January 28, 2010

the lionel shriver blog challenge!

  • About the author EB

Long before I came to work at Harper Perennial, Lionel Shriver was one of my favorite authors. Soon after reading it, I became an evangelist for We Need to Talk About Kevin, her tale of a mother’s absolute worst nightmare, and followed that by thrusting her other books on all my closest friends.

Lionel’s new book, So Much for That, is on sale March 9. To celebrate, and to further gently strongarm everyone I know into reading her books, Nicole of Linus’s Blanket and I are hosting a Lionel Shriver Challenge!

Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to read one (or more!) of Lionel’s books before the release of So Much for That on March 9. A list, with details on each book, is below. And to make this even easier, Nicole and I will each be giving away two copies of each book! All you have to do to win is to comment on one or both of our blogs (we’ll calculate our winners separately) and tell us why you want to read (or read more of) Lionel’s work. If you tweet or blog about it, leave another comment with the link and we’ll count that too. Do it by Feb 1, please!

We’ll all post our reviews on March 9, and anyone posting, commenting, etc will be entered to win a copy of So Much for That (more details as we get closer to the date.)

So now, here’s the books. I’ll be reading Checker and the Derailleurs and The Female of the Species, the only two I haven’t read so far!

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American children’s book illustrator Irina McGovern enjoys a secure, settled life in London with her smart, loyal, disciplined partner, Lawrence—until the night she finds herself inexplicably drawn to kissing another man, a passionate, extravagant, top-ranked snooker player. Two competing alternate futures hinge on this single kiss, as Irina’s decision—to surrender to temptation or to preserve her seemingly safe partnership with Lawrence—will have momentous consequences for her career, her friendships and familial relationships, and the texture of her daily life.

It’s like Sliding Doors—only way, way smarter. If you’ve never read Lionel before, I recommend starting with this or We Need to Talk About Kevin.

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Eva never really wanted to be a mother—and certainly not the mother of the unlovable boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker, and a much-adored teacher who tried to befriend him, all two days before his sixteenth birthday. Now, two years later, it is time for her to come to terms with marriage, career, family, parenthood, and Kevin’s horrific rampage in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her estranged husband, Franklyn. Uneasy with the sacrifices and social demotion of motherhood from the start, Eva fears that her alarming dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so nihilistically off the rails.

This one’s a classic. Lionel is an expert at bringing you into the lives of some rather unlikable women and making you see the world through their eyes.

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Tennis has been Willy Novinsky’s one love ever since she first picked up a racquet at the age of four. A middle-ranked pro at twenty-three, she’s met her match in Eric Oberdorf, a low-ranked, untested Princeton grad who also intends to make his mark on the international tennis circuit. Eric becomes Willy’s first passion off the court, and eventually they marry. But while wedded life begins well, full-tilt competition soon puts a strain on their relationship—and an unexpected accident sends driven and gifted Willy sliding irrevocably toward resentment, tragedy, and despair.

My favorite without a doubt.

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Following the death of her worthy liberal parents, Corlis McCrea moves back into her family’s grand Reconstruction mansion in North Carolina, willed to all three siblings. Her timid younger brother has never left home. When her bullying black-sheep older brother moves into “his” house as well, it’s war.

Each heir wants the house. Yet to buy the other out, two siblings must team against one. Just as in girlhood, Corlis is torn between allying with the decent but fearful youngest and the iconoclastic eldest, who covets his legacy to destroy it. A Perfectly Good Family is a stunning examination of inheritance, literal and psychological: what we take from our parents, what we discard, and what we are stuck with, like it or not.

If you like messed up families . . .

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Eleanor Merritt, a do-gooding American family-planning worker, was drawn to Kenya to improve the lot of the poor. Unnervingly, she finds herself falling in love with the beguiling Calvin Piper despite, or perhaps because of, his misanthropic theories about population control and the future of the human race. Surely, Calvin whispers seductively in Eleanor’s ear, if the poor are a responsibility they are also an imposition.

Set against the vivid backdrop of shambolic modern-day Africa—a continent now primarily populated with wildlife of the two-legged sort—Lionel Shriver’s Game Control is a wry, grimly comic tale of bad ideas and good intentions. With a deft, droll touch, Shriver highlights the hypocrisy of lofty intellectuals who would “save” humanity but who don’t like people.

Definitely thought-provoking.

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Beautiful and charismatic, nineteen-year-old Checker Secretti is the most gifted and original drummer that the club-goers of Astoria, Queens, have ever heard. When he plays, conundrums seem to solve themselves, brilliant thoughts spring to mind, and couples fall in love. The members of his band, The Derailleurs, are passionately devoted to their guiding spirit, as are all who fall under Checker’s spell. But when another drummer, Eaton Striker, hears the prodigy play, he is pulled inexorably into Checker’s orbit by a powerful combination of envy and admiration. Soon The Derailleurs, too, are torn apart by latent jealousies that Eaton does his utmost to bring alive.

So psyched for this one!

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Still unattached and childless at fifty-nine, world-renowned anthropologist Gray Kaiser is seemingly invincible—and untouchable. Returning to make a documentary at the site of her first great triumph in Kenya, she is accompanied by her faithful middle-aged assistant, Errol McEchern, who has loved her for years in silence. When sexy young graduate assistant Raphael Sarasola arrives on the scene, Gray is captivated and falls hopelessly in love—before an amazed and injured Errol’s eyes. As he follows the progress of their affair with jealous fascination, Errol watches helplessly from the sidelines as a proud and fierce woman is reduced to miserable dependence through subtle, cruel, and calculating manipulation.

This one too!

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