Lionel Shriver is a US writer and journalist who is probably best known for her Orange Prize winning novel ‘We’ve Got To Talk About Kevin’, which was made into a movie starring Tilda Swinton.
This collection of 2 novellas and 10 short stories are all based on the concept of ‘property’. In an interview with The Guardian, Shriver stated that she had written her novella The Subletter and wanted to give it a home, so her subsequent commissioned work was intentionally related to property in some way.
The book opens with the novella The Standing Chandelier, which examines property in the form of relationships – the characters are a man and a woman with a very strong friendship bond. When he meets and marries another woman the challenge of maintaining that friendship is put to the test.
Shriver’s writing is very clever. She knows a lot about a lot of things. In the second novella The Subletter, her main character is an American journalist who has been living Belfast for 11 years. She is trying to move on with her life and ends up unintentionally sharing her flat with another woman while she tries to move to another country. Shriver’s knowledge of the political history of Northern Ireland is impressive. She weaves this around the story with ease.
The rest of the stories are all quite different. From the one about a couple who have a son who refuses to leave home (Domestic Terrorism), to the story of a home which appears to be haunted (Repossession), they are all tied to the notion of ownership or territory.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading these stories. The writing is intelligent and insightful. Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Rachel White
HarperCollins, RRP 32.99