I loved We Need to Talk About Kevin, so was really looking forward to reading this one. Unfortunately it didn’t quite live up to expectations, but was still a great read.
The Post-Birthday World follows Irina, who is in a long term relationship with Lawrence. One night Lawrence is away and Irina goes to dinner with Ramsey, her friend’s ex-husband. The first chapter ends with Irina almost kissing Ramsey. The book then splits into two sections. Alternating chapters show Irina in parallel worlds. In one world she kisses Ramsey that night, whereas in the other she doesn’t. It is a great idea for a book, and shows how one tiny decision can have a massive effect on your life.
The main focus of the book is relationships. I loved the detailed analysis of how couples interact with each other and the character observations. Every character was well formed and behaved realistically. I have to admit that I got bored by Ramsey’s snooker playing (I’m not a big fan!) but I guess we’re are meant to, as we are supposed to be empathising with Irina, who also has to endure watching the snooker.
I was going to say that the book felt very dated, but it progressed to end only a few years ago. The first half of the book was set in 1996/1997 and the news stories and technology were very obvious. I guess the fact it felt so dated was actually the great skill of Lionel Shriver in setting the scene for that period in history so accurately. It feels weird saying that a book set only 12 years ago feels dated, but when you are reading about small news items, which I have long since forgotten about, it really shows.
I also felt that the book was a bit long. By the half way point the novelty of the two different worlds had worn off, and I began to get bored by having to read the same events happening twice, but from the two different perspectives. I felt that the book could have benefitted from losing about 200 of it’s 500 pages.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book, but if you only read one Lionel Shriver book, make sure it is We Need to Talk About Kevin.
Warning: This book contains many scenes of a sexual nature, so avoid it if you don’t like that sort of thing.
I have heard that these are the best two Lionel Shriver books. Have you read any of the others? If so, are they as good?