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55 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Big Brother
Pandora Halfdanarson lives with her husband, 'food fascist' Fletcher, and her two teenage stepchildren in Iowa. She runs a successful business with her fantastic Baby Monotonous Dolls ( I hope the author has patented the idea,they would be sure to be a real life success) and is in something of a rut when we meet her. Pandora's childhood was somewhat unusual - her father...
Published 17 months ago by S Riaz

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars oh dear...
Good start, good characters, I laughed out loud several times...
SPOILER
remember at school when you had no idea how to finish a story so you just write "and then I woke up and it was all a dream"... the last third of the book is the main character making a story up, saying that all that was jusr made up. It was really annoying. I can't believe this book...
Published 4 months ago by Mr. N. D. White


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55 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Big Brother, 12 May 2013
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Big Brother (Kindle Edition)
Pandora Halfdanarson lives with her husband, 'food fascist' Fletcher, and her two teenage stepchildren in Iowa. She runs a successful business with her fantastic Baby Monotonous Dolls ( I hope the author has patented the idea,they would be sure to be a real life success) and is in something of a rut when we meet her. Pandora's childhood was somewhat unusual - her father was in a successful television show and all the members of her family are either distant or no longer alive, apart from her adored elder brother, Edison.

At the beginning of this novel we learn that Edison is coming for his first visit in four years. Pandora is expecting Edison to drive Fletcher mad. She is anticipating his never ending stories about life as a jazz pianist - name dropping and exaggerating. What she is not expecting is the fact that somehow, between visits, he has become obese...

This book is about many things. It is about how we view and relate to food, our obsession with weight, addictive behaviours, responsibility, marriage and family. As a story I could not put it down and that is the main thing - this is just a fantastic read. Pandora is just a wonderful character, so torn between her family and her ties to her brother and the history they share. It would be brilliant for book groups with so much to discuss and an ending you will think about for a long time. This is a real roller coaster of a book; about how society judges us, how we judge ourself and the difficult relationship so many people have with food. A truly great novel which I recommend highly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Moving, compelling domestic drama, 14 Aug 2014
By 
BookWorm "BookWorm" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Big Brother (Kindle Edition)
The 'Big Brother' of the title refers not to an Orwellian concept or a reality TV show, rather to the narrator's older and grossly obese brother, Edison. The story centres around their relationship and the impact on the narrator and her family when Edison arrives to stay with them. Until recently he had been slim and attractive, and over time the reasons for his deterioration into compulsive overeating are unravelled. The novel chronicles the narrator's attempts to help Edison, and the strain this places on her family life.

Shriver as always captures family life in a realistic way and describes the nuances of relationships brilliantly. Her characters are interesting and complex. The domestic focus of this novel and its style did remind me of 'We Need To Talk About Kevin', her most famous masterpiece. The narrator's voice in this novel was very similar to that of Eva in 'We Need to Talk...', as was the depiction of the relationship between the narrator and her husband. This wouldn't be a big problem except Eva was supposedly a very different character from Pandora, the narrator here. Pandora never really came across as the humble, unassuming 'middle child' that she claimed herself to be. It didn't quite ring true. Likewise I always struggled to really visualise or understand Edison, and I found his 'jazz slang' speaking style incredibly annoying. Does anyone really speak like that?

Shriver's style is a bit over-wordy but it's only really noticeable at first, once you're caught up in the story you don't notice it. And it is a very engaging, compelling story despite its seemingly simple theme. I can't really say why it was so gripping and page-turning, except that it is very well written and I got caught up in the family drama. It gets to the heart of relationships between brothers and sisters and to a lesser extent between married couples. The philosophising about food and our relationship with that I found less interesting.

Overall it is a very readable and intelligently written family drama with a good twist at the end. It is moving and compelling, and not as dark as 'We Need to Talk About Kevin'. It is a very 'domestic' story and although I found it gripping, it is not exciting in a conventional way so those who enjoy plot driven thrillers may not find it to their taste.

WARNING - This is a book that is greatly concerned with food, size, appearance and dieting, and readers with eating disorders may find it 'triggering' - I would advise readers who have had these problems to think twice before reading.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 14 May 2013
By 
Ms. Lynn Cotton "Lynn" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Big Brother (Hardcover)
I pre-ordered this book as I love Shriver's stange novels - no matter what they are about, they are always riveting. When it arrived I read it in one go - cover to cover. I don't really have time to be doing that normally, but the book is compelling, beautifully written and I just had to find out what happened. I won't give the plot away, or the ending. The characters in this boook are more likeable than most in Shriver's other novels. I loved the brother. I felt for Pandora as she is torn between trying to help her brother, and loyalty to her husband and family.

The book is about families, weakness and strength, food, love, truth, control and lack of it, loyalty, and people who give to others and people who take from others. Don't be put off about the food bit - it's interesting. For me, the central theme of this book is the love between a brother and sister, the responsibilty she feels for him right into middle age. I have never seen this so beautifully done. There is a lot of humour in this novel (of the black kind).

There is a twist at the end (2 actually). I did not like either of them and would have prefered the last chapter not to have been there, but of-course, there is a purpose to all of it. The book made me happy, The last chapter did not. Ian Mc Ewan does these twists as well sometimes, and even though there is always a purpose, it makes me want to punch a wall. But it did not spoil this novel for me. Five stars. I can't write book reviews for toffee, but wanted to put my opinion in here as Shriver deserves the effort. Worth every penny - such a small price to pay for a book that made me think about life, entertained me and gave me 9 hours of pure bliss. Thank you Lionel. I can't wait for the next one.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wishful thinking, 8 Jun 2013
By 
Katharine Kirby "Kate" (HELSTON, Cornwall United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Big Brother (Hardcover)
Lionel Shriver is again playing with/punishing her readers. As in The Post Birthday World, there are two takes on this story.

Personally I would have truly preferred to have come upon Big Brother in an entirely innocent state, without having seen any pre- publicity, although even the cover with it's Hitchcock-ian silhouette gives the game away. Without foreknowledge I could have been as shocked as Pandora found herself, at the airport meeting point, when she was looking out for her handsome, lithe and lively muso brother, Edison.

The complicated construct employed so skilfully by LS allows all sides of this already fractured family to have more than their say. You might find as I did, that the log jam of jumbled up insider jazz scene talk, plus the regular harking back to glory days when their father Travis was a famous tv actor, appearing regularly in a bowdlerised family situation drama, was all too dense for comfortable assimilation. What is more boring than someone recounting the plot of a tv programme back to you, however relevant it may to the relics involved here.

All the references are USA - food, music, shopping; no mercy is shown to UK readers, we have to `suck it up'. This autocracy is to be expected and usually wouldn't matter much but the plot line is fairly loose and therefore it grated on me more than I would have liked.

Some folk come out of all this better than others and that is the fun of the story. Best of all are the pertinent observations on the issue of obesity, greed and the newish habit of general `sizing people up' and judging their strength of character from that which has become more everyday.

As Lionel explains, her message becomes `We are meant to be hungry'. I will take that from the book, and excuse the wonky ending which tried my patience and made me feel slightly used and messed about with.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars oh dear..., 18 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Big Brother (Paperback)
Good start, good characters, I laughed out loud several times...
SPOILER
remember at school when you had no idea how to finish a story so you just write "and then I woke up and it was all a dream"... the last third of the book is the main character making a story up, saying that all that was jusr made up. It was really annoying. I can't believe this book has had so many good reviews and im annoyed with the person who read my copy first and let me read it knowing it had such a pathetic ending.
AVOID!!!!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Thicker than water, 17 Aug 2014
This review is from: Big Brother (Paperback)
What limits can we places on our sense of responsibility to members of our own family? This question lies behind Lionel Shriver’s new novel. Her narrator successful businesswoman Pandora is seven years into a marriage to dour food fascist Fletcher and with his teenage children when her larger than life jazz pianist brother Edison steps back into her life after as four year absence. Larger than he used to be too. How far will Pandora go, and feel she has go, to help her brother lose the weight that stopped her from even recognising him? Shriver serves up her usual wry observation and slick characterisation, a little too slick at times like the caricature dolls that Pandora has devised. Self-consciously literary and with some slightly off-key dialogue and a rather clunky showbiz family backstory readers have been most divided on the unusual ending, less satisfying than that of “The Post Birthday World” it disappointed me less than it clearly did some readers who felt cheated by it. Pandora is left with a brother shaped gap, though whether it is the shape of the lithe young Edison or his mountainous later incarnation is a matter of debate. Shriver’s games with narrative conventions should come as no surprise to readers of “We need to talk about Kevin” or “The Post Birthday World”.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars So near but so far from being a great read, 7 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Big Brother (Kindle Edition)
Lionel Shriver has written a gripping story that interweaves the modern difficulty with food and the complexities of family relationships in an American context. It is beautifully written as one would expect from such an accomplished author who succeeds in creating a wonderfully compelling atmosphere for the reader, every character jumps off the page and the reflections on American culture are totally realistic and believable. 75% of the way through I couldn't put the Kindle down as I began to anticipate the blockbuster revelation of an ending for which Shriver is famous, the kind of ending that blew me away in We Need To Talk About Kevin. Sure enough the totally unexpected ending came, but I actually felt cheated by it; the twist in the tail is not about a character, or the plot, it's about the telling of the story and I felt it was a "trick" aimed at the reader. Other reviewers obviously enjoyed the ending and I can understand that, but I was so disappointed that for me it spoilt what was otherwise an excellent read.
Edited March 2014: Not for the first time Lionel Shriver's work has haunted me and I have been wondering if my disappointment with the ending was misplaced in some way. So, five months after finishing the book I have come back and re-read the ending (Part III). There is no doubt that it is carefully crafted and a totally unexpected twist; it provides a clear and sometimes harsh dose of reality. So, I remain of the view that many will find it a superb ending. But it still didn't work for me; maybe I'm too simplistic, I wanted to be left stunned, or laughing, or crying, but once again I just felt deflated. Don't let me put you off reading it, the fact I was driven to come back is surely a good sign.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Food for Thought, 13 May 2013
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This review is from: Big Brother (Hardcover)
I read this over the weekend, as it was a fast-paced read. I do recommend it, but it's not an easy read. It deals with issues of sibling relationships and also our relationship with food - the big brother being precisely that. Pandora is shocked by the extent of her brother's obesity when she meets him again. We also have the contrast of her marriage to a man obsessed with his health and fitness, who appears to eat only brown rice and broccoli. A lot of the narrative is taken up with analysis of food and what it really means to us, but mostly this book is a story about a sister and brother. I was totally caught up in the story and then the author did something which made me go 'woa what!!!' Dont want to give any spoilers but would be interested to hear what others think of this sometimes disturbing but welll written read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Hated it, 12 May 2014
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This review is from: Big Brother (Kindle Edition)
There is something deeply distasteful about this book which falls uneasily between satire and a sort of reality. The characters behave in an unbelievable way and the end is a cheat. The writer seems to have a poor grasp on how relationships work and the plotting lacks credibility, it is also very American but in a bad way. Really, don't bother to read it, it will leave a bad taste in your mouth.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant twist in the tale!, 6 May 2014
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I have only read We have to talk about Kevin from this author which was also so good. This book did not let me down in any way, will try some others.
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Big Brother
Big Brother by Lionel Shriver (Hardcover - 9 May 2013)
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