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The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver
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The Post-Birthday World (2007)

by Lionel Shriver

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Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
Irina and her partner, Lawrence, have slowly developed the tradition of having dinner with snooker star Ramsey Acton and his wife, Jude, every year on Ramsey's birthday. Even after Ramsey's divorce from Jude, the tradition continues even though Jude was the person that connected them. But one year, Lawrence is away on the usual date. As a snooker fan he's unwilling to let the connection go and so he pushes Irina to have dinner with Ramsey solo. On that fateful evening Irina finds herself with a rogue impulse to kiss Ramsey. What will happen if she gives in to the impulse or if she remains true to Lawrence?

The friend who recommended this novel to me got me to pick it up by comparing it to the film Sliding Doors (highly underrated flick). The novel takes a parallel universe approach exploring what becomes of Irina when she makes the choice to kiss Ramsey and when she refrains. In alternating chapters we see how Irina's life unfolds with all its differences and strange parallels. There's a lot of fun in seeing how Shriver plays with the two timelines and uses them to comment on each other. While the novel is worth picking up just to enjoy the narrative structure, the prose itself is beautiful. A fascinating exploration of how our choices make us who we are. ( )
  MickyFine | Dec 27, 2016 |
Could a single kiss change your life?

No, not for Sleeping Beauty, but for Irina Galina McGovern a children’s book illustrator living with her long-time boyfriend in London. Much is made of the fact that after 9 years she and Lawrence have not married. They have a mutual friend, Ramsey Acton and his wife Jude and on Ramsey’s birthday the couples have gone out to dinner. No one particularly has a good time, but the tradition remains even after Jude and Ramsey divorce (and Jude and Irina have a huge fight themselves). One year, Lawrence is out of town and encourages Irina to go out with Ramsey solo. After too much to drink they repair to his house for a wee joint. There, over the snooker table, comes the kiss.

Or does it? Shriver presents us with two alternatives; yes they kiss, no they don’t. Each chapter covers one particular scenario (with shaded or unshaded chapter number colophons to go with, a device used a bit cleverly for the last chapter). The same basic events occur in each scenario only in a lot of cases they are completely reversed. One person starts a particular fight and takes a particular side, in the other timeline those words are in the other person’s mouth. There are incidents, setbacks and triumphs; all standing opposite each other.

For the most part it works. I was quite interested in seeing how Shriver could spin the same argument for different sides. The writing is very strong and there are some good insights and the characterizations are all sharp and, at least for me, believable. If you pay attention though, some of the things that take place aren’t surprises if you can deduce the opposite from what came before. And truthfully I got tired of all the fighting; Irina v. Ramsey and Irina v. mom. I almost skimmed the Christmas scenes with her family in Brighton Beach. But it passed and things came to a head. It wraps with a bit more optimism than is warranted given how much of a downer a lot of the book is, but I guess Irina could use a break. ( )
  Bookmarque | Sep 24, 2016 |
Maybe a 2 1/2, not quite a 3. It was a long book, I kind of pushed my way through, mainly to follow the premise to its conclusion. The story is told in alternating chapters about two possible paths that could have been the result of making a different choice at a critical point in time- whether Irina (not married but 9 years committed,) kisses or not kissed a friend on his birthday. It seemed a little snooty to me, but I followed through. ( )
  thukpa | Feb 6, 2016 |
Maybe a 2 1/2, not quite a 3. It was a long book, I kind of pushed my way through, mainly to follow the premise to its conclusion. The story is told in alternating chapters about two possible paths that could have been the result of making a different choice at a critical point in time- whether Irina (not married but 9 years committed,) kisses or not kissed a friend on his birthday. It seemed a little snooty to me, but I followed through. ( )
  thukpa | Feb 6, 2016 |
Maybe a 2 1/2, not quite a 3. It was a long book, I kind of pushed my way through, mainly to follow the premise to its conclusion. The story is told in alternating chapters about two possible paths that could have been the result of making a different choice at a critical point in time- whether Irina (not married but 9 years committed,) kisses or not kissed a friend on his birthday. It seemed a little snooty to me, but I followed through. ( )
  thukpa | Feb 5, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
There's a sense of events playing out in neat, parallel tracks, as if predetermined - which you might want them to do, under certain circumstances. But a bit of chaos is much more fun, both in life and in fiction.
 
In alternating chapters, Shriver allows her heroine both futures, and the result is a playful, psychologically acute, and luxuriously textured meditation on the nature of love.
added by DieFledermaus | editThe New Yorker (Apr 2, 2007)
 
It's a tantalizing endeavor that often includes a great deal of repetitive detail. In lesser hands, this technique would fail. But Shriver's adept, simultaneous narratives rarely stumble.
 
Shriver’s previous novel, “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” won Britain’s Orange Prize in 2005. That book — featuring a teenage boy who brings a crossbow to school and kills his classmates — was a riveting, carefully considered meditation on maternal ambivalence. But she seems to have rushed out this new book, churning through tired themes of infidelity and regret without offering fresh insight or even an entertaining story. “The Post-Birthday World” will only leave readers feeling snookered.
 
In the case of Lionel Shriver’s engaging new novel, “The Post-Birthday World,” Irina McGovern discovers herself torn between two men: her serious, responsible and boring partner, Lawrence, a self-made intellectual who works at a London think tank; and their mutual friend Ramsey, a world class snooker player, who is romantic, charming and self-absorbed. In alternating chapters, Ms. Shriver lays out Irina’s two futures: one in which she stays with Lawrence, and one in which she leaves to marry Ramsey. Neither plot ends the way the reader — or Irina — might expect.
 
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Nobody's perfect.
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What began as a coincidence had crystallized into tradition: on the sixth of July, they would have dinner with Ramsey Acton on his birthday.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061187844, Hardcover)

In this eagerly awaited new novel, Lionel Shriver, the Orange Prize-winning author of the international bestseller We Need to Talk About Kevin, delivers an imaginative and entertaining look at the implications, large and small, of whom we choose to love. Using a playful parallel-universe structure, The Post-Birthday World follows one woman's future as it unfolds under the influence of two drastically different men.

Children's book illustrator Irina McGovern enjoys a quiet and settled life in London with her partner, fellow American expatriate Lawrence Trainer, a smart, loyal, disciplined intellectual at a prestigious think tank. To their small circle of friends, their relationship is rock solid. Until the night Irina unaccountably finds herself dying to kiss another man: their old friend from South London, the stylish, extravagant, passionate top-ranking snooker player Ramsey Acton. The decision to give in to temptation will have consequences for her career, her relationships with family and friends, and perhaps most importantly the texture of her daily life.

Hinging on a single kiss, this enchanting work of fiction depicts Irina's alternating futures with two men temperamentally worlds apart yet equally honorable. With which true love Irina is better off is neither obvious nor easy to determine, but Shriver's exploration of the two destinies is memorable and gripping. Poignant and deeply honest, written with the subtlety and wit that are the hallmarks of Shriver's work, The Post-Birthday World appeals to the what-if in us all.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:51 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"Children's book illustrator Irina McGovern enjoys a quiet and settled life in London with her partner, fellow American expatriate Lawrence Trainer, a smart, loyal, disciplined intellectual at a prestigious think tank. To their small circle of friends, their relationship is rock solid. Until the night Irina unaccountably finds herself dying to kiss another man: their old friend from South London, the stylish, extravagant, passionate top-ranking snooker player Ramsey Acton. The decision to give in to temptation will have consequences for her career, her relationships with family and friends, and perhaps most importantly the texture of her daily life."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

» see all 6 descriptions

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