Online Book Club: THE POST BIRTHDAY WORLD by Lionel Shriver

Exciting news! EDIWTB is having its second online book club. The book this time is one that I have wanted to read for quite a while: The Post-Birthday World, by Lionel Shriver. From Amazon, here’s a synopsis:

Irina McGovern, a children’s book illustrator in London, lives in comfortable familiarity with husband-in-everything-but-marriage-certificate Lawrence Trainer, and every summer the two have dinner with their friend, the professional snooker player Ramsey Acton, to celebrate Ramsey’s birthday. One year, following Ramsey’s divorce and while terrorism specialist “think tank wonk” Lawrence is in Sarajevo on business, Irina and Ramsey have dinner, and after cocktails and a spot of hash, Irina is tempted to kiss Ramsey. From this near-smooch, Shriver leads readers on a two-pronged narrative: one consisting of what Irina imagines would have happened if she had given in to temptation, the other showing Irina staying with Lawrence while fantasizing about Ramsey. With Jamesian patience, Shriver explores snooker tournaments and terrorism conferences, passionate lovemaking and passionless sex, and teases out her themes of ambition, self-recrimination and longing.

Reviews of this book have been very positive. In fact, Entertainment Weekly named The Post-Birthday World its top fiction pick of 2007. It said:

Chapter by chapter, these two richly imagined scenarios play themselves out, eventually meeting up again some 500 pages later. Which was the better choice for Irina — the steamy lover Ramsey or the steady companion Lawrence? Shriver playfully suggests answers, only to snatch them back again.

Before it was co-opted and trivialized by chick lit, romantic love was a subject that writers from Flaubert to Tolstoy deemed worthy of artistic and moral scrutiny. This is the tradition into which Shriver’s novel fits. In 50 years, we’ll still be wild about Harry. And a lucky handful of readers may stumble across The Post-Birthday World and wonder why they’ve never heard of it.

Kristen of Delightfully Dawgmatic blog posted here on EDIWTB that The Post-Birthday World was the best book she read in 2007.

You can browse the first few pages of the book here at its Harper Perennial webpage.

And now for the good news: Harper Perennial has agreed to send review copies to readers of this blog who want to read The Post-Birthday World and participate in the second EDIWTB online book club. (Thank you Harper Perennial!).

So, if you’re interested in reading this book and then joining an online discussion in about a month, send me your mailing address ASAP at Harper Collins will send the books out around the end of this week, and we will have a discussion here at this site on Thursday, March 6.

Please join in! I look forward to discussing the book next month. And thanks again to Jennifer at Harper Perennial for helping facilitate the book club.

Added on March 10: The online book club is taking place today at