Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Book Review: Big Brother by Lionel Shriver

I loved Lionel Shriver's We Need To Talk About Kevin but afterwards I did not reach for other of Ms. Shriver's books, perhaps because the emotions of that book were so sharp and raw. This book is for my book club so I didn't have the choice, and I am so glad! I now have several more of Ms. Shriver's books on my To Read list. Her writing is so impressively on-point and precise and it cuts deeply. I found myself frequently reading passages aloud or over and over to myself. And they don't have to be long to make you intake breath sharply with her acute observations. Take this example: “The Web, the great time-killer that had replaced conspicuously passive television with its seductive illusion of productivity.” Yes. It is so true. Once when we goofed off, we couldn't pretend we were doing anything but. Now, when I am caught by my husband playing solitaire, I quickly flip the phone from horizontal to vertical, pretending I was checking email.

She is also sharp in picking her topics. They're not ripped-from-the-headlines in the way of Law & Order or Jodi Picoult's novels, but instead she picks the topics that are not only very relevant, but that everyone is afraid to talk about. In this book, it's obesity. Pandora goes to the airport to pick up her brother, Edison, and at first is saddened to see a grotesquely overweight passenger being wheeled to baggage claim in a wheelchair, and then is disgusted and horrified when she realizes this person she was just pitying is Edison, almost 400 pounds.

I don't want to give too much away as you should just read the book, but I'll say that sibling relationships are a huge theme of the book, as is the temptation and fleeting nature of fame. I was a little disappointed that a couple of the secondary characters felt like afterthoughts. They weren't in the book enough given their stated importance, but they weren't in it little enough to just be passing references, namely Oliver and Solstice. But that's a minor quibble with an otherwise masterful novel. The ending smacked me in the face, but I can't say it was such a shock that I didn't buy it. I'm sure some people will have a big problem with the ending, but I was okay with it. I am excited to hear what the rest of my book club thought of it.

I will leave you with a couple other choice lines that made me pause in my reading:
“But what's so great about being a perfectionist?... You do all this work, and then the stuff you've made just pisses you off.”
“Maybe the greatest favor a spouse can tender is to overlook what you can't.”

This book was fantastic. Like a decadent chocolate cake. Although it made me work out more while I was reading it. Read it now.

I checked this book out of the library.

1 comment:

Booksnyc said...

I loved this one too - it made me uncomfortable at times which is the mark of a great book. I haven't read any of the author's other books but put them on my list following this one.

I am sure it will be an interesting book club discussion.