The Post-Birthday World
By Lionel Shriver
IT'S a bad sign when publishers call a book 'important' on the cover. It means they suspect that there's not a lot of entertainment here.
They're right on the money with The Post-Birthday World by We Need to Talk about Kevin author Lionel Shriver.
Living in Belfast for 12 years, a city where everything is mutable in every moment, may have been an experience that called out Shriver's what-if, maybe-if story.
There might be a certain amount of autobiography too - at the time of writing it (says one of those gossipy author interviews), Shriver was leaving her writer partner for a jazz drummer.
In The Post-Birthday World, Shriver's protagonist, Irina, cohabits with dull-but-worthy conflict resolution expert Lawrence. After one electrifying kiss, she turns to electric-but-nasty snooker champ Ramsey.
Or does she? Yes and no.
Shriver writes the story in parallel chapters - affair Irina and then virtuous Irina - with the happenings in successive pairs of chapters mirroring each other.
The Post-Birthday World would have made a lovely novella, frothy and fun, revealing by concealing.
Even at a shattering 600 pages, it has its funny moments, as when Lawrence and Ramsey discuss Lawrence's work on the Good Friday Agreement.
In these moments, it's as much fun as a quickie with a chippy.