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The Post-Birthday World Hardcover – March 13, 2007

125 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The smallest details of staid coupledom duel it out with a lusty alternate reality that begins when a woman passes up an opportunity to cheat on her longtime boyfriend in Shriver's latest (after the Orange Prize–winning We Need to Talk About Kevin). Irina McGovern, a children's book illustrator in London, lives in comfortable familiarity with husband-in-everything-but-marriage-certificate Lawrence Trainer, and every summer the two have dinner with their friend, the professional snooker player Ramsey Acton, to celebrate Ramsey's birthday. One year, following Ramsey's divorce and while terrorism specialist "think tank wonk" Lawrence is in Sarajevo on business, Irina and Ramsey have dinner, and after cocktails and a spot of hash, Irina is tempted to kiss Ramsey. From this near-smooch, Shriver leads readers on a two-pronged narrative: one consisting of what Irina imagines would have happened if she had given in to temptation, the other showing Irina staying with Lawrence while fantasizing about Ramsey. With Jamesian patience, Shriver explores snooker tournaments and terrorism conferences, passionate lovemaking and passionless sex, and teases out her themes of ambition, self-recrimination and longing. The result is an impressive if exhausting novel. (Mar.)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Critics had divided reactions to Lionel Shriver's latest novel (after the Orange Prize?winning We Need to Talk About Kevin, ***1/2 Sept/Oct 2003). Though most considered her use of the dual narrative a clever literary device, not all agreed that it worked. Some found the alternating storylines confusing, while others were bored by the exhaustively catalogued details of Irina's everyday life. The Post-Birthday World doesn't provide easy answers to the questions it raises about relationships. Irina, however, proves to be a well-rounded, sympathetic character, and the relative failure or success of her dueling destinies depends as much on the reader's point of view as it does on her own. At 528 pages, Shriver's novel is a hefty examination of the possibilities—and regrets—in the decisions we make every day.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 517 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1st edition (March 13, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061187844
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061187841
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (125 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #594,471 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lionel Shriver is a novelist whose previous books include Orange Prize-winner We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Post-Birthday World, A Perfectly Good Family, Game Control, Double Fault, The Female of the Species, Checker and the Derailleurs, and Ordinary Decent Criminals.

She is widely published as a journalist, writing features, columns, op-eds, and book reviews for the Guardian, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, the Economist, Marie Claire, and many other publications.

She is frequently interviewed on television, radio, and in print media. She lives in London and Brooklyn, NY.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Mary Lins TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Lionel Shriver's new novel, "The Post-Birthday World" can be compared to the film "Sliding Doors" in that it follows protagonist Irina McGovern down two possible life's paths. Irina is a children's illustrator happily living in London with her long-time partner, Lawrence. On night, after too many drinks and a few tokes, she has an overwhelming urge to kiss an acquaintance, Ramsey, who happens to be a famous snooker player. For the rest of the novel, we are treated to alternate realities; one chapter where she has given in to her desire to kiss Ramsey and the resulting impact on her life and her relationship, and the next chapter where she has resisted temptation and those results on her life.

The alternate realities/story lines are well written, and cunningly related to each other and often over-lapping. Most interesting is the way Shriver builds the character of Lawrence and how differently he is meant to be perceived by the reader in each scenario; the Lawrence that Irina is faithful to is much less likeable that poor cuckolded Lawrence.

I am a huge fan of "We Need to Talk About Kevin" and Shriver's pitch-perfect use of the unreliable narrator. In "The Post-Birthday World" Shriver's prose is a real treat, reminiscent of the days when gifted writers took the time and effort to set a scene and to lay out a plot that gently urged the reader to turn "just one more page".
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127 of 147 people found the following review helpful By Gregory Baird VINE VOICE on March 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Being a fan of Lionel Shriver's previous novel, "We Need to Talk About Kevin", I was thrilled to find that she had a new novel out. I was even more intrigued by the novel's beguiling plot: Irina McGovern, a forty-something ex-pat living in London, finds herself at a crossroads, and the novel proceeds in two separate directions. Irina has been in an almost ten year relationship with Lawrence Trainer that has settled into a comfortable if stultifying groove. He's sturdy, reliable, intelligent, and reasonably attractive, but he's also stubborn, judgmental, strict, and their relationship has become exceptionally passionless. He won't even marry Irina because he's against marriage. Enter Ramsey Acton, a beguiling pro Snooker player that is Lawrence's polar opposite: smoldering to Lawrence's blandness, passionate to Lawrence's stoicism, daring where Lawrence is cautious. And here lies the predicament that Irina finds herself in after being left alone with Ramsey for his annual birthday dinner: give in to fiery, passionate temptation ... or remain loyal to the tried-and-true life she has grown accustomed to.

Thus, in storyline 'A' Irina gives in to temptation and leaves Lawrence for Ramsey, while in storyline 'B' she takes smug satisfaction in her own strength of character and loyalty. For a while the back and forth is quite enchanting and clever, and the reader delights in Shriver's carefully concocted parallel structure. But by page 300 those very same parallels that were intriguing and smart become oppressive to the plot and render it hopelessly predictable.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on August 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I read so many glowing reviews and the premise is such an intriguing one. Who hasn't pondered where different choices might have taken them? And some parts of it are astonishingly good. My favorite line and I think it's where the character goes home for the holidays: "God, cheerfulness can be a form of assault." That's just one of many bull's eye moments. The author has very sharp insight into the intricacies of human emotion, maybe too much at times. A top editor could have really worked this one out. I'm really losing faith in editors and book reviewers these days. She stretches the conceit as far as it can go, breaking a lot of "writer" rules as she goes along - feels more rebellious than sloppy - and it works often enough to prove those rules to be needlessly limiting. There are spots of pure writer's gold every few pages. So much of Irina's inner dialogue is dark and witty, laugh out loud stuff that rings true.

The down side is that the really good parts cast the rest of it in shadow. I'm not one who has to fall in love and totally relate to the main character, but I found Irina to be stupid and unlikable. The men are bland stock characters. Ramsey's dialogue makes it sound like she's romancing Hagrid. He is an unsophisticated emotional imbecile, who YES we get it, is good in the sack. The characterization of Lawrence is no better. He is either dull but trustworthy and true or he is dull and hiding something. I'm curious why anyone would fashion such a trio of losers. But the main character is so awful as to be puzzling. Was it the author's intention to write about a stupid and shallow woman who will invariably shoot herself in the foot no matter what she does? Would she like to know the character she created? I wouldn't.
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50 of 59 people found the following review helpful By M. Nunn on March 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
An interesting (if not new) premise, easy to read prose, and the author's ability to articulate and individualize to her protaganist a common discussion many women have with themselves (and each other) keep the reader hooked until the last page of The Post Birthday World.

That discussion- whether a calm, stable, yet less than erotically fulfilling relationship is better than a volatile yet sexually fulfilling one is explored here by the author using alternating chapters that show "Irina's" life at particular places-first if she leaves her long-term partner after kissing another man, and then if she remains after deciding not to kiss him.

To the author's credit, she avoids many cliches and stereotypes associated with the "stable but boring" man and the "sexy but unpredictable" man, and avoids moralizing about fidelity. Although we are only privy to Irina's interior thoughts, Shriver does an excellent job of creating fully-fleshed out characters- not only with Irina and her two men- Lawrence and Ramsey, but with some of the more minor characters as well, such as Irina's mother and sister, and Ramsey's ex-wife.

Irina's feelings are depicted realistically. Any woman who has been in love with a man she knew was probably not good for her, but couldn't help herself, and/or complacent and mostly content, if not completely satisfied with another will empathize with Irina's turbulence and soul-searching. Some readers may even find her experience agonizing.

Although I was riveted by this story and couldn't put the book down, I can't say that reading it was very pleasant; in fact I felt a faint hint of indigestion while reading it.
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