Yesterday I consumed all of Lionel Shriver's recent book, Big Brother. Wow. I confess that I read it in a big rush because I was surprised to find it in the public library at all, and I knew I wouldn't have a chance to renew it. I knew, because I tried and was denied, which meant I'd have 2 weeks.
Still, that time limitation doesn't fully explain why I zoomed through it. Neither do some of the traditional explanations: it was compelling, in a certain way, but not in they "Wow, I have to know what happens next!" I know the statistics. I know that a book about weight gain and loss and hungers of all sorts is headed in a certain trajectory.
I also didn't gulp it down because I loved the characters so much. On the contrary, I often find Shriver's books tough because her characters are so often less likable than they are likable.
Maybe it's because my spouse was working on a deadline, and I had a free chunk of time. It's easier to read when I have that kind of time.
Still, it's a good book, well worth your time. There are surprises along the way, which I won't spoil.
Just before reading that book, I read Jennifer Haigh's The Condition, a novel about a character with Turner's Syndrome and its impact on a whole family. Now that book was full of complex characters who were not quite as difficult to spend time with as Shriver's characters. And that book did have a wanting to know what comes next quality.
Interesting that I've just read two books about medical conditions and their affect on families, especially on siblings. I didn't plan it that way; it was just one of those serendipitous things.
I picked up Haigh's book because I read her more recent novel Faith when it first came out, and I found it compelling. Unlike past years, when I'd have read the whole back catalog of an author, I didn't do that right away. But when I was wandering through the stacks, looking for something to read, I saw the book on the shelf, remembered liking it, and picked up The Condition. I'm glad I did.
I should remember to return to earlier books when I discover an author/book I love. I've become that reader who always wants the newer, later work. It's good to remember the earlier works are equal to be a joy too.
If you like interviews with authors, don't miss this interview with Lionel Shriver. You might want to save it for after you've read Big Brother, if that book is on your list.
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