions I have made. It makes me realise that I mustn't dwell too much on things I did or didn't do, because no single decision can necessarily be the right one.
The characters of the book were very believable. Irina is a fairly successful woman who by profession is an illustrator. However, the one thing she desires more than anything in life is a healthy love-life and a partner whom she can love and be able to depend on. This is interesting because these days we are surrounded by many successful career-women, but perhaps deep-down the most important thing to a lot of these women (and indeed men) is that they have a partner to love and be loved by. Irina admits that this is something which she doesn't like saying out loud, because it might make her seem 'weak'. Her two love interests in the book (although separate as they are love interests in parallel worlds) are in many ways stereotypes of men that women often think of i.e. the dependable man versus the exciting man. Whilst Lawrence and Ramsey are somewhat stereotypes they are still characters of their own, but it is definitely Irina who is the main character here.
The way the book is written is also great. The structure first of all is simple for a book that has the potential to be quite confusing. Lionel Shriver keeps is simple by allocating a single Chapter at the start to Irina's life with Lawrence and builds it up to the moment in which her decision leads her life to take a different direction (with Ramsey). Each Chapter which follows are parallels, so we have two Chapter 2s, two Chapter 3s and so on until the end. One each for Lawrence and Ramsey and therefore this allows us, the readers, to see how her life could have been depending on what Irina chose.
Well, to sum up I would say I found this book really refreshing. I liked the fact that Lionel Shriver attempted to do something a bit different. It was brave, as it could have gone wrong and been quite confusing. But I don't think it was. I think it works and flows well and I would highly recommend this book to anyone!
Thanks for reading.