The Post-Birthday World – Lionel Shriver

Title: The Post-Birthday World
Author: Lionel Shriver
ISBN: 9780061187896
Pages: 544
Release Date: March 13, 2007
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

From the back cover:

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.

When I first started The Post-Birthday World, I didn’t know what to expect. It was a long book, and within the first 50 pages, I could tell it was going to be a slow novel. However, as I got into it, I realized that it was a meticulously crafted novel that was as provocative as it was intricate.

The Post-Birthday World is basically a story of alternate futures that hinge on a single moment: whether Irina chooses to kiss Ramsey Acton, a man who is friends with her husband. In one future, she doesn’t kiss him and in the other future she does. The split is told in alternating chapters, reviewing the same events through the lens of each future. It’s an incredibly interesting way to tell a story – you don’t have to think “what if” because you know what if.

The end message of The Post-Birthday World is incredibly interesting. Basically, it makes you ask whether it even matters. Yes, one choice can change the events in your life drastically, but will it really change its course? Can one choice change the end result, or will you end at the same place regardless of what choices you make?

The Post-Birthday World is long, but it’s completely engrossing. It’s a very thoughtful book; it would actually make a great book club read. There’s a lot of material here to discuss: in which future was Irina better off? Does her choice actually make a difference? If you’ve read this book, feel free to discuss in the comments (though if your comment contains a spoiler, please say so!)

Comments

  1. Sounds like a good book club pick! As I’m always saying, I like books that make you think or give you fodder for discussion.

  2. Sounds like a good book club pick! As I’m always saying, I like books that make you think or give you fodder for discussion.

  3. I did enjoy this one, but no where near as much as We Need to Talk About Kevin.

    I think the problem was that I didn’t empathise with Irina that much. I thought she was a bit self centred.

    I also began to get bored of the same story essentially being told twice, just from slightly different view points.

    I agree that it is thought provoking, but it could have done with being about 200 pages shorter.

  4. I did enjoy this one, but no where near as much as We Need to Talk About Kevin.

    I think the problem was that I didn’t empathise with Irina that much. I thought she was a bit self centred.

    I also began to get bored of the same story essentially being told twice, just from slightly different view points.

    I agree that it is thought provoking, but it could have done with being about 200 pages shorter.

  5. I really enjoyed We Need to Talk About Kevin and I want to read more of Shriver’s work. The subject of this books sounds almost frivolous by comparison (at least to me, I hate romance stories) so I’m still torn about whether to read it or not. I did enjoy hearing your thoughts on it though.

  6. I really enjoyed We Need to Talk About Kevin and I want to read more of Shriver’s work. The subject of this books sounds almost frivolous by comparison (at least to me, I hate romance stories) so I’m still torn about whether to read it or not. I did enjoy hearing your thoughts on it though.

  7. That does sound like a book that would make you think. I think the cover is fantastic, too.

  8. That does sound like a book that would make you think. I think the cover is fantastic, too.

  9. This sounds like my kind of book. Thanks for the heads up on the slow start!

  10. This sounds like my kind of book. Thanks for the heads up on the slow start!

  11. Oh this sounds like it could be a really interesting read, especially since I love the cover. Thanks for the review! 🙂

  12. Oh this sounds like it could be a really interesting read, especially since I love the cover. Thanks for the review! 🙂

  13. I couldn’t get into this one. It was just too slow from the get-go.

  14. I couldn’t get into this one. It was just too slow from the get-go.

  15. Ain’t that a BIG bulk 🙂 BUt if it is worth the time, I will definitely pick it up!

  16. Ain’t that a BIG bulk 🙂 BUt if it is worth the time, I will definitely pick it up!

  17. Have you read “We Need to Talk About Kevin” also by Shriver? I felt the same way about it; a slow read but very engrossing. Sounds like this is one that’s worth the effort as well.

  18. Have you read “We Need to Talk About Kevin” also by Shriver? I felt the same way about it; a slow read but very engrossing. Sounds like this is one that’s worth the effort as well.

  19. I’m intrigued by the structure. I read We Need to Talk About Kevin by Shriver, and that was a slow book that I almost put down but ended up liking a lot. I’ll have to read this one at some point.

    –Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

  20. I’m intrigued by the structure. I read We Need to Talk About Kevin by Shriver, and that was a slow book that I almost put down but ended up liking a lot. I’ll have to read this one at some point.

    –Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

  21. I’ve had this one on my shelf for quite a while and the size of it has put me off.

  22. I’ve had this one on my shelf for quite a while and the size of it has put me off.

  23. I really enjoyed this, although I felt the end dragged a bit. And I agree – the ending was very thought-provoking!

  24. I really enjoyed this, although I felt the end dragged a bit. And I agree – the ending was very thought-provoking!

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