The new novel from the Orange Prize-winning author of We Need to Talk About Kevin.
When Pandora picks up her older brother, Edison, at her local Iowa airport, she literally doesn’t recognize him. The once slim, hip New York jazz pianist has gained hundreds of pounds. What happened? Soon Edison’s slovenly habits, appalling diet, and know-it-all monologues are driving Pandora and her fitness-freak husband Fletcher insane. After the brother-in-law 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: why we overeat and whether extreme diets ever really work. 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.
©2013 Lionel Shriver (P)2013 HarperCollins Publishers Limited
"Shriver proves she is not afraid of anything." (Observer)
"If Jodi Picoult has her finger on the zeitgeist, Shriver has her hands around its throat." (Washington Post)
"Shriver has the kind of cojones few English-language novelists possess, male or female." (Globe & Mail)
"Her work is all the more valuable for its flagrant defiance of political correctness." (The Times)
I loved her We Need to Talk about Kevin for its sharpness and laconic cynicism. Now I can't say I exactly loved Big Brother, but I did like it a lot. It's just as sharp and diamond-clear in its sparse style, and ** minor spoiler alert ** there is a twist at the end. It does explain away a lot of the stuff that seemed off-key along the way. And it is, again, a book of and for the times.
"The foundations of obesity dissected"
The author's motivation for writing this book was the premature death of her grossly obese brother. She has constructed a story of a sister's herculean efforts to slim down a brother who had grown massively obese. The book is a mixture of lots of details about crash diets and thoughts about what makes people eat to such excess that they gain a massive amount of weight and as a consequence lose mobility, suffer from all sorts of unpleasant ailments that endanger life. Although this sounds a grim listen the author does manage to create characters that capture the attention, even those whom I didn't like. I was infuriated by the self-centredness of the brother and found it hard to believe the degree of the sister's dedication to help her brother lose weight. I felt sympathy for her husband and step-children Lionel Shriver is adept at dissecting family interactions and human emotions that ring true, even though, in this story, they are exaggerated for dramatic effect.
I'm interested in the subject of obesity, but think that the ruminations about food and diets, that dominate the book, some may find this tedious.
A though-provoking book about people's relationship to food in an environment of plenty.
The reader is excellent.
"Fundamentally an annoying book but a good listen"
This in an interesting record of thoughts and attitudes about weight and some reflections on family. In the end I wasn't sure that it had said anything new about any of the topics it discusses.
There are no appealing characters in this book at all, that is one of its major flaws.
Alice Rosengard does her best with some very aggravating dialogue. The brother particularly has a maddening way of talking, but I think it would be totally insufferable to have to read it, more acceptable to listen.
"Quite bland, for a Shriver book"
I've read a few books by this author, and this is the one I enjoyed the least. The narration gets annoying at times, mainly due to one of the characters' use of language. But still it all goes along pretty well until you reach the last few chapters- that's where I felt a little cheated. Is it a must-read like We need to talk about Kevin? No, but it's not unpleasant.
"We can only change ourselves...not others"
i would recommend this as a cautionary tale...of how we judge others by appearance. How no matter how well our iintentions are we can never really change or indeed enforce change on another person. as in the end all that is done can be undone.
i can't think off hand what other book i could indeed compare this one to. though i suppose it reminded me of a cautionary fable or parable as told in the bible.what are the intentions of our "good deeds"..."all thats done that can be undone"
well done i loved her performance. 10/10.
no i was happy to pause and reflect and return to the bigger messages that Lionel made in the book. its a wonder with the diet industry and all the money is spawns that a book such as this hasn't been written before. the diets that we all hopefully try....fall off the wagon yet go again. my myself being one such person, who has gained and lost and yo-yo'd for years.
definitely a story that will stay in my head!!
I really enjoyed this book. Really believable characters and it certainly left me with plenty to think about. Narration very good too.
"A surprising read"
Had it not been for an article I read about the author, I would not have bought this book. Nevertheless, I thought it would make for a change in my weekly diet of biographies. Whilst the start is a bit slow and I was unsure where the book was going, I surprised myself being completely hooked one the first third of the book was completed. Well told and brilliantly written, this story is an excellent way to dive into the merits and perils of seeking to help a family member in need but immature. Many will be able to relate.
Whilst the patronizing aspect of the sister/brother relationship may get on your nerve at first, it is really worth pursuing the read.
If i ever listened to a book again, which i don't,( too many new books to listen to) Then yes i would.
Not really like anything i have ever read before.
It was my first.
A really great book. Highly enjoyable and sad at times too.
I was really looking forward to this book but it was truly awful. I'm very interested in food issues but the book was dull, I didn't connect with the characters and the ending was ridiculous. I always persevere with books but really I could have lived without this one in my life. This is the first book I've ever given such a low score to, really don't read it.
"Enjoyable, easy listen."
Lionel Shriver's writing is always good, and this was definitely enjoyable. Listened almost continually. Just didn't leave me with that 'wow' feeling afterwards like some of her other novels.
"Haunting perspective on materialism's cravings"
The dry wit and queries which transcended 'polite' inquiry. It was intriguing to hear of her music appreciation increasing as her food enjoyment waned. I also loved reading about an area of the USA that up until now I knew nothing about.
Pandora holds all of the joys and ills of what it is to be human, not unlike the ancient box implied by her name. She is kind and harsh, needy and yet well-equipped, wise yet naive. She cuts to the chase while allowing others to go their circuitous route of life and learning. At the closing of the book I literally heard her sigh (it was me) and 'let her hair down' in explanation. I do not agree with all her conclusions but I sympathise completely, and know how she arrived there. She is a person I would want to be around and wrestle with life's big Qs
I liked hearing her rendition. Her attempts at being 'cool' with the jazz jargon was a bit jarring, but hey, that is what it is like for us white folk trying to be JazKool. Her pace was ideal, fit the topic,descriptions and queries.
Love, craving and desperation
I have come to different conclusions than the author but I appreciate how and why she got there. She has done her research well. There are other modes of approaching food without denigrating it in itself (5:2). The topic and reflection comes from a personal place and sadness in her family life. Mindful eating does amplify the experience and joy of a food without needing to increase the amount. I can still taste the blueberry I sat and savored 2/3 up a mountain face while rock-climbing. Food is good, it is our rapport which has to re-adjust
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