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The New Republic: A Novel Hardcover – March 27, 2012
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“[Shriver’s] whip-smart observations—about relationships, the role of the media, the cult of personality are funny and on the mark.” (People)
“In her latest novel, Lionel Shriver pays homage to Joseph Conrad—examining terrorism, media bloodlust, and the cult of personality through an unexpected lens of satire.” (Marie Claire, Four New Page-Turners to Keep Bedside)
“A very funny book, but the laughs are embedded in a deeply disturbing subject.” (NPR, "Weekend Edition")
“Shriver is cursed with knowing the human animal all too well. The New Republic is satire of a Shriver kind, that is to say biting.” (Miami Herald)
“Lionel Shriver, the author of the harrowing and patient We Need to Talk About Kevin, delivers something altogether different: a callous and romping political and journalistic satire.” (The Daily Beast-- This Week's Hot Reads)
“Shriver is one of the sharpest talents around.” (USA Today)
“Witty, caustic and worldly, [Shriver] is a raconteur who could show even Barrington Saddler a thing or two about entertaining a crowd.” (Wall Street Journal)
“Shriver has been a National Book Award finalist with good reason: Her page-turners examine serious issues.” (Reader's Digest Recommends)
“A wondrously fanciful plot, vividly drawn characters, clever and cynical dialogue, and a comically brilliant and verisimilar imagined land. . . . The New Republic is simply terrific.” (Booklist (starred review))
“The dialogue zings and the writing is jazzy. . . . [Shriver] can toss off a sharp sketch of a passing character in a phrase, and she’s got a gimlet eye for what’s phony, or affected, or even touchingly vain in human behavior.” (Entertainment Weekly)
From the Back Cover
Ostracized as a kid, Edgar Kellogg has always yearned to be popular. A disgruntled New York corporate lawyer, he's more than ready to leave his lucrative career for the excitement and uncertainty of journalism. When he's offered the post of foreign correspondent in a Portuguese backwater that has sprouted a homegrown terrorist movement, Edgar recognizes the disappeared larger-than-life reporter he's been sent to replace, Barrington Saddler, as exactly the outsize character he longs to emulate. Infuriatingly, all his fellow journalists cannot stop talking about their beloved "Bear," who is no longer lighting up their work lives.
Yet all is not as it appears. Os Soldados Ousados de Barba—"The Daring Soldiers of Barba"—have been blowing up the rest of the world for years in order to win independence for a province so dismal, backward, and windblown that you couldn't give the rat hole away. So why, with Barrington vanished, do terrorist incidents claimed by the "SOB" suddenly dry up?
A droll, playful novel, The New Republic addresses weighty issues like terrorism with the deft, tongue-in-cheek touch that is vintage Shriver. It also presses the more intimate question: What makes particular people so magnetic, while the rest of us inspire a shrug? What's their secret? And in the end, who has the better life—the admired, or the admirer?
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Shriver is a gifted writer who has deftly mixed the pacing and plot turns of a political thriller with mordant comedy and deep character study in way that will not appeal to all readers. It is not like Shriver's other books--and it is. It is written with the same intelligence and insight into her characters, but its tragi-comic narrative will bother some. As a writer on terrorism and sometime resident of Portugal, this novel was virtually assigned reading for me, but it turned out to be a delicious duty.
Refreshingly original, impossible to classify, but written with panache, the story is peopled by believable characters in an unreal setting who can say, "You would have thought me gormless," and be convincing. It also turns a bright light on a dark corner of the human psyche, that part that idolizes and imitates, that impels some to pursue the impossible, to try to become someone else and in trying construct an artful but burdensome facade.
This is definitely a book that must be approached with an open mind and without expectations. Read without prejudice, it is a rewarding romp that leaves a rich aftertaste and even invites rereading.
I hate to do this negative review because I loved ..Kevin and enjoyed So Much for That, but I suspect this novel wasn't published earlier is simply because: It is not a very good novel.
The themes of terrorism and social cult of personality's jarr together despite in theory being ideal partners. Our cynical protag, Edgar is relate-able, but uncompelling, and the clunky prose makes a 400ish page novel feel like George RR Martin.
All in all, Shriver almost creates something special here, a fun-poking piece that could've been the modern catch-22. Instead we have a mash of humour, philosophical ramblings, and cynical introspection.
Personality examination is woven around a central theme of terrorism incorporating Shrivers trademark sarcasm and exaggeration. It does not disappoint for true Shriver fans who are impressed with her use of language, preposturous stories and satisfying endings.