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American children's book illustrator Irina McGovern enjoys a secure, settled life in London with her smart, loyal, disciplined partner, Lawrence—until the night she finds herself inexplicably drawn to kissing another man, a passionate, extravagant, top-ranked snooker player. Two competing alternate futures hinge on this single kiss, as Irina's decision—to surrender to temptation or to preserve her seemingly safe partnership with Lawrence—will have momentous consequences for her career, her friendships and familial relationships, and the texture of her daily life.

Topics: Marriage, Adultery, and Suburbia

Published: HarperCollins on Mar 17, 2009
ISBN: 9780061749681
List price: $8.99
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I found this book incredibly frustrating. At first, I was intrigued by the concept of how Irina's, the main character, would change if she gave into an attraction or if she stayed true to her long time boyfriend. However the frustration stems from the fact that in both universe's Irina continues to sit on the fence for a long time about either decision she made and half the time I was feeling that neither was the right decision. I think part of my problem was also that the object of her attraction, Ramsey, is not a very likeable character and aside from sexual attraction, you don't really understand what Irina sees in him. For me, Irina's revelation about herself on the last 2 pages came too little too late.read more
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There were several times while I was reading this novel when I wanted to set it aside and forget about it - but I had already invested a lot of time and have to admit I was a little curious about how things would work out.Basically, the plot goes like this: Irina McGovern, a children's book illustrator lives with her common law husband of ten years; they are doing okay, but not great. Irina meets Ramsey Acton, a famous snooker player at his birthday dinner, whose celebration becomes tradition between the two couples until Ramsey and his wife split and Irina and Lawrence (her common-law husband) continue with just Ramsey. One year Lawrence is away and Irina celebrates with Ramsey alone. She finds she has an irresistible attraction to him and there is a moment where she must decide whether to kiss him or not. The rest of the novel explores what would have happened a) if Irina kissed Ramsey and b) if Irina did not kiss Ramsey.The best word I can use to describe this novel is exasperating. I found all of the characters annoying, petty and daft. I couldn't fathom why Irina didn't communicate with Lawrence or Ramsey - I couldn't sympathize with her because she didn't do anything to help herself (except in the instance where she put her work over attending snooker tournaments but that took long enough). She complained about having sex with Lawrence the same way every time (facing the wall). I'm sure it wouldn't have been that difficult for her to turn around - especially after 10 years of being with the guy!The plot grew tiresome as well. At first it was interesting to watch the same (or very similar) events unfold twice (Irina with Lawrence vs. Irina with Ramsey), but it quickly lost its appeal - I often felt like I was being hit over the head with parallels.All in all, I would not recommend this novel. I did read We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver some time ago, and think that it was a much stronger novel.read more
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It seems to me that the negative reviews overwhelmingly express the disappointment of not being amused and punish the author for her lack of intent to please by denigrating and dismissing her (rather sharp) political opinions and generally dark observations of human nature. People, this is NOT A CHICK LIT NOVEL. For that matter, perhaps it was mis-marketed to housewives' book clubs. Indeed, the characters are not very likeable, but they are very, very real and alive. You may not want to hang out with them -- or with the author herself -- but it's not the point. Shriver took two "what if" situations and followed each through to its logical end. The unlikeability of the characters to some readers is not a failing: they are so real that, like in real life, some people can relate to them, some may recognize themselves or parts of themselves in them, some may sympathize, and some may have emotional baggage preventing them from even being in the same room with these characters. Her sometimes annoying and unnecessary penchant to overflaunt her vocabulary aside, Shriver's style is brilliant, and her turn of a phrase is what makes her a writer with a capital WRITE. She's not perfect. She's not flawless. But she's always interesting and she never takes the easy way in or out.read more
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The size of this book was a bit of an off-putter: my hardback copy was the size of a breezeblock, and the blurb didn’t grab me much but I do like the author and trusted her to make it more interesting than it sounded.The early stages were a slog. Essentially, woman faces choice between two men, one is her long term (slightly dull and intellectual) partner, and the other is a flamboyant snooker player. The story splits in two after chapter one: in the first strand she runs off with the snooker player and in the other she doesn’t. Alternate chapters follow these parallel universes, and here was my problem. Plot strand number one was so much more dynamic, you get to the end of a chapter and then have to go back over the same day, week, month, whatever, in a less interesting, less colourful , less dramatic scenario. It wasn’t long before I took the executive decision to read strand one first then go back and read strand two. Yes, instant gratification I’m afraid. Interesting things do happen in strand two, let me stress with the benefit of hindsight, but I don’t think it was as good a story. Reading it this way (and I wonder how many other readers took this route too) meant it was easier to keep track of how people were feeling and why, and whether such and such an event had happened in this universe or that. On the other hand I probably missed a lot of subtleties. Many events , dialogue and emotions were mirrored in the two universes and you probably need to read it the conventional way to appreciate them all. There was a sense of the world tugging events along in the same way despite the protagonist’s differing choices which was well done. The final chapter was immensely subtle: I didn’t realise how subtle until I reached the end of the second strand. It was a clever piece of writing, say no more.As one would expect from this author, the writing is top drawer. She can nail anything with the written word, and her understanding of the game of snooker, a sport as alien to Americans as Baseball is to Brits, is impressive. Her sketches of the real players in the game were a guilty pleasure throughout. You do have to like the main characters to enjoy this, as the supporting cast are few and have little part in the story. You will be closeted with these three people for page after page of mealtimes, bedtimes, walks to Tesco...about two hundred pages in someone utters the fateful words ‘We need to talk’ and I wished so very much that it could be about Kevin.But despite what might appear a lukewarm review, I am glad I read this. It has a lot of very astute things to say about relationships, sex, choices, free will, and has a pleasant bitter-sweet undertow. I reached the end (twice) feeling as though I had got to know the three main characters inside out. It’s the sort of book I could see myself re-reading. Maybe in a parallel universe I already have.read more
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Life in London & in two kinds of relationships - dilemma: which one to choose, which way to go. Hilarious, yet at the same time deep diving into a mind of a woman. Resemblance to the film "Sliding doors"read more
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Whenever I'm trying to decide whether to give a book 4 stars or 5, I think, "Is this as good as To Kill a Mockingbird?" I think The Post-Birthday World isn't quite as good as that, but it's darned close. It's like an emotionally mature "choose your own adventure" book in which we get to see how the course of our life sometimes hinges on one decision. Shriver suggests that, in the end, the lessons we learn are the same, regardless of how we get there.read more
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Irina and Lawrence are Americans living in London in the late '90s. Lawrence is a terrorism expert with a think tank, and Irina is an illustrator of children's books. They seem content with their life and all of their rituals as a couple until one fateful night when Lawrence is out of the country on business and he urges Irina to have dinner with a friend of theirs because it is his birthday and it is one of their traditions. The friend is Ramsey Acton, a famous snooker player in England. After an enjoyable evening, Irina finds herself in a situation where she very much wants to kiss Ramsey. After that, in alternating chapters, the book describes Irina's life if she had kissed him and if she had decided not to go that route. The beginning of the book and the end are great, but the middle does drag a bit with too many descriptive sex scenes and pages of Irina's innermost thoughts that don't serve to move the story along. It was a good read but, based on the reviews, I had hoped for an excellent read.read more
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I loved this book! It tells the story of Irina, who is in a long-term relationship with Lawrence. One night, she goes for dinner with a mutual friend -- a famous snooker player named Ramsey Acton. A little too much wine, a little hash, and she has an overwhelming desire to kiss him. The novel then proceeds in alternating chapters, with one plot line based on Irina kissing Ramsay, and the other based on her coming to her senses and going home.I think almost everyone wonders "what if" at some point in their lives; the universal wondering over the "road not taken" and whether, as the poet says, that has made all the difference. This novel allows you to ponder that and to appreciate the differences (or lack of difference) a single choice can make in your life, and the lives of others.Unlike some other reviewers, I did find the book too long or repetitious; I was so intrigued by the concept and the excellent way Ms. Shriver used this alternating world technique. I literally felt a chill at the end. Excellent.read more
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My second Lionel Shriver novel, The Post-Birthday World is tricky to describe. It begins with Irina McGovern, a children's book illustrator and American ex-pat living happily in London with her longtime partner, Lawrence. A friend of the couple, Ramsey Acton, is a recently-divorced and semi-famous snooker (think billiards) player. He's really more of Lawrence's friend, since Lawrence is an avid snooker fan -- but one night, when Irina and Ramsey find themselves on their own, Irina experiences a sudden, unexpected, and powerful attraction to Ramsey.So the question is, what does she do? Throw caution to the wind, grab Ramsey, and make out with him on the green expanse of his snooker table? Or, make a hasty exit, hurry home, and count her blessings that she narrowly averted a huge mistake?The answer is... both. After the first chapter, the novel diverges into two parallel universes: one, in which Irina and Ramsey begin an affair, and another, in which Irina re-dedicates herself to wifely attentiveness to Lawrence. Don't let the "parallel universe" thing mislead you into thinking that this is science fiction. None of the characters express any awareness of their alternate realities, and Irina doesn't travel between them or anything. Only the reader notices, and Shriver doesn't bother to explain the why or how of it. (By the way, this is what I appreciate about Shriver. She's more show than tell.)Both versions of Irina feel equally authentic. The thing that stands out for me is how the people around her (Ramsey, Lawrence, her friend Betsy) behave differently in these alternate realities. We might like to think that we are independent creatures, traveling along in own isolated narratives, and dealing with the consequences of our own choices... but our relationships are a huge part of how people perceive us and how we perceive ourselves.Although not quite as good as We Need to Talk About Kevin, still highly recommended. (Especially if you're looking for less disturbing subject matter than Kevin.)read more
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I'm not sure why people are going crazy over this book. I purchased it after reading about it in two different magazines, thinking it would be entertaining to read. But I found myself bored after only a couple of pages. Nevertheless I read on, determined to find out what's so special about this story. Which is basically about a woman in a relationship that has grown dull. And who finds herself tempted by another man. The book plays out the different scenerios of her staying with her longterm boyfriend or pursuing the new lover. I just really couldn't get into it. I found some of the authors style choices very distracting. For one I didn't like that she gave the new lover a "grammar deficit". It was really annoying for me to imagine the characters getting involved when this guy sounded like an idiot because of his "accent". Overall the book was mildly entertaining but nothing I would recommend to anybody.read more
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This book took a little while to get going, but once it did, I really enjoyed it. The whole idea of coming to a crossroads and examining the out come of both choices is fascinating.read more
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Reading other people's petty arguments is dull, and I found the parallels between the 'good' and 'bad' Irina chapters lacking subtlety.read more
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I didn't know anything about this book or the author (a woman, by the way) when I got it. The thing that hooked me was the description in the Quality Paperback Book Club blurb--"the book version of the movie Sliding Doors." If you enjoyed that movie, the concept is much the same: A woman reaches a crossroads in life and then you get to see the "parallel universes" that unfold based on the decision she makes at the critical time. In the movie, the pivotal moment was whether or not she got on a train at a precise time. In the book, the pivotal moment takes place after a birthday dinner (hence, the title.) The woman making the choice is Irina McGovern--a children's book illustrator (a choice of profession that I immensely enjoyed reading about). Irina's crossroads comes in her choice of man. What happens if she stays with Lawrence--her tried and true live-in love? What happens if she chooses Ramsey--the dashing and exciting snooker player? After a few "linear" chapters, the book's chapters alternate between life with Lawrence and life with Ramsey. The author does a brilliant job of intertwining the two just enough that you get a real sense of connection between the two universes. I loved the choices she made for each parallel universe--just when I think I know where one of the stories is going, she changes it up. I really struggled with what I thought was Irina's "right" choice. (Don't we all when faced with choosing a mate?) I love that she made it so gray--just like real life. The ending is very satisfying, and I think it allows each reader to project their own "reality" onto Irina's life. I know who I felt Irina ultimately chose, but I definitely think another reader could go another way. That is the fun and brilliance of this book!read more
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Having never heard of the book or the author, I went into this with no expectations, and its a good thing. The language was a little too heavy and incredibly repetitive. It fit the plot, which was also repetitive, though I guess that was the point. I could understand where Shriver was attempting to go and she pretty much spells it out for you in one chapter, but the parallel story lines mirrored each other so much that at points, the story felt very stagnant. There was no movement, no major turning points or large plot events after the initial story line split, and no suspense. That isn't to say it didn't have certain enjoyable moments. There were some interesting insights into relationships, happiness, and life in general, and some really well written passages.read more
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Another of my favourite books. The premise seems gimmicky--two possible futures emerging from a "will-she or won't-she?" night for the protagonist. But Shriver handles the echoes from one chapter to another with a masterly hand. And the differences in character (particularly in the husband) that emerge because of differing circumstances are, on the whole, insightful and believable.read more
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Cleverly constructed plot, such that the reader views both scenarios following a what if the protagonist stays in a marriage or goes off with an older snooker player whom her husband is a fan boy of. Recommended by an insightful friend (Krissie) who was spot on with her enthusiasm and accuracy over enjoyment value of this book. Nothing like Kevin, but who wants groundhog day in their reading?read more
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Lionel Shriver’s The Post-Birthday World makes me think of the Gwyneth Paltrow movie, Sliding Doors. The movie is about two parallel worlds, one in which the protagonist just misses a train, and one in which she manages to get on just before the doors slide closed. Her life changes drastically, depending on which of these seemingly trivial events occurs. Shriver’s novel is likewise divided up into parallel universes. Children’s book illustrator Irina McGovern is the character around whom all scenes revolve. There is two of each chapter, each telling a different version of an identical period in time. The differences are all derived from the effects of Irina’s one decision of whether or not to kiss a handsome snooker player while her long time lover is out of town on business.The story has a slow start, and for the first hundred pages I kept thinking that this was done already (and done better) in Sliding Doors. Gradually, however, the characters drew me in and I was compelled to read on. Shriver skillfully unifies the book by sometimes repeating exact phrases in the opposing chapters, although the character saying the lines of dialogue might be different. She also has Irina create children’s books with stories that echo what is happening in the two versions of Irina’s life. The men Irina love in each version of her story are as different as can be. Lawrence, working in a think tank corporation that fights world terrorism, is steady and dependable, with caustic wit and great intelligence. Ramsey, an egotistical, uneducated snooker player, draws her in with his great passion and a strong sexual attraction. With either man, Irina is consistent: self-depreciating, anxious to avoid conflict.As with Shriver’s other book, We Need to Talk about Kevin, The Post Birthday World ends with a dubious hopefulness that made me feel sad.read more
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Reading this book is a bit like taking a really big bite of something really chewy. Taffy maybe, and not your favorite flavor, either, although definitely one you like. It's good, but you might feel like you have to work too hard.Shriver takes her cue from the multiple universe idea that there exists a separate reality that has sprung from each decision. There's a universe in which you did X, and a universe in which you didn't do X (or did Y). Fortunately, she doesn't try to examine this theory to its fullest, but takes a single decision made a single person, and expands her universes from there. What drives this book, then, is not "did she or didn't she" (she both did and didn't, in alternate chapters), but what is the result of both decisions.Shriver employs some very clever techniques to help her explore this theme. As the parallel chapters progress along the same time line, we see how similar the two universes are, but also how wildly different, as sometimes identical dialogue is spoken, but in vastly different contexts, or even by different characters. Shriver even gives her reader occasional anchors in time (helping to tie parallel chapters in time) by relating how the characters in each universe respond to international news events, such as the death of Princess Diana and the September 11th attacks.Shriver also does a great job of keeping her main character consistent through both story-lines. It's easy (easier, at least) to write a character who responds to a single set of events, than it is to write a character who must respond to two parallel sets of events and yet remain believable as a single character. Shriver absolutely gets this part right. But that is also part of what makes reading this book seem like hard work - every time you get somewhere in the narrative, you are instantly sent back to the beginning of the timeframe and must go through it all again, with the same mindset, if different details. Even the best of characters might get a little tiresome through all that. The real triumph is perhaps that we care about what happens in both realities, and can't easily say which choice was the right one.read more
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After reading this a second time in order to lead a book discussion, I was impressed by Shriver's use of language to clearly depict each man's differences. I also appreciated Shriver's even-handedness in the alternate scenarios. Both seemed plausible yet fraught with possible drawbacks. Who hasn't, by a certain age, wondered about the choices made by a younger self and the other possibilities that might have existed. And what an excellent ending!read more
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I didn't get on well with this. I found Shriver's "We need to talk about Kevin" compelling reading, but I just couldn't get into this one. The plot is along the lines of "Sliding doors" as in two different outcomes develop from one point in time. Trouble was, I didn't care about the characters so I didn't really care about the developments in the story!read more
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I came to reading this book because I had enjoyed "We Need to Talk About Kevin" so much; however, I found this novel to be a disappointment. The premise of the plot was intereresting, but the plot itself was poorly written and boring. Also, I found the characters to be petty and uninteresting. Needless to say, this experience made me a lot more skeptical about reading any additional Lionel Shriver novels.read more
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A married woman is powerfully drawn to a lover class famous snooker player in England. Interesting but ultimately tedious device of alternating chapters: in the light colored numbers she doesn't act on it; in the dark she does, and what happens in each case. The snooker player was odious, and the rendering of his accent almost impossible to read, so that I skimmed much of it - not because I really liked it but to find out what happened.read more
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Shriver’s written style is engaging because it is so realistic and accurate, especially regarding thoughts that we would often rather keep to ourselves. Irina McGovern faces a romantic choice in the first chapter, the outcome of which determines the direction in which her life will head. From then on, the novel follows a parallel universe structure in which she either remains with her supportive partner or begins a new life with a more spontaneous man. What makes this structure effective is Shriver’s use of echoes between the chapters as Irina reacts to her life with each man; the parallel universes are made convincing through the corresponding events and language: it is not simply an entirely different life. Details of everyday life are successfully interwoven into the fabric of the story without ever seeming contrived or unnecessary. Personally, I found Ramsey Acton’s voice occasionally irritating and Irina’s reactions too passive, but these were minor features and, overall, I found this novel an excellent read.read more
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I didn't mean to like this book, it's kind of a stupid concept (lazy writer concept, really, what if the plot went one way? what if it went another?). And yet, I was engaged by this. I kept wanting to go back to it and started thinking of it as a kind of guilty pleasure by the time I was done. It's not great literature, but it is entertaining.read more
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i hate to say that i didn't finish this book. i just couldn't grasp the way the chapters replayed the same scene in different ways. it aggravated me for some reason. the writing was good nonetheless and i was disappointed i couldn't finish it.read more
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The plot of this story hinges on a single decision - whether or not the narrator chooses to kiss a man. Chapter by alternating chapter, the book explores what would have happened if she did (or didn't). It's an interesting concept, a choose-your-own-adventure novel for adults, and is beautifully executed. I love that the "right" decision is ambiguous throughout much of the novel. It's not really an easy book, but it's honest and intriguing.read more
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Only ok. I couldn't really get behind any of the characters, they were all morally not right. And it was just waaaaay too long.read more
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I had hoped this would be one of the high concept "What if" books that I love.... After all - we get to see what would happen when/if the main character made one of two choices at a crux in her life. (Kind of like the movie "Sliding Doors".) BUT - the cool factor of the idea only went so far - and after a while - I simply didn't care which choice she made. I just wanted the book to end. It was OK - the things that stay the same regardless of the path she (Irinia) is on and the aspects of other peoples lives that change are interesting to think about. BUT - it went on too long... And the way she (the author) was DETERMINED to keep going back to terrorist attacks was weird.read more
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Irina is in a relationship with Lawrence who is dependable and supportive. However she is tempted to kiss Ramsey, ex- husband of a former work aquaintance. Ramsey is a professional snooker player who is passionate and impulsive. Each chapter alternates between parallel universes and asks who shall Irina choose? Will it be Ramsey or will she stay with Lawrence? Each of these choices has consequences and affect all aspects of Irina's life. This is a great read and generated interesting discussion with my bookgroup raising questions about life choices and relationships.Written with a perceptive eye and a good dash of humour.read more
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I found this book incredibly frustrating. At first, I was intrigued by the concept of how Irina's, the main character, would change if she gave into an attraction or if she stayed true to her long time boyfriend. However the frustration stems from the fact that in both universe's Irina continues to sit on the fence for a long time about either decision she made and half the time I was feeling that neither was the right decision. I think part of my problem was also that the object of her attraction, Ramsey, is not a very likeable character and aside from sexual attraction, you don't really understand what Irina sees in him. For me, Irina's revelation about herself on the last 2 pages came too little too late.
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There were several times while I was reading this novel when I wanted to set it aside and forget about it - but I had already invested a lot of time and have to admit I was a little curious about how things would work out.Basically, the plot goes like this: Irina McGovern, a children's book illustrator lives with her common law husband of ten years; they are doing okay, but not great. Irina meets Ramsey Acton, a famous snooker player at his birthday dinner, whose celebration becomes tradition between the two couples until Ramsey and his wife split and Irina and Lawrence (her common-law husband) continue with just Ramsey. One year Lawrence is away and Irina celebrates with Ramsey alone. She finds she has an irresistible attraction to him and there is a moment where she must decide whether to kiss him or not. The rest of the novel explores what would have happened a) if Irina kissed Ramsey and b) if Irina did not kiss Ramsey.The best word I can use to describe this novel is exasperating. I found all of the characters annoying, petty and daft. I couldn't fathom why Irina didn't communicate with Lawrence or Ramsey - I couldn't sympathize with her because she didn't do anything to help herself (except in the instance where she put her work over attending snooker tournaments but that took long enough). She complained about having sex with Lawrence the same way every time (facing the wall). I'm sure it wouldn't have been that difficult for her to turn around - especially after 10 years of being with the guy!The plot grew tiresome as well. At first it was interesting to watch the same (or very similar) events unfold twice (Irina with Lawrence vs. Irina with Ramsey), but it quickly lost its appeal - I often felt like I was being hit over the head with parallels.All in all, I would not recommend this novel. I did read We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver some time ago, and think that it was a much stronger novel.
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It seems to me that the negative reviews overwhelmingly express the disappointment of not being amused and punish the author for her lack of intent to please by denigrating and dismissing her (rather sharp) political opinions and generally dark observations of human nature. People, this is NOT A CHICK LIT NOVEL. For that matter, perhaps it was mis-marketed to housewives' book clubs. Indeed, the characters are not very likeable, but they are very, very real and alive. You may not want to hang out with them -- or with the author herself -- but it's not the point. Shriver took two "what if" situations and followed each through to its logical end. The unlikeability of the characters to some readers is not a failing: they are so real that, like in real life, some people can relate to them, some may recognize themselves or parts of themselves in them, some may sympathize, and some may have emotional baggage preventing them from even being in the same room with these characters. Her sometimes annoying and unnecessary penchant to overflaunt her vocabulary aside, Shriver's style is brilliant, and her turn of a phrase is what makes her a writer with a capital WRITE. She's not perfect. She's not flawless. But she's always interesting and she never takes the easy way in or out.
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The size of this book was a bit of an off-putter: my hardback copy was the size of a breezeblock, and the blurb didn’t grab me much but I do like the author and trusted her to make it more interesting than it sounded.The early stages were a slog. Essentially, woman faces choice between two men, one is her long term (slightly dull and intellectual) partner, and the other is a flamboyant snooker player. The story splits in two after chapter one: in the first strand she runs off with the snooker player and in the other she doesn’t. Alternate chapters follow these parallel universes, and here was my problem. Plot strand number one was so much more dynamic, you get to the end of a chapter and then have to go back over the same day, week, month, whatever, in a less interesting, less colourful , less dramatic scenario. It wasn’t long before I took the executive decision to read strand one first then go back and read strand two. Yes, instant gratification I’m afraid. Interesting things do happen in strand two, let me stress with the benefit of hindsight, but I don’t think it was as good a story. Reading it this way (and I wonder how many other readers took this route too) meant it was easier to keep track of how people were feeling and why, and whether such and such an event had happened in this universe or that. On the other hand I probably missed a lot of subtleties. Many events , dialogue and emotions were mirrored in the two universes and you probably need to read it the conventional way to appreciate them all. There was a sense of the world tugging events along in the same way despite the protagonist’s differing choices which was well done. The final chapter was immensely subtle: I didn’t realise how subtle until I reached the end of the second strand. It was a clever piece of writing, say no more.As one would expect from this author, the writing is top drawer. She can nail anything with the written word, and her understanding of the game of snooker, a sport as alien to Americans as Baseball is to Brits, is impressive. Her sketches of the real players in the game were a guilty pleasure throughout. You do have to like the main characters to enjoy this, as the supporting cast are few and have little part in the story. You will be closeted with these three people for page after page of mealtimes, bedtimes, walks to Tesco...about two hundred pages in someone utters the fateful words ‘We need to talk’ and I wished so very much that it could be about Kevin.But despite what might appear a lukewarm review, I am glad I read this. It has a lot of very astute things to say about relationships, sex, choices, free will, and has a pleasant bitter-sweet undertow. I reached the end (twice) feeling as though I had got to know the three main characters inside out. It’s the sort of book I could see myself re-reading. Maybe in a parallel universe I already have.
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Life in London & in two kinds of relationships - dilemma: which one to choose, which way to go. Hilarious, yet at the same time deep diving into a mind of a woman. Resemblance to the film "Sliding doors"
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Whenever I'm trying to decide whether to give a book 4 stars or 5, I think, "Is this as good as To Kill a Mockingbird?" I think The Post-Birthday World isn't quite as good as that, but it's darned close. It's like an emotionally mature "choose your own adventure" book in which we get to see how the course of our life sometimes hinges on one decision. Shriver suggests that, in the end, the lessons we learn are the same, regardless of how we get there.
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Irina and Lawrence are Americans living in London in the late '90s. Lawrence is a terrorism expert with a think tank, and Irina is an illustrator of children's books. They seem content with their life and all of their rituals as a couple until one fateful night when Lawrence is out of the country on business and he urges Irina to have dinner with a friend of theirs because it is his birthday and it is one of their traditions. The friend is Ramsey Acton, a famous snooker player in England. After an enjoyable evening, Irina finds herself in a situation where she very much wants to kiss Ramsey. After that, in alternating chapters, the book describes Irina's life if she had kissed him and if she had decided not to go that route. The beginning of the book and the end are great, but the middle does drag a bit with too many descriptive sex scenes and pages of Irina's innermost thoughts that don't serve to move the story along. It was a good read but, based on the reviews, I had hoped for an excellent read.
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I loved this book! It tells the story of Irina, who is in a long-term relationship with Lawrence. One night, she goes for dinner with a mutual friend -- a famous snooker player named Ramsey Acton. A little too much wine, a little hash, and she has an overwhelming desire to kiss him. The novel then proceeds in alternating chapters, with one plot line based on Irina kissing Ramsay, and the other based on her coming to her senses and going home.I think almost everyone wonders "what if" at some point in their lives; the universal wondering over the "road not taken" and whether, as the poet says, that has made all the difference. This novel allows you to ponder that and to appreciate the differences (or lack of difference) a single choice can make in your life, and the lives of others.Unlike some other reviewers, I did find the book too long or repetitious; I was so intrigued by the concept and the excellent way Ms. Shriver used this alternating world technique. I literally felt a chill at the end. Excellent.
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My second Lionel Shriver novel, The Post-Birthday World is tricky to describe. It begins with Irina McGovern, a children's book illustrator and American ex-pat living happily in London with her longtime partner, Lawrence. A friend of the couple, Ramsey Acton, is a recently-divorced and semi-famous snooker (think billiards) player. He's really more of Lawrence's friend, since Lawrence is an avid snooker fan -- but one night, when Irina and Ramsey find themselves on their own, Irina experiences a sudden, unexpected, and powerful attraction to Ramsey.So the question is, what does she do? Throw caution to the wind, grab Ramsey, and make out with him on the green expanse of his snooker table? Or, make a hasty exit, hurry home, and count her blessings that she narrowly averted a huge mistake?The answer is... both. After the first chapter, the novel diverges into two parallel universes: one, in which Irina and Ramsey begin an affair, and another, in which Irina re-dedicates herself to wifely attentiveness to Lawrence. Don't let the "parallel universe" thing mislead you into thinking that this is science fiction. None of the characters express any awareness of their alternate realities, and Irina doesn't travel between them or anything. Only the reader notices, and Shriver doesn't bother to explain the why or how of it. (By the way, this is what I appreciate about Shriver. She's more show than tell.)Both versions of Irina feel equally authentic. The thing that stands out for me is how the people around her (Ramsey, Lawrence, her friend Betsy) behave differently in these alternate realities. We might like to think that we are independent creatures, traveling along in own isolated narratives, and dealing with the consequences of our own choices... but our relationships are a huge part of how people perceive us and how we perceive ourselves.Although not quite as good as We Need to Talk About Kevin, still highly recommended. (Especially if you're looking for less disturbing subject matter than Kevin.)
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I'm not sure why people are going crazy over this book. I purchased it after reading about it in two different magazines, thinking it would be entertaining to read. But I found myself bored after only a couple of pages. Nevertheless I read on, determined to find out what's so special about this story. Which is basically about a woman in a relationship that has grown dull. And who finds herself tempted by another man. The book plays out the different scenerios of her staying with her longterm boyfriend or pursuing the new lover. I just really couldn't get into it. I found some of the authors style choices very distracting. For one I didn't like that she gave the new lover a "grammar deficit". It was really annoying for me to imagine the characters getting involved when this guy sounded like an idiot because of his "accent". Overall the book was mildly entertaining but nothing I would recommend to anybody.
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This book took a little while to get going, but once it did, I really enjoyed it. The whole idea of coming to a crossroads and examining the out come of both choices is fascinating.
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Reading other people's petty arguments is dull, and I found the parallels between the 'good' and 'bad' Irina chapters lacking subtlety.
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I didn't know anything about this book or the author (a woman, by the way) when I got it. The thing that hooked me was the description in the Quality Paperback Book Club blurb--"the book version of the movie Sliding Doors." If you enjoyed that movie, the concept is much the same: A woman reaches a crossroads in life and then you get to see the "parallel universes" that unfold based on the decision she makes at the critical time. In the movie, the pivotal moment was whether or not she got on a train at a precise time. In the book, the pivotal moment takes place after a birthday dinner (hence, the title.) The woman making the choice is Irina McGovern--a children's book illustrator (a choice of profession that I immensely enjoyed reading about). Irina's crossroads comes in her choice of man. What happens if she stays with Lawrence--her tried and true live-in love? What happens if she chooses Ramsey--the dashing and exciting snooker player? After a few "linear" chapters, the book's chapters alternate between life with Lawrence and life with Ramsey. The author does a brilliant job of intertwining the two just enough that you get a real sense of connection between the two universes. I loved the choices she made for each parallel universe--just when I think I know where one of the stories is going, she changes it up. I really struggled with what I thought was Irina's "right" choice. (Don't we all when faced with choosing a mate?) I love that she made it so gray--just like real life. The ending is very satisfying, and I think it allows each reader to project their own "reality" onto Irina's life. I know who I felt Irina ultimately chose, but I definitely think another reader could go another way. That is the fun and brilliance of this book!
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Having never heard of the book or the author, I went into this with no expectations, and its a good thing. The language was a little too heavy and incredibly repetitive. It fit the plot, which was also repetitive, though I guess that was the point. I could understand where Shriver was attempting to go and she pretty much spells it out for you in one chapter, but the parallel story lines mirrored each other so much that at points, the story felt very stagnant. There was no movement, no major turning points or large plot events after the initial story line split, and no suspense. That isn't to say it didn't have certain enjoyable moments. There were some interesting insights into relationships, happiness, and life in general, and some really well written passages.
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Another of my favourite books. The premise seems gimmicky--two possible futures emerging from a "will-she or won't-she?" night for the protagonist. But Shriver handles the echoes from one chapter to another with a masterly hand. And the differences in character (particularly in the husband) that emerge because of differing circumstances are, on the whole, insightful and believable.
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Cleverly constructed plot, such that the reader views both scenarios following a what if the protagonist stays in a marriage or goes off with an older snooker player whom her husband is a fan boy of. Recommended by an insightful friend (Krissie) who was spot on with her enthusiasm and accuracy over enjoyment value of this book. Nothing like Kevin, but who wants groundhog day in their reading?
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Lionel Shriver’s The Post-Birthday World makes me think of the Gwyneth Paltrow movie, Sliding Doors. The movie is about two parallel worlds, one in which the protagonist just misses a train, and one in which she manages to get on just before the doors slide closed. Her life changes drastically, depending on which of these seemingly trivial events occurs. Shriver’s novel is likewise divided up into parallel universes. Children’s book illustrator Irina McGovern is the character around whom all scenes revolve. There is two of each chapter, each telling a different version of an identical period in time. The differences are all derived from the effects of Irina’s one decision of whether or not to kiss a handsome snooker player while her long time lover is out of town on business.The story has a slow start, and for the first hundred pages I kept thinking that this was done already (and done better) in Sliding Doors. Gradually, however, the characters drew me in and I was compelled to read on. Shriver skillfully unifies the book by sometimes repeating exact phrases in the opposing chapters, although the character saying the lines of dialogue might be different. She also has Irina create children’s books with stories that echo what is happening in the two versions of Irina’s life. The men Irina love in each version of her story are as different as can be. Lawrence, working in a think tank corporation that fights world terrorism, is steady and dependable, with caustic wit and great intelligence. Ramsey, an egotistical, uneducated snooker player, draws her in with his great passion and a strong sexual attraction. With either man, Irina is consistent: self-depreciating, anxious to avoid conflict.As with Shriver’s other book, We Need to Talk about Kevin, The Post Birthday World ends with a dubious hopefulness that made me feel sad.
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Reading this book is a bit like taking a really big bite of something really chewy. Taffy maybe, and not your favorite flavor, either, although definitely one you like. It's good, but you might feel like you have to work too hard.Shriver takes her cue from the multiple universe idea that there exists a separate reality that has sprung from each decision. There's a universe in which you did X, and a universe in which you didn't do X (or did Y). Fortunately, she doesn't try to examine this theory to its fullest, but takes a single decision made a single person, and expands her universes from there. What drives this book, then, is not "did she or didn't she" (she both did and didn't, in alternate chapters), but what is the result of both decisions.Shriver employs some very clever techniques to help her explore this theme. As the parallel chapters progress along the same time line, we see how similar the two universes are, but also how wildly different, as sometimes identical dialogue is spoken, but in vastly different contexts, or even by different characters. Shriver even gives her reader occasional anchors in time (helping to tie parallel chapters in time) by relating how the characters in each universe respond to international news events, such as the death of Princess Diana and the September 11th attacks.Shriver also does a great job of keeping her main character consistent through both story-lines. It's easy (easier, at least) to write a character who responds to a single set of events, than it is to write a character who must respond to two parallel sets of events and yet remain believable as a single character. Shriver absolutely gets this part right. But that is also part of what makes reading this book seem like hard work - every time you get somewhere in the narrative, you are instantly sent back to the beginning of the timeframe and must go through it all again, with the same mindset, if different details. Even the best of characters might get a little tiresome through all that. The real triumph is perhaps that we care about what happens in both realities, and can't easily say which choice was the right one.
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After reading this a second time in order to lead a book discussion, I was impressed by Shriver's use of language to clearly depict each man's differences. I also appreciated Shriver's even-handedness in the alternate scenarios. Both seemed plausible yet fraught with possible drawbacks. Who hasn't, by a certain age, wondered about the choices made by a younger self and the other possibilities that might have existed. And what an excellent ending!
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I didn't get on well with this. I found Shriver's "We need to talk about Kevin" compelling reading, but I just couldn't get into this one. The plot is along the lines of "Sliding doors" as in two different outcomes develop from one point in time. Trouble was, I didn't care about the characters so I didn't really care about the developments in the story!
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I came to reading this book because I had enjoyed "We Need to Talk About Kevin" so much; however, I found this novel to be a disappointment. The premise of the plot was intereresting, but the plot itself was poorly written and boring. Also, I found the characters to be petty and uninteresting. Needless to say, this experience made me a lot more skeptical about reading any additional Lionel Shriver novels.
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A married woman is powerfully drawn to a lover class famous snooker player in England. Interesting but ultimately tedious device of alternating chapters: in the light colored numbers she doesn't act on it; in the dark she does, and what happens in each case. The snooker player was odious, and the rendering of his accent almost impossible to read, so that I skimmed much of it - not because I really liked it but to find out what happened.
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Shriver’s written style is engaging because it is so realistic and accurate, especially regarding thoughts that we would often rather keep to ourselves. Irina McGovern faces a romantic choice in the first chapter, the outcome of which determines the direction in which her life will head. From then on, the novel follows a parallel universe structure in which she either remains with her supportive partner or begins a new life with a more spontaneous man. What makes this structure effective is Shriver’s use of echoes between the chapters as Irina reacts to her life with each man; the parallel universes are made convincing through the corresponding events and language: it is not simply an entirely different life. Details of everyday life are successfully interwoven into the fabric of the story without ever seeming contrived or unnecessary. Personally, I found Ramsey Acton’s voice occasionally irritating and Irina’s reactions too passive, but these were minor features and, overall, I found this novel an excellent read.
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I didn't mean to like this book, it's kind of a stupid concept (lazy writer concept, really, what if the plot went one way? what if it went another?). And yet, I was engaged by this. I kept wanting to go back to it and started thinking of it as a kind of guilty pleasure by the time I was done. It's not great literature, but it is entertaining.
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i hate to say that i didn't finish this book. i just couldn't grasp the way the chapters replayed the same scene in different ways. it aggravated me for some reason. the writing was good nonetheless and i was disappointed i couldn't finish it.
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The plot of this story hinges on a single decision - whether or not the narrator chooses to kiss a man. Chapter by alternating chapter, the book explores what would have happened if she did (or didn't). It's an interesting concept, a choose-your-own-adventure novel for adults, and is beautifully executed. I love that the "right" decision is ambiguous throughout much of the novel. It's not really an easy book, but it's honest and intriguing.
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Only ok. I couldn't really get behind any of the characters, they were all morally not right. And it was just waaaaay too long.
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I had hoped this would be one of the high concept "What if" books that I love.... After all - we get to see what would happen when/if the main character made one of two choices at a crux in her life. (Kind of like the movie "Sliding Doors".) BUT - the cool factor of the idea only went so far - and after a while - I simply didn't care which choice she made. I just wanted the book to end. It was OK - the things that stay the same regardless of the path she (Irinia) is on and the aspects of other peoples lives that change are interesting to think about. BUT - it went on too long... And the way she (the author) was DETERMINED to keep going back to terrorist attacks was weird.
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Irina is in a relationship with Lawrence who is dependable and supportive. However she is tempted to kiss Ramsey, ex- husband of a former work aquaintance. Ramsey is a professional snooker player who is passionate and impulsive. Each chapter alternates between parallel universes and asks who shall Irina choose? Will it be Ramsey or will she stay with Lawrence? Each of these choices has consequences and affect all aspects of Irina's life. This is a great read and generated interesting discussion with my bookgroup raising questions about life choices and relationships.Written with a perceptive eye and a good dash of humour.
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