Book of the Month: Big Brother (July)
Lionel Shriver, HarperCollins, £16.99
Shriver struck a discordant family chord with the Orange Prize scooping “We Need To Talk About Kevin” and with her latest novel she is once again stretching the peculiar tensions of family life to breaking point. Pandora – a self-made and very successful entrepreneur – is married to Fletcher, a health-food and fitness fanatic, and they live with Fletcher’s two children from a previous marriage in Iowa. Paying his first visit to them in four years is Pandora’s jazz musician brother, Edison, who, she is dismayed to discover, has ballooned to 386lb. Needless to say, his appalling diet, generally slovenly ways, and elongated visit, causes fault lines to develop among the family and Pandora is forced to commit herself to desperate measures to try and resolve the situation. The characters occasionally feel a little off-the-peg (and Pandora’s hugely successful business empire doesn’t really ring true) but, nevertheless, this is a very successful examination of our obsession with food, and one of the lessons I took from it is that life is for living, but living is not necessarily the same thing as eating.