Book reviews: Some grown up books

The Post-Birthday World, by Lionel Shriver

Over the holidays, I spent a long time on one beautifully written book by Lionel Shriver, The Post-Birthday World. She’s the author of We Need to Talk About Kevin, a book that is on my reading list, but I’ve been warned against reading this while pregnant or with young children. So I’ll stick with this book, which I’m assuming is somewhat lighter material, although still somewhat disturbing and challenging.

Post-Birthday World is about infidelity, and travels through a woman’s life in a kind of Sliding Doors-type scenario. In one dimension, she does give in to her impulse to kiss a man other than her partner, in the other she denies herself. By the way, I love Sliding Doors the movie, and the concept of “what if?” has always been a really strong line of thinking in my life, which I try not to indulge (because so what if? It won’t change reality. The only place you can really delve into this thought is in literature).

Really enjoyed the book, although I found it a heavier read than I’m used to. I think what I liked most about it is how it wasn’t moralistic. You think it’s going to take that bend, and then it doesn’t. In the end, it shows life how it is: a little sad, sometimes disappointing. Mostly, it’s important to live life while you can. I was a little astonished that it seemed to, sort of, take a pro-cheating stance. I thought that was brave. Interesting to the end, for sure.

 

Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel

This is another autobiographical graphic novel about a talented graphic artist’s childhood. I actually enjoyed this book better than Persepolis, I believe because of the more personal nature of what was going on in the narrator’s life (as opposed to the background of the Iranian revolution, which I felt undermined the challenges of adolescence in the other book).

Not that the subject matter isn’t often just as deep or challenging. Bechdel’s slow revelation that her chilly, distant father is a closeted gay, who has had affairs with men and boys throughout her life, before (maybe) taking his own life, manages to overshadow her own coming out as a lesbian in university. She deals with traumatic experiences with both humour and sadness, setting a very realistic tone when it comes to learning our parent’s shortcomings and dealing with death. Especially in the little details, like getting the giggles when relating her father’s death. As someone who got the giggles during her own father’s funeral when the rendition of Amazing Grace went on way too long, I get the inappropriate reactions to grief and confusion.

Word of the day:

Perfidious: deliberately faithless; treacherous; deceitful: a perfidious lover.

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