The brilliant new novel from the Orange Prize-winning author of We Need to Talk About Kevin centres on three generations of the Mandible family as a fiscal crisis hits a near-future America.
It is 2029. The Mandibles have been counting on a sizable fortune filtering down when their 97-year-old patriarch dies. Yet America's soaring national debt has grown so enormous that it can never be repaid. Under siege from an upstart international currency, the dollar is in meltdown. A bloodless world war will wipe out the savings of millions of American families. Their inheritance turned to ash, each family member must contend with disappointment but also - as the effects of the downturn start to hit - the challenge of sheer survival.
Recently affluent Avery is petulant that she can't buy olive oil while her sister, Florence, is forced to absorb strays into her increasingly cramped household. As their father, Carter, fumes at having to care for his demented stepmother now that a nursing home is too expensive, his sister, Nollie, an expat author, returns from abroad at 73 to a country that's unrecognisable. Perhaps only Florence's oddball teenage son, Willing, an economics autodidact, can save this formerly august American family from the streets.
This is not science fiction. This is a frightening, fascinating, scabrously funny glimpse into the decline that may await the United States all too soon, from the pen of perhaps the most consistently perceptive and topical author of our times.
©2016 Lionel Shriver (P)2016 HarperCollins Publishers Limited
Praise for Lionel Shriver: "Shriver proves she is not afraid of anything...." (Observer)
"It's a wonder that subject matter on the surface so bleak can be transformed into something so uplifting." (Daily Telegraph)
"You can rely on Lionel Shriver to upend your expectations." (Daily Express)
"Required reading for all mortals." (Daily Mail)
"...witty, observant and beautifully controlled." (Literary Review)
The story line seems promising but this was one of the most boring books I've listened to. The narrator droned on in an uninterested voice, the characters were flat and one dimensional and I thought it would never end.
I am so annoyed at wasting my time (hoping it would get better) that it has prompted me to write my first review.
Anyone doubting that western nations must stop kicking addressing national fiscal deficits down the road or that 2008 was a warning that has been largely disregarded should read this brilliantly crafted story.
It's not often I do this but I am abandoning this book half way through. The premise of the story sounded great but it is unfortunately one of the most tedious reads I've ever had. Started to feel like I was listening to someone's grocery shopping list. We get it, there's no money and it's technology's fault. But seriously is that the whole story??????
The Mandibles is a return to pre-1950 SF- the barely disguised political pamphlet. The characters were good, however the precocious super child seems to be a bit of a Shriver trope. Ignoring the barrow Shriver is pushing, it is a very engaging plotline and the future America is plausible.
George Newbern performance was incredible because he is an great narrator and he understood the story.
And what an incredible story!
Lionel Shriver has written a classic. This is the great American novel. This story what kids images adult stories are like, but extremely rarely are. By writing about a slightly different outside world it opens up the world on the inside. She is an excellent guide.
The Mandibles should win every award there is this year.
This is my first experience of Shriver's work and I'm more than impressed. I'll be reading more.
In The Mandibles she gives us an insight into a darkly possible future. In doing so Shriver reveals who many of us are now, and how, if we lost it all, we may just find what we need in each other.
I so enjoyed the clever prose and humour in this book. There was a richness through this prose, brought to each of the characters. There was something deeper in the story about humanity and our relationship to stuff and how kind ship has such a pull within us. I loved this book!
"Dystopian, Compelling, Entertaining."
It was compelling and credible. Given that the backdrop to the story was economic, and that the characters experienced life in a way very different to our own, this was no mean feat.
Two things: The author mastered the material to extent that it was convincing and effortless. The authentic detail illustrating how our world could lead to the world of the Mandibles.
His narration was the "authentic voice" telling the story. Like the author, he didn't get in the way of the story.
Shriver explains money. A creation of humans that reflects the essence of humanity.
"What a great read!"
Loved the story. Shriver has a gift for portraying economic climate through human interactions and his storytelling has a welcoming humour beneath the harshness of the situations.
It is frustrating when a dystopian novel uses the present day as the past, and then skips forward 15 years to a new future but with no bridge of events on the way. The book is murky and confused.
"A dreary disappointment"
I hate to give bad reviews - and hate to abandon a book, but halfway through chapter 2 I just can't face the thought of listening any more. The manner in which we are being introduced to the characters is so drearily done that no-one's name or position in the family clan properly registers - and nor do the descriptions of the changes in technology and way of life in this near future world. Perhaps everything gathers momentum as the story progresses but I just don't have the commitment to give it a go. For me it was a great idea wasted.
Lionel Shriver is an odd woman with an odd name who writes odd books. This one she appears to have lifted almost verbatim from "When money dies" about which she has woven a thin storey about people I have little interest in or sympathy with. That said I found the book, (like her other strangely unsympathetic story, We need to talk about Kevin) strangely compelling. So if you fancy a tale about economic Armageddon which may or may not be about to unfold in RL then this is the one for you.
"Set in the 2030s and 2040s a cautionary tale of where the USA might be heading"
A very thought provoking book. It follows an extended family through a crisis hit USA as it struggles to come to terms with no longer being #1 in the world. It shows what happens to human nature where what is taken for granted is taken away. All that is in this book could happen... the question is "Which path is America on?"
"A Lionel Shriver classic"
I found this book a hard read - by the fact of the topic. However, knowing Lionel's previous books, I kept reading. Another amazing book that asks us extremely deep questions on the meaning of life and how we live. Glad i read it to the end.
"Epic economic meltdowns of the near future"
If, like me, you came to this book because you're a huge fan of We Need to Talk About Kevin, expect your expectations to be confounded. But while the subject matter is completely different, the brilliant observation and spine-tingling narrative tension mean you will not be disappointed. As you would expect from Lionel Shriver, the characters are richly drawn and the slow-building suspense is compelling, but what I really love about this book is the way it takes real issues of the modern world - inherited riches, family politics and economic meltdown - and tweaks them to convincingly terrifying visions of the near future. Our present day is the book's immediate past, marked by schools named after Barack Obama and Ed Balls' cameo as UK prime minister, among others. It's a brilliant listen, but also a warning.
"Interesting, but not what I'd expect from Shriver"
I have loved Shriver's other books so much, the gripping original story telling and truthful painful insights, but I really thought this was a bit obvious. The story is ok, but I didn't really care that much about the characters or the outcome. Some of it was a bit unimaginative and cliché. Narration was good.
tax and death. clever realistic near future downfall of America. sad truths. some heavy monologues!
"Tough and good in equal measure"
this was tough going at times - lots of dry economic detail and discussion. glad I finished it though.
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