Lionel Shriver

Lionel Shriver

Like most people I first came across Lionel Shriver when I read We Need to Talk about Kevin. This really is a remarkable book and well deserving of the Orange Prize. It’s an absolute must read – no question about it. I refuse to say more than that given the nature of the plot, except that if you are unsure about having kids, probably best not to read it.

I’ve also read The Post-Birthday World, Double Fault and So Much for That. The Post-Birthday World is my favourite of them all. The main character Irina faces a Hobson’s choice of whether to stay with her (immensely irritating in my view) academic partner, or to make a new life with the ex-husband of a friend, who is on the surface a much more attractive alternative, except that he is impossible to be in a relationship with.

As he is a famous snooker player she is drawn into a competitive world of late nights and never seeing daylight (whilst the reader learns a whole lot about professional snooker as they do about tennis in the much less enjoyable in my view Double Fault). But in every alternate chapter she has instead chosen to stay with her academic partner, also no picnic.

This is a Sliding Doors kind of book and is brilliant to switch between her two opposing choices to see how both pan out. There are no easy answers here and it’s an intricate view of relationships, as are all of her books.

So Much for That has a premise that sounds pretty depressing as fundamentally it’s about watching someone you love die, but it is brilliantly written, filled with humour, is very honest about trade-offs in relationships and has some extremely moving scenes of how to deal well with death.

I also confess to just thinking Lionel Shriver is really cool. I enjoy the journalistic pieces she writes in The Guardian and like her refreshing take on life sans children, a take you don’t find openly spoken about much.