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The New Republic by Lionel Shriver

The New Republic

by Lionel Shriver

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Almost from the start I realized that satire isn’t my thing. I spend too much time looking for the joke; am I in on it or is it going over my head? I can’t relax with books like this, but I persevered because I like Shriver’s writing. I do the same thing with Percival Everett, but they both make me feel like I’m too dumb to get what they’re doing.

“Finally, when Edgar was requesting his check, Toby would sashay in, double doors swinging with his dozen disciples, all drunk, loud, and dashingly dressed, infusing this old-man’s-bathrobe of a bar with its original camp, smoking-jacket flash.” p 23

“Already any reference to Barrington Saddler threw Edgar lurching nauseously between opposing inclinations, as if he were careening up switchbacks in a bus. He both longed to discuss this preposterous fellow and to avoid all mention of the man with the same degree of urgency. When he gave in and pursued the subject, he instantly regretted it, the way you curse yourself for having picked a scab.” p 25

“Majority status is no people’s right,” Gluck insisted. “It is an accident, a lucky advantage. Like any advantage you want to hold onto it. But it is typical reasoning of privileged people to assume that just because you have something, ipso facto you deserve it. In truth, this ‘defense of borders’ is naked defense of self-interest - not of justice.” p 73

There’s a lot more like that and Edgar is an engrossing character, but plot-wise there’s not a lot going on and I found the episodes with Barrington as imaginary friend to be a bit trying. It isn’t clear whether the whole thing is a hallucination or a delusion brought on by Edgar’s personally wrecking his house. The other characters are just props, there to fuel Edgar’s reactions, opinions, observations and, most importantly, derision. I can understand his yearning to be the BMOC and I loved Barrington’s explanation of what it’s like to be that person. Ditto with Toby. I’ve known people like them, so have you, and I’ve never given much thought about what it must be like to be the object of so much attention and adulation. Trying, I’m sure, but like being rich or beautiful, us regular people can’t offer much pity or consolation. There’s too much upside to match the downside the rest of us also have to endure. ( )
1 vote Bookmarque | Jan 17, 2018 |
Lionel Shriver is an excellent writer who can deliver blistering social commentary…. but I must admit I was underwhelmed by her tale of international terrorism. I understand that the characters - with their pious liberality, intellectual pretentions and flexible ethics - are meant to be unlikeable… but it doesn’t make them any easier to read about. (And I thought the plot “twist” was painfully obvious.) ( )
  memccauley6 | May 3, 2016 |
In The New Republic by Lionel Shriver novice journalist/ex-lawyer Edgar Kellogg is offered the temporary post of foreign correspondent for the National Record. His post is in Barba, a fictional part of Portugal, where his assignment is two fold: report on the terrorist activities of the SOB (Os Soldados Ousados de Barba) and find out what happened to enigmatic, charismatic, and missing reporter Barrington Saddler.

When he arrives in Barba, it is apparent that Barrington is exactly the kind of man that Edgar has always envied. Edgar has been asking himself for years why some people are simply more magnetic and irresistible to others. It is clear, talking to Barrington's friends and acquaintances in Barba, that their beloved "Bear" is one of those larger-than-life characters. It is puzzling, though, that terrorist activities have stopped in Barba now that Barrington is missing.

The New Republic was originally written in 1998, but publication was held off because of the terrorism in the novel. As Shriver writes in the Author's Note: "[In 1998] my American compatriots largely dismissed terrorism as Foreigners’ Boring Problem and I was unable to interest an American publisher in the manuscript." Then, post 9/11, she felt that any novel which treated terrorism “with a light touch” would have been “in poor taste.” She is hoping that the novel "can now see print without giving offense."
In the end, though, it is the age of the novel combined with it's light touch and unlikable characters that combine to create a novel that I struggled to enjoy.

First let me make it clear that I appreciate/lionize Lionel Shriver's writing. She deftly always uses the perfect word in every sentence. Her vocabulary is beyond my comprehension. And she is clever. Very clever. All these traits were present in The New Republic. The problem is not with her writing. It's not with the terrorism either. The problem, for me, was found in the sluggish middle of the book, the dated feeling to the novel (with all the reporters working for print publications), and, most especially, in the unlikable characters.

However, questioning the role of journalists is probably more cutting edge than the terrorism and it's too bad Shriver didn't rewrite this novel in order to aim her sharp satire at current journalists, all in a frenzy, following the scent of the day.

If you make it to the end of The New Republic it will redeem itself for the niggling problems it also contains.

Recommended, Highly Recommended for fans of Lionel Shriver

Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from HarperCollins and TLC for review purposes.

( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
I was pleasantly surprised by Lionel Shriver's book "The Post-Birthday World", which I had assumed would be chick-lit fluff and turned out to be something much deeper and more thought provoking. I was hoping that The New Republic would offer more of the same.

The story involves Edgar Kellogg who has spent his entire life looking up to idols who let him into their circle but then kept him firmly at arms length. He gives up his lucrative career as a corporate attorney and flies to the Barba region of Portugal to be a stringer for a New York paper. Once arrived, Kellogg finds that he is once again overshadowed by the journalist whose position he's taking, who disappeared shortly before his arrival. As Edgar begins to have lengthy dialogues with an imagined version of the missing journalist, he takes actions that place him firmly in the center of both the social circle of journalists and of international politics.

As I read this book, I kept hoping that the story would reach some of the emotional truths that I was expecting of this author, however, the absurdity of the story kept taking me out of narrative just enough to void any emotional investment I might have had. The device of having Edgar speak with the disappeared journalist is troublesome because takes away from what should have been a much bigger ending.

My opinion of this book may have suffered from too high expectations. I didn't dislike it...some of the insights on relationships and the nature of terrorist politics were interesting, but it didn't give me the enveloping story I was hoping for. ( )
  elmoelle | Aug 9, 2013 |
Lionel Shriver's 2012 novel, The New Republic, is actually a problematic manuscript with a checkered history. Originally penned in the late 1990s, this psychological novel about terrorism was dismissed by American publishers as too jejune for American readers. Following the attacks on September 11, 2001, and the proceeding years of earnest introspection (at least among literary circles) an ironic take on terrorism and journalism continued to frighten off publishers, until recently. Apparently the social and political climate of 2012 was ripe for an unabashed satire on media sensationalism and terrorism. In the meticulous Shriver style, there are no psychological tables left unflipped and no sociological surfaces left unswiped. Having recently finished Shriver's Orange-Prize winning novel We Need to Talk About Kevin, and loving it, I desperately wanted to love this novel as well. Alas, I didn't. But it's not all bad.

The New Republic is set in the fictional state of Barba, a drab, beard-like (Barba... get it?) appendage of land that extends into the Atlantic Ocean off Portugal's southern coast. Barba has recently become a European hotbed of terrorism under the guise of a paramilitary group known as the SOB – a radical terrorist cell fighting for Barban autonomy from Portugal and claiming responsibility for a seemingly random series of violent international attacks. Due to the rash of attention, foreign correspondents from the world's major media sources have descended on this European backwater previously known only for its unceasing gale-force winds, its tacky souvenir production industry and the hairy pear, a local fruit that is every bit as unappetizing as it sounds.

The foreign correspondents form a Greek chorus of media personalities (or lack thereof. Shriver's two-dimensional take on the members of the foreign press is rife with meaning), producing tired examinations, reasonings and rationales for the violence in lieu of any hard reporting on the ground. Joining this murder of squawking crows is Edgar Kellogg. Kellogg is a greenhorn journalist sent to Barba to replace Barrington Saddler, a larger-than-life personality who has gone missing and who may or may not have a lot more to do with the SOB than simply writing about them.

To read the rest of this review visit my blog: http://taiwaneastcoaster.blogspot.tw/2013/04/the-new-republic.html ( )
  TaiwanRyan | Apr 30, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
An Evelyn Waugh-inspired satire that uses Sept. 11 at its end for a kicker? A comic novel about terrorism featuring a misanthropic hero striving to take credit for deadly bombings around the world? This is the off-putting premise of Lionel Shriver’s very unfunny new novel, “The New Republic.”
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Sent to a Portuguese backwater where a homegrown terrorist movement has recently emerged, foreign correspondent Edgar Kellogg hopes to make a name for himself, but soon discovers that things are not what they seem.

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