Big Brother by Lionel Shriver – A Review

This particular book was my first foray into Lionel Shriver.  I suppose the most famous one of hers is We Need To Talk About Kevin which of course was also made into a film.  I’ve often seen copies of this book on charity shop shelves but have always given it a wide birth without really knowing why.  I think it’s maybe the dark content and the fact that it’s so widely talked about.

However after reading Big Brother I feel like I now need to scoop up everything she has written immediately, if not sooner.

So, what the dickens is Big Brother all about you may ask?

Well, this is the story of Pandora and her brother Edison, who happens to be her ‘big’ brother in more than the obvious way.  Pandora is married to Fletcher a struggling furniture maker and has adopted his two teenage children.  Pandora herself has her own very successful company which makes pullstring dolls for adults.  Edison, a jazz musician, comes to stay with Pandora and her family after not seeing them for four years and having fallen on hard times.

Pandora is shocked and horrified when she meets Edison from the airport and he is pushed out by airport staff in a wheelchair due to his huge weight.  The last time she saw him Edison was of a ‘normal’ size but had now gained hundreds of pounds.

We then see the effect that this weight gain has on not only Edison, who is virtually unrecognisable to his sister but also Pandora and her family too.  Fletcher her husband does not get along well with Edison and Pandora’s determination to help her brother puts a massive strain on her marriage and her family life until ultimatums are issued.

Now, I’m no wordsmith or lyrical gangsta, however I pride myself on the fact that I can gather the meaning of most words given the context they are used in.  However, this book tested me somewhat!  Some of the words in this book I hands down have never heard in all of my 39 years on this earth and will most likely never hear again.  Short of keeping an Oxford dictionary to hand at all times I just had to assume the meaning or bypass it completely.  I should say here though that this wordyness (is that even a word?) didn’t dissuade me from reading or ruin my comprehension of the story.

This book is quite funny at times but also very emotional.  Having struggled in the past with my weight and my relationship with food it was perhaps more emotional to me as a reader as I could attach more meaning to the events that happened.  Its much more than a story about weight gain/weight loss, identity, body image etc.  It also deals with sibling rivalry, family ties, successes and failures, childhood events and family loyalties.

There was a fairly big twist in this story a chapter or so from the end which had me thrown.  I’m no Columbo, but I like to think I can sniff out a twist before it happens.  I this case I really didn’t.  Did I enjoy the twist?…..The jury is still out on that I’m afraid.

All in all this book was a very enjoyable read, a bit of a thinker which leaves you feeling a bit raw and emotional.  At least it did me.

Have you read it? And what other Lionel Shriver books would you recommend?

See you soon.

Bookish Chat xxx

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