Big Brother by Lionel Shriver


This is the first book that I have read by Lionel Shriver. But after seeing her talk at the Hay Festival, I was very excited to read something she had written. When she spoke at her event, she was inspiring and made me consider the world today in a new way. I was pleased to see that Shriver’s strong voice translated just as well into her books.



In this book, we meet Pandora a successful cook and business woman, with a husband and two step-children. After receiving a call from her brother’s friend who is fed up of putting him up in his one bedroomed apartment. She sends him a plane ticket to come and stay with her for a while. But nothing could prepare her for what he would look like when he arrived.



This book is all about the nitty gritty dynamics of families. In particular the relationship between siblings. Pandora has always looked up to her brother. She has taken her role as the middle sibling very seriously. It has shaped her life and reactions to events in her life. Pandora and Edison have had an unusual childhood; their father was a star in a TV show that appeared to be inspired by their family life. But it seems that the dramatised family life that they have grown up watching has influenced their own lives. They grew up seeing these reflections of themselves, and they weren’t able to separate their own characters from the exaggerated characters on the TV screen. This upbringing has far reaching consequences throughout their lives.



This book dissects many themes but the prominent theme is food. It is very insightful, and at times I stepped back from reading with a profound revelation as I was made to consider things in a way I never had before. It was interesting actually to scrutinise our relationship with food. Some of the points that she made were very on the mark. The only negative with this book is that sometimes the exploration of certain things like weight and why we don’t like looking at photographs of ourselves went on for a while to the point that I felt like it was non-fiction rather than fiction. But that was the only negative for me.

I wasn’t sure where this book would end, but I certainly didn’t forecast this particular ending. It was very well executed and for a book that I thought was going to be very straightforward and frank just like Lionel Shriver, I was very surprised.

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