Thursday, August 02, 2007

The post birthday world

I love books, truly I do. Yet in my current oh-so-busy phase of life, I don’t often have time to read. And so, nowadays it is the measure of the author that - when the librarian hands me a hefty volume weighing almost more than a newborn - I go “oh goodie” instead of “oh dear”.

The post birthday world” by Lionel Shriver (that’s the woman who wrote “We need to talk about Kevin”, hitherto my favourite English-language book) is a long long long book, and yet, the closer you get to the end - and you do get there very quickly by ignoring all your daily responsibilities - the more you wish it even longer.

The premise is simple and clever, though by no means original: in chapter 1, the de-facto-married protagonist is faced with a choice: does she or does she not kiss another man? In chapter 2, she does. Then, in chapter 2 (again), she doesn’t. The parallel universes are explored in alternating chapters, describing every event (like visiting her mother for Christmas) in those two contexts of kiss versus no kiss and of guilt versus boredom.

Yes, exactly like the movie “Sliding Doors”. But the fact that it’s been done before doesn’t diminish the book’s power, and neither does my cynical belief that the author was simply lazy and used this mechanism in order to be able to utilise the same plot and events twice.

OK, the first 10 pages or so, in which the characters are introduced in a passive descriptive way, are deadly boring. But once you get past that and into the very realistic dialogues and inner monologues, the emotions and the sexual fantasies - that’s when the text rings true.
To quote out of context from the book: “f---ing brilliant!”

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