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Publisher's Summary

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

Critic Reviews

"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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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interesting, timely, insightful

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Kirstine
  • 05-28-13

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.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Felix Le Corre
  • 01-17-15

A surprising read

What did you like most about Big Brother?

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.

Any additional comments?

Whilst the patronizing aspect of the sister/brother relationship may get on your nerve at first, it is really worth pursuing the read.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • A. C. Harlan
  • 01-23-14

Fundamentally an annoying book but a good listen

What made the experience of listening to Big Brother the most enjoyable?

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.

Who was your favorite character and why?

There are no appealing characters in this book at all, that is one of its major flaws.

What about Alice Rosengard’s performance did you like?

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • SDY
  • 09-18-13

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Deirdre Lynam
  • 08-12-13

We can only change ourselves...not others

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

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.

What other book might you compare Big Brother to, and why?

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"

What about Alice Rosengard’s performance did you like?

well done i loved her performance. 10/10.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

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.

Any additional comments?

definitely a story that will stay in my head!!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Charlotte L.
  • 03-12-15

Fascinating story!

I really enjoyed this book. Really believable characters and it certainly left me with plenty to think about. Narration very good too.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • natasha
  • 06-14-14

Loved it.

Would you listen to Big Brother again? Why?

If i ever listened to a book again, which i don't,( too many new books to listen to) Then yes i would.

What other book might you compare Big Brother to, and why?

Not really like anything i have ever read before.

Have you listened to any of Alice Rosengard’s other performances? How does this one compare?

It was my first.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Thought provoking

Any additional comments?

A really great book. Highly enjoyable and sad at times too.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Robert
  • 07-17-17

The Ripple Effect Of Obesity

This turned out to be a very worthwhile and enjoyable listen that tackles the themes of obesity and its effects on those around you, and crash diets and whether they are the answer to losing weight in the long term. When Edison comes to stay with his sister Pandora, her husband and her stepchildren, after some time apart, she gets a real shock at how much weight he has gained. Now morbidly obese, Pandora and her family all react in different ways to Edison’s plight, ranging from revulsion to acceptance. Pandora really wants to help her brother, so much so, that she is prepared to put her marriage on the line for him, which in itself seemed to be a bit inconceivable but also selfless.

It would appear that Edison is not the only one who has a dysfunctional relationship with food. Pandora, herself has gained some weight over the years, and her husband, Fletcher is obsessed with healthy food choices and cycling for miles. This contrast leads to many clashes between Edison and Fletcher, which often leaves Pandora stuck in the middle.

For me, I found the first hour and a half difficult to follow, and was struggling to engage with the author and her “wordy” approach to prose. But once the main character of Edison made his entrance, it quickly got better and eventually had me fully absorbed and moved. Even though nearly all of the characters were unlikeable to some degree (with the exception of Cody), they were nonetheless very believable and real.

I did not see the twist at the end coming, and was not sure whether this was a satisfying finale. Nonetheless, I would still recommend this work, and the narration was spot on.

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  • Weliza
  • 01-17-17

An interesting examination of food addiction

Would you listen to Big Brother again? Why?

I don't know if I would listen to it again, but I found the subject matter, the addiction to food, interesting. The author makes a good fist of a fictional account of how an individual can use food in a similar way to using heroin or even smoking. The former heroin or tobacco addict can go without for life, but giving up food completely is not possible. The many psychological factors involved in becoming an addict is explored and I think the author nuances the different 'highs' people can get, both by eating enormous amounts but also by extreme dieting when lack of adequate nutrition affects the brain as well as the body.

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  • Chickpea
  • 11-13-16

Terrible

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.