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So Much for That [Hardcover]

Lionel Shriver
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Mar 2010

The extraordinary new novel from the Orange Prize winning author of ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’.

What do you pack for the rest of your life?

Shepherd Knacker is bored with his humdrum existence. He's sold his successful handy-man business for a million dollars and is now ready to embark on his 'Afterlife' - a one way ticket to a small island off the coast of Africa. He tries to convince his wife Glynis to come with him, but she laughs off the idea as preposterous.There's no way she'll let Shepherd uproot the family to some far-flung African island.

When Glynis is diagnosed with an extremely rare and aggressive form of cancer, Shepherd's dreams of an exotic adventure are firmly put on hold. He devotes himself to caring for his sick wife, watching her fade before his eyes.

Shepherd's best friend Jackson knows all too well about illness. His sixteen year old daughter has spent her life dosed up on every treatment going while he and his wife Carol feed their youngest daughter sugar pills so she won't feel left out. But then Jackson undergoes a medical procedure of his own which has devastating consequences …

So Much For That is a deeply affecting novel, told with Lionel Shriver's trademark originality, intelligence and acute perception of the human condition.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (4 Mar 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007271077
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007271078
  • Product Dimensions: 22.2 x 16.2 x 4.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 373,929 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lionel Shriver's novels include The Post-Birthday World, We Need to Talk About Kevin, and A Perfectly Good Family. Her writing has appeared in The Guardian, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. She lives in London.

Product Description


Wide-ranging, sometimes zany and unpredictable, this is a compelling read. And however many twists Shriver shoves in, you always believe her.
The Times

Many people will like Lionel Shriver's ninth novel – admirers of gripping and clever contemporary fiction, discerning critics and, if there is any justice, literary prize committees.

Shriver proves she is not afraid of anything…

It's a wonder that subject matter on the surface so bleak can be transformed into something so uplifting.
Daily Telegraph

Yes, a brilliantly funny cancer book! You can rely on Lionel Shriver to upend your expectations.
Daily Express

Required reading for all mortals.
Daily Mail

…witty, observant and beautifully controlled. British readers will close this excellent novel feeling grateful for the NHS.
Literary Review

…a visceral and deeply affecting story, a story about how illness affects people's relationships, and how their efforts to grapple with mortality reshape the arcs of their lives.
Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

About the Author

Lionel Shriver's novels include the New York Times bestseller The Post-Birthday World and the international bestseller We Need to Talk About Kevin, which won the 2005 Orange Prize and has now sold over a million copies worldwide. Earlier books include Double Fault, A Perfectly Good Family, and Checker and the Derailleurs. Her novels have been translated into twenty-five different languages. Her journalism has appeared in The Guardian, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. She lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
76 of 80 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An oncologist's view 16 Nov 2010
As one of the main characters lives in the United States and develops incurable inoperable cancer, she receives several courses of treatment all of which have to be funded by and adequate health insurance plan, and so therefore in large part by the patients family, depleting their life savings. Most reviews of the book therefore focus on criticism of the American Healthcare system, but as an oncologist I saw it as a fascinating insight into the dilemmas of cancer patients and their families when they are undergoing palliative chemotherapy, whether it be with traditional or novel treatments.

In the United States, the cost of these treatments is borne by patients, usually via medical insurance policies, whilst in the United Kingdom it will be taken on by the NHS provided the drugs were NICE approved and would only be paid for by individuals if they were not.

Reader of Shriver's novel witness a patient going through ultimately futile treatment with significant toxicity, whilst her hopes are inappropriately raised by her oncologist and her colluding family and friends, at least initially however after the cancer and chemotherapy have taken an increasing toll, her husband asked the doctor how must he estimates the treatment has cost. "About two and a half million," replies the oncologist. "What do we get for that," enquires the husband. "I think it gave her a good 3 months extra," says the doctor. "It may have been extra," says the husband, "but none of it was good". This sentiment rings true. Patients expectations of palliative chemotherapy, and particularly the much publicised new drugs, are inappropriately raised by their own hopes, the media, and sadly often by their treating physician.
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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Health Warning: Not for the Faint-hearted 16 Aug 2010
Lionel Shriver's latest novel is first and foremost about the death-denying culture all Western countries live in. Not a pretty subject for a novel but her skill as a writer drew me in (against my better judgement at first as I felt I was being manipulated (which I was) and that she was just piling on the agony (which she was). She homes in on the relentless upbeat focus on getting better at all costs. It is a shocking (to a European) indictment of the American healthcare system and she includes a succinct paragraph on the latter's historical context (P.262) so we know how things came to be so. In addition to her central theme, her sharp insights into the way we live now - Property prices "homeowner smugness", Abortion, profound physical disability, modern care homes "architecturally lobotomised" - haunt you after you've put the book down. So all things told, it deserves 5 stars for being a thumping good read though I wonder if we should all be sending David Cameron & Andrew Lansley each a copy as a cautionary tale of what will happen if they let the long arm of capitalism recruit the medical establishment to do its bidding.
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52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart-rending story written with great verve 7 Jun 2010
By Bluebell TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I first experienced Lionel Shriver's writings in her tour de force of a book We Need to Talk About Kevin: a book that left me drained by the powerful feelings and events. In 'So much for that' the author again stirs a tremendous emotional response in me by her heart-rending story of the destruction of Shep Knacker's dreams for his future caused mainly by having to pay huge amounts of money to try and save his wife's life after she's diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Shep is also put upon by members of his extended family and by life in general. This all sounds like a dreary and depressing story, but it isn't. OK, it makes me feel angry at the unfairness of the American health 'service', about which the author is excoriating in her dissection of it's inadequacies, but Shriver's writing is so acerbic, witty and often funny that I am captivated to keep on reading.

The author delves into taboo areas of human feeling and behaviour and makes one wonder at how one would react under similar stressful situations both as the patient or as a bystander to others suffering. There's some grim, and accurate, sections relating Shep's wife's extreme side-effects from her chemotherapy: so not a book, perhaps, for those undergoing similar treatment. Nevertheless, I think it's a terrific book that makes me even more grateful that the NHS exists.

This is one of those books that stays with you long after you've finished reading it. Not only is it an engrossing story, but it is also a thought-provoking analysis of the value of life, beliefs, and how to deal with the approach of death.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank goodness for the NHS! 28 Mar 2010
By Sarah K
Amongst other things this book made me realise why we in the UK are so very fortunate to have the NHS and must fight to protect it. I wasn't expecting to enjoy a book about terminal illness, its effects on family and friends, but I found that I did enjoy it immensely. Although So Much For That is at times harrowing and frightening, it is also at other moments very funny indeed. Lionel Shriver's new novel is very rewarding and thought-provoking. I will be recommending it to my friends.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Less would be More 5 Jun 2011
By Antenna TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The inadequacy of the US health insurance system; the complex, shifting emotions within a relationship in which the wife is struck by possibly terminal cancer; the dynamics of a family in which one child has a degenerative disease: these themes could combine to make a moving and opinion-changing masterpiece, but call for a subtlety and lightness of touch to make so much pain bearable. For the first half of the book I felt oppressed by the opposite, that is, the tsunami of words, the detailed, by turns pettifogging or unsavoury descriptions, lengthy digressions and rambling rants, always three or more examples where one would do. There are also some very original or telling comments, although they are at risk of getting lost in all the verbiage.

The story begins with Shep Knacker packing a bag to present his wife with an ultimatum: the time has come for him to travel to the idyllic African island where he has decided to settle, and he plans to take off whether she accompanies him or not. This could serve to reveal a good deal about our "hero" but instead becomes a pretty negative description of his wife. I would much rather have discovered what Glynis is like through situations and dialogues than be told what to think. Admittedly, some descriptions are very striking:

" art school, Glynis had not chosen her medium by accident. She naturally identified with any material that so fiercely refused to do what you wanted it to, whose form was resistant to change and responded only to violent manhandling. Metal was obstreperous. Were it ever mistreated, its dents and scratches caught the light like grudges." It's the last sentence that stands out for me.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Not as good as "Kevin" - different storyline - but good characters and believable situations.
Published 3 days ago by Sue'sViews
5.0 out of 5 stars Close to vintage Shriver
I really enjoyed it. I read Big Brother in the past year also - neither quite as powerful as We Need to Talk about Kevin but not far off which equates to a very strong... Read more
Published 1 month ago by dermot P gaynor
5.0 out of 5 stars Another incredible story by Lionel
Loved the characters, the story and the writing is brilliant!
Published 1 month ago by N. J. Page
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read
A beautifully constructed thought-provoking novel about life and love, marriage and dreams but predominantly about the American health system, raising ethical questions on how much... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amanda carr
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant story! Gripping, amusing and emotional!
I loved the book. The characters have become like personal friends. I thought that the story line was very cleverly written! Read more
Published 2 months ago by angelena
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book - Highly recommended
A wonderful expose of the American medical system that all Brits should read to appreciate what the NHS service is really providing - even with its limitation! Read more
Published 3 months ago by craftylady
5.0 out of 5 stars Another wonderful book from Lionel Shriver
I'm on a roll finding good books this spring - highly recommend this story which takes us on a difficult journey that has resonances for anyone who has been on the brink of a... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Karolina Knapton
5.0 out of 5 stars an amazingly uplifting story
I've now read this book three times and its still as uplifting and moving as it was first time round. Read more
Published 5 months ago by gilly
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
I loved this book despite the subject matter, cancer. It is typical Shriver with twists and turns and unexpected outcomes.
Published 5 months ago by Mrs. V. A. Tyler
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful
Self serving diatribe. If you want to know about the failings of the USA health service (or lack of) then read or watch "sicko" by Michael Moore. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Rachel Hall
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