2011: 109. The Post Birthday World

"What began as coincidence has crystallized into tradition: on the sixth of July they would have dinner with Ramsey Acton on his birthday."

The Post Birthday World, Lionel Shriver 

      This is an alternate history story, a literary Sliding Doors.  It starts with Irina, an American happily living in London with her public policy wonk boyfriend, going out to dinner with their friend (more of an acquaintance, really), Ramsey Acton.  Ramsey is a famous snooker player, who was once married to Irina's co-author (she illustrates children's books).  They'd falled into the habit of going out to dinner with him on his birthday, and, while Irina isn't even really that much of a fan, she finds herself taking him out alone one year when her boyfriend is out of town.  They end up hitting it off, and things escalate - and then Ramsey kisses her.  Or, he doesn't - because reality splits, and every other chapter alternates, one in the world where Irina is kissed, one where she is not.  It's a gimmick, sure, but Shriver carries it off, and manages to make both stories compelling.

         I really enjoyed this book, which sort of surprised me, since I was so disturbed by We Need To Talk About Kevin.  Or, perhaps it makes sense - a book that bothers you so much obviously has merit, right?  (But seriously Kevin.  Ugh.  What a disturbing book).  I will say, like Kevin (though obviously not as much as Kevin), it's a little dark.  What I mean is, the things that happen seemed, to me, a maybe a little more horrible than real life is.  Not melodramatically terrible, but everyone was a little nastier, and life a littler grimmer than I think it is.  Or maybe I'm just lucky and boring.  But that aside, Shriver manages to take a gimmick and make it work as a novel, and I recommend it. 

Categories:  Fiction; Library Book

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017