Book Review: Big Brother by Lionel Shriver
June 16, 2013 23 Comments
Big Brother: What it is about
The publishers say: “For Pandora, cooking is a form of love. Alas, her husband, Fletcher, a self-employed high-end cabinetmaker, now spurns the “toxic” dishes that he’d savored through their courtship, and spends hours each day to manic cycling.
Then, when Pandora picks up her older brother Edison at the airport, she doesn’t recognize him. In the years since they’ve seen one another, the once slim, hip New York jazz pianist has gained hundreds of pounds. What happened? After Edison has more than overstayed his welcome, Fletcher delivers his wife an ultimatum: It’s him or me.
Rich with Shriver’s distinctive wit and ferocious energy, Big Brother is about fat: an issue both social and excruciatingly personal. It asks just how much sacrifice we’ll make to save single members of our families, and whether it’s ever possible to save loved ones from themselves.“
Big Brother: What I thought
A book about family ties (loyalty of sister/brother), about food and hunger, about regret. Pandora feels loyal to her oversized brother but her husband Fletcher finds him a fat layabout who is abusing his sister’s generosity.
It took me a while to get into Shriver’s writing style, as there is a lot of looking back in the beginning of the book, which interrupted the main story a little too often. But once the story was well under way, it was a well thought-out and fluid rendition of Pandora’s attempts to help her brother with his weight (and other) issues.
There is quite a lot of reflection by Pandora on food and dieting, and at one point it seemed I was reading an essay rather than a novel.
The story zooms in on particular moments, then pans over several weeks (or more). I liked the way this was done. It didn’t become too tedious to read but still the reader could pick up how tedious some of Pandora’s experiences.
The ending was… odd, but Pandora explains in (too much?) detail why she did what she did. It took me by surprise but I did eventually see how it made sense.
An unusual novel that I enjoyed very much.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Number of pages: 384
First published: 2013
I got this: from Harper for review (advance copy)
Genre: contemporary fiction