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The Post-Birthday World (2007)

de Lionel Shriver

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1,650597,816 (3.56)69
A tale told from the parallel perspectives of two possible timelines considers the life of American expatriate Irina McGovern, who in one reality stays faithful to her disciplined American intellectual partner, and in the other runs off with an exuberant British friend.
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» Mira també 69 mencions

Es mostren 1-5 de 58 (següent | mostra-les totes)
Irina y Lawrence son dos americanos que viven en Londres. El es un intelectual, ella que ha venido de Londres a la zaga de el, ilustra libros para niños.
  socogarv | Apr 2, 2021 |
There are "choose-your-own-adventure" books for children in which the story has different outcomes depending on the choices made while reading and being prompted to pick one decision or another. There are also similar books for adults -- a series called "Do-Over Novels" recently came through the library but when I tried one, the character ended up being run over by a taxi in India. This novel is a spin-off of that concept.

Irina McGovern is a Russian-American expat living in London with her long-time boyfriend, Lawrence. She is an illustrator of childrens' books, and he an intellectual working for Blue Sky Institute, a think-tank, where he studies and researches international relations. Lawrence, a fan of of the pool-like British sport snooker, is pleased to learn that one of Irina's collaborators, Jude, is married to Ramsey Acton, who is somewhat of a star in the snooker world. This acquaintance eventually becomes a sort of friendship, and the four of them have a standing appointment to meet for Ramsey's birthday each year. One year, Ramsey's birthday falls just after he and Jude have separated; with Lawrence out of town for work, Irina feels obligated to take Ramsey out to dinner, and meets him at a Japanese restaurant, where they proceed to get sloshed, and, after going to Ramsey's house, stoned. From here the story diverges: in one version of the post-birthday world, Irina falls hard for Ramsey, leaving Lawrence and abandoning herself to a tumultuous but passionate marriage. In the other, Irina resists temptation, growing in appreciation for Lawrence's steadfast niceness, admiring from afar the success of their friend-turned-acquaintance.

I will admit that it took me a while to warm up to this book. The alternating chapters made it a little confusing to follow the storyline in each world. And unlike the previous novel by Shriver that I had read, the characters did not immediately provoke any feelings in me, though as the novel progressed and the contrast between the two worlds increased, the poignancy of the smallest decisions became more evident, and I was drawn into the story. Though the events are obviously not identical in each world, they are mirrored and reflected in different ways to highlight the impact of Irina's decision on the lives of the three pivotal characters. I liked seeing the way that Irina's relationship with the two men played out in both worlds -- the personality traits and the characteristics of each becoming beloved and irritating in turns. But more than anything, the Frostian "road not taken" is something that haunts me personally, and to see it played out in a realistic, brutally honest, and consequence-laden story, and to know that there are no neat, happy endings -- this makes a great novel.

--------------------------------

Reread, 2018: When I first read this book, I had just been unceremoniously dumped by my first real "adult" partner; I'm now just completing my first year of marriage to a different partner. In the intervening years, I've come to conclude that while Lionel Shriver as a person is a problematic favorite, I deeply appreciate that she does not shy away from the brutal application of the unreliable narrator and the Picardian philosophy that it is possible to make all the right choices and still lose (though, from the safe distance outside the book's covers, it is easy to scream in frustration about the wrong decisions her characters make). This book is one of the few that reliably wrings me out and leaves me a little teary (though at different chapters, and for different reasons each time). ( )
  resoundingjoy | Jan 1, 2021 |
I was bored to tears with this one and only read 50 pages. It was a great concept (Sliding Doors-type story about a woman who's life could go in completely different directions based on who she kisses on her birthday), but the author just couldn't hold my attention. It was too long and not one of the characters was likable or even compelling. Blech.
  JustZelma | Dec 20, 2020 |
Kept reading this book just to find out how the author was going to do the ending which did help it get another star! The parallel stories confused me until I realized the author's purpose. I liked Lawrence for the first half of the book but then when he questioned getting married which you knew was an issue after 10 years, he started to show his true flaws. You were aware immediately of the snooker player Ramsey and his life style that created his flaws. Could not like Irina with her needs for a man just to have sex everyday, how her interest in her illustrator career fluctuated. ( )
  kshydog | Dec 13, 2020 |
Irina and Lionel are an American ex-pat couple living in London. Early 40s, childless, he something high-up in international relations, she a children's illustrator. When, at a birthday party for casual friend Ramsay Acton- an attractive, older snooker star from the East End - Irina realises with a jolt that she is highly attracted to him, two possible futures open up...one of adultery or of quiet devotion to her longterm partner.
The book then provides two of each chapter- one following Irina as she acts on her desires...and the ultimate result. One as she resolves (always with a wistful pang) to steer well clear.
What could have been just a chick-lit tale was, in Ms Shriver's hands, a reflection on how life is, with no easy answers or clear-cut winners.
I have to say I thought snooker player Ramsay was particularly well-drawn....from the first introduction of the character, I envisaged him as a Duncan Bannantyne lookalike (too much Dragon's Den!) ( )
  starbox | Jun 26, 2020 |
Es mostren 1-5 de 58 (següent | mostra-les totes)
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.
afegit per DieFledermaus | editaThe 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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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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A tale told from the parallel perspectives of two possible timelines considers the life of American expatriate Irina McGovern, who in one reality stays faithful to her disciplined American intellectual partner, and in the other runs off with an exuberant British friend.

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