Post-Birthday World

Post-Birthday World

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Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver, Tanya Eby

“The Post-Birthday World is a brilliant ‘what if?’ novel. But that barely scrapes the surface in describing Shriver’s imaginative feat. . . .It’s mad genius. . . . A tour de force.” – USA Today

American children’s book illustrator Irina McGovern enjoys a secure, settled life in London with her smart, loyal, disciplined partner, Lawrence – until the night she finds herself inexplicably drawn to kissing another man, a passionate, extravagant, top-ranked snooker player. Two competing alternate futures hinge on this single kiss, as Irina’s decision – to surrender to temptation or to preserve her seemingly safe partnership with Lawrence – will have momentous consequences for her career, her friendships and familial relationships, and the texture of her daily life.

“A playful, psychologically acute, and luxuriously textured meditation on the nature of love.” – The New Yorker

“Outstanding. . . . Shriver, a brilliant and versatile writer, allows these competing stories to unfold organically, each a fully rounded drama, rich with irony, ambiguity, and unforeseeable human complications.” – Entertainment Weekly

“[A] wonderful new novel. . . . The rewards for sticking with these five-hundred-plus pages are as delicious as one of Irina’s feasts.” – Washington Post Book World

“Book clubs across the USA should be buying up stacks of Lionel Shriver’s dazzling Rubik’s Cube of a novel. . . . Even if you’re a solitary reader, file this one under Books That Will Have You Talking – to yourself.” – USA Today

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781423360926
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication date: 06/29/2009
Edition description: Unabridged
Pages: 9
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.00(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Lionel Shriver's books include The Post-Birthday World, Game Control, and the Orange Prize-winning We Need to Talk About Kevin. She writes frequently for the Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, and The Independent. She lives in London.


Brooklyn, New York, and London, England

Date of Birth:

May 18, 1957

Place of Birth:

Gastonia, North Carolina


B.A., Barnard College of Columbia University, 1978; M.F.A. in Fiction Writing, Columbia University, 1982

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

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

Five years earlier, Irina had been collaborating with Ramsey's then-wife, Jude Hartford, on a children's book. Jude had made social overtures. Abjuring the airy we-really-must-get-together-sometime feints common to London, which can carry on indefinitely without threatening to clutter your diary with a real time and place, Jude had seemed driven to nail down a foursome so that her illustrator could meet her husband, Ramsey. Or, no—she'd said, "My husband, Ramsey Acton." The locution had stood out. Irina assumed that Jude was prideful in that wearing feminist way about the fact that she'd not taken her husband's surname.

But then, it is always difficult to impress the ignorant. When negotiating with Lawrence over the prospective dinner back in 1992, Irina didn't know enough to mention, "Believe it or not, Jude's married to Ramsey Acton." For once Lawrence might have bolted for his Economist day-planner, instead of grumbling that if she had to schmooze for professional reasons, could she at least schedule an early dinner so that he could get back in time for NYPD Blue. Not realizing that she had been bequeathed two magic words that would vanquish Lawrence's broad hostility to social engagements, Irina had said instead, "Jude wants me to meet her husband, Raymond or something."

Yet when the date she proposed turned out to be "Raymond or something's" birthday, Jude insisted that more would be merrier. Once returned to bachelorhood, Ramsey let slip enough details about his marriage forIrina to reconstruct: after a couple of years, they could not carry a conversation for longer than five minutes. Jude had leapt at the chance to avoid a sullen, silent dinner just the two of them.

Which Irina found baffling. Ramsey always seemed pleasant enough company, and the strange unease he always engendered in Irina herself would surely abate if you were married to the man. Maybe Jude had loved dragging Ramsey out to impress colleagues but was not sufficiently impressed on her own behalf. One-on-one he had bored her silly.

Besides, Jude's exhausting gaiety had a funny edge of hysteria about it, and simply wouldn't fly—would slide inevitably to the despair that lay beneath it—without that quorum of four. When you cocked only half an ear to her uproarious discourse, it was hard to tell if she was laughing or crying. Though she did laugh a great deal, including through most of her sentences, her voice rising in pitch as she drove herself into ever accelerating hilarity when nothing she had said was funny. It was a compulsive, deflective laughter, born of nerves more than humor, a masking device and therefore a little dishonest. Yet her impulse to put a brave, bearable face on what must have been a profound unhappiness was sympathetic. Her breathless mirth pushed Irina in the opposite direction—to speak soberly, to keep her voice deep and quiet, if only to demonstrate that it was acceptable to be serious. Thus if Irina was sometimes put off by Jude's manner, in the woman's presence she at least liked herself.

Irina hadn't been familiar with the name of Jude's husband, consciously. Nevertheless, that first birthday, when Jude had bounced into the Savoy Grill with Ramsey gliding beside her—it was already late enough in a marriage that was really just a big, well-meaning mistake that her clasp of his hand could only have been for show—Irina met the tall man's gray-blue eyes with a jolt, a tiny touching of live wires that she subsequently interpreted as visual recognition, and later—much later—as recognition of another kind.

Lawrence Trainer was not a pretentious man. He may have accepted a research fellowship at a prestigious London think tank, but he was raised in Las Vegas, and remained unapologetically American. He said "controversy," not "controversy"; he never elided the K-sound in "schedule." So he hadn't rushed to buy a white cable sweater and joined his local cricket league. Still, his father was a golf instructor; he inherited an interest in sports. He was a culturally curious person, despite a misanthropic streak that resisted having dinner with strangers when he could be watching reruns of American cop shows on Channel 4.

Thus early in the couple's expatriation to London, Lawrence conceived a fascination with snooker. While Irina had supposed this British pastime to be an arcane variation on pool, Lawrence took pains to apprise her that it was much more difficult, and much more elegant, than dumpy old eight-ball. At six feet by twelve, a snooker table made an American billiards table look like a child's toy. It was a game not only of dexterity but of intricate premeditation, requiring its past masters to think up to a dozen shots ahead, and to develop a spatial and geometric sophistication that any mathematician would esteem.

Irina hadn't discouraged Lawrence's enthusiasm for snooker tournaments on the BBC, for the game's ambiance was one of repose. The vitreous click-click of balls and civilized patter of polite applause were far more soothing than the gunshots and sirens of cop shows. The commentators spoke just above a whisper in soft, regional accents. Their vocabulary was suggestive, although not downright smutty: in amongst the balls, deep screw, double-kiss, loose red; the black was available. Though by custom a working-class sport, snooker was conducted in a spirit of decency and refinement more associated with aristocracy. The players wore waistcoats, and bow ties. They never swore; displays of temper were not only frowned upon but could cost a reduction of one's score. Unlike the hooligan audiences for football, or even tennis—once the redoubt of snobs but lately as low-rent as demolition derby—snooker crowds were pin-drop silent during play. Fans had sturdy bladders, for even tip-toeing to the loo invited public censure from the referee, an austere presence of few words who wore short, spotless white gloves.

The Post-Birthday World LP. Copyright © by Lionel Shriver. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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The Post-Birthday World 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 51 reviews.
eezelpreezel More than 1 year ago
I'd love to be able to write an educated review here, but the E Book that I and two of my other book club members downloaded was only HALF of the book. So if you are getting the E Book, make sure that it's the whole thing right away. I believe the page count is 544 pages. I downloaded 282 pages, which included the normal back-of-the-book things like about the author and also by.
Guest More than 1 year ago
WOW!!!!! This is one of my favorite books of all time. It sits next to the grapes of wrath. The message of whatever choices you make in life will bring you to the same conclusion was so profound and correct. Our deep inner cores will lead us to a similar conclusion everytime. I never thought anybody was going to be able to put this into words and make it sensible but you did it! I cannot tell you how you changed my life! I am very disappointed in the earlier reviewer. this book is not for the person that just wants to be entertained. This book is for people who want to think and really understand the human race and how we handle all we encounter. I think the former reviewer should stick with Danielle Steele. No thinking needed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I started reading this book, I thought I wasn't going to make it through it. It took a while to adjust to the author's writing, etc. I am so glad I held out. This goes down as one of my favorite books of all time. For those who don't understand it, it's about a woman who lives out two totally different lives based on one decision that she makes. If she chooses one option, she will stay in a 'secure' relationship and you see the ups and downs and outcome of this relationship. If she chooses the other option, you see her go into a relationship that has all the odds against it and you see the ultimate outcome here as well. It's really just a great book especially for those who wonder if the grass is greener on the other side.
Book-touched More than 1 year ago
The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver is not an easy book to read but clutching my dictionary all the way I stayed with it and boy was I rewarded! I must admit I just didn't get it at first (despite the reviews) however, in retrospect, half the fun of this fantastic read was discovering the author's method and intent. From that point on I was hooked. Through Irina, Shriver's main character, the universal "what if" question is given life. In this case the "what if" is a choice between two men but it goes much deeper than that. Her characters, love them or hate them, represent the imperfect human condition with all its foibles, vulnerabilities, deceits, desires, decisions made or not made. Shriver is a brilliant writer everyday occurrences ring true with surprising twists and turns. The reader is challenged to think, to feel and maybe even to examine ones own "what if" scenarios a little deeper. I highly recommend this book for the adventuresome reader. I'll read more of her books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent book, engrossing and insightful tale of human nature. Life is full of choices and the consequences of those choices. The author's brilliant writing details two paths and the consequences of each. This is the story of a woman who chooses and learns no matter her choice life isn't simple. Life isn't neat and tidy. To write double chapters, interwine the characters and to flawlessly keep the reader on top of the situations is utterly amazing. Terrific story, terrific writing and great for discussion. (The vocabulary used is fabulous and could easily be used as an enjoyable SAT prep lesson.)
MsOrange78 More than 1 year ago
This book has an excellent story line and the writing style is admirable. However, this was the most painful 500 pages I have ever read through. At first I was intrigued and anxious to see where the story went, then with every page the layers of regret and depression thickened. This book definitley showed me that I do NOT want to know what the future holds. All and all, I will not recommend this book to everyone; only a few select friends. Since I paid bargain price, I do not regret getting the book. All and all, I am glad I read this book, if anything just to appreciate the writing style of the author. If you are the type of person who becomes emotionally connected to characters, this might be a hard book for you to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
great story that turns on a single choice and fully examines the consequences. shriver also takes great care to point out that not making a choice has its own ramifications. well written with vivid yet everyday characters.
Meaningful_Book_Lover More than 1 year ago
I liked the book and the idea of having two different worlds happening depending on one choice she makes. I found it creative and quite realistic. I did enjoy the book but there were a couple parts that drug on just a little and were irritating. Also, I wasn't expecting the ending and I don't want to give anything away but I didn't like it for personal reasons so it could be an ending another reader would like (personal preference). However, it was still well written and a good read!
MCHR More than 1 year ago
This book has a surprise for the reader... I liked it very much the way it deals with the "what ifs..." that we sometimes ask ourselves about our lives, decisions we've made, and choices and consequences.
emily_reads More than 1 year ago
This novel is one of my favorites! Shriver creates an intricately and masterfully woven plot that moves slowly at times, but ultimately rewards a patient reader. The characters' actions and the effects of their decisions will raise thought-provoking questions for an individual reader and book clubs alike. Follow me on twitter for more (mini) reviews of popular fiction and canonical literature.
LauraReviews More than 1 year ago
In The Post-Birthday World, Shriver writes of protagonist Irina McGovern whose one choice could lead her down two different life paths. Shriver alternates chapters with Irina's life unfolding if she had made the choice as well as if she had not. The evolution of Irina's relationships with the book's two supporting male characters is also creative. Shriver reminds us of fate, despite choices we make. Perhaps not one of my all time favorites, I enjoyed this and recommended it to many of my friends in my book club.
crp_84 More than 1 year ago
Lionel Shriver did a great job writing this novel. I really particularly enjoyed the way she wrote in a parallel universe way based on which direction Irina (main character) decided to go. I've never encountered anything like this in a story before but it was interesting nonetheless. The story itself was decent. Not my favorite, I really enjoyed other Shriver stories more. The story seemed somewhat dry and it took me a a while to get through: almost three weeks which is a record for me. The story is interesting but a little slow for my taste. I would recommend it though just for the fact that Lionel Shriver is such a unique storyteller.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It took 100 or so pages to get going but then this book had me completely hooked. To watch the plots exchange and interchange was fascinating. I went back and forth rooting for one life over another like a tennis ball over the net. But whichever version Irina, Lawrence and Ramsey were true to themselves. I rooted for them all and mourned not just a little for them too. Great read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book deserves mention of it's memorable characters and unusual plot. At first I thought some of the book was part of a dream,and I was fascinated when I realized what Shriver was doing. Life is not perfect, and Irina McGovern's life is a courageous and honestly presented example of this. I can't wait for my book club's discussion of The Post Birthday World!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have never not finished a book in my like but found I could not take any more of this book. The chracters are flat and extremely unlikeable. The author gives two possible outcomes to every situation which is ridiculous and beyond confusing. This was overly verbose as well, why take 4 sentences to say something that could be said in one? Why take up pages when a paragraph would do? DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME WITH THIS BOOK. LP.
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kyohin More than 1 year ago
This was a hard book to read prior to retiring each night because I'd lie there wondering what if this happens? what if that happens? Of course, I ask myself those questions regardless what book I was just reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
... and thoroughly unlikeable characters. Flawed characters can be intriguing but these are just plain annoying. I kept hoping they would all meet an untimely death.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I rarely give up on a book but I abandoned this one about half way. The characters and story line were uninteresting; the alternating "what if" plots were difficult. I finally decided I was just working too darn hard to try to finish/like this book and moved on.
hillaryab More than 1 year ago
I wanted to like this more, but I really had to push myself to finish reading it. I liked it, but the alternate tracks of the protaganist's life were a bit confusing at first. Later in the book it was much easier to differentiate the divergences, but the first few chapters were rather confusing. It ended suddenly, but on a very nice/kind note.