- Paperback: 544 pages
- Publisher: Harper; Later Edition edition (17 Mar. 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0007271085
- ISBN-13: 978-0007271085
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 128 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 274,147 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
So Much for That Paperback – 17 Mar 2011
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Wide-ranging, sometimes zany and unpredictable, this is a compelling read. And however many twists Shriver shoves in, you always believe her.
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.
Yes, a brilliantly funny cancer book! You can rely on Lionel Shriver to upend your expectations.
Required reading for all mortals.
…witty, observant and beautifully controlled. British readers will close this excellent novel feeling grateful for the NHS.
…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 and New York City.
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I am a doctor who has practised in Britain. I was appalled to see the toll of serious illness on families in the USA. This is a book that critics of our National Health Service ought to read. Treatment is free from beginning to end, nurses go into the home to see to the patient and to support the family, local pharmacists deliver medications. End of life care, including hospice is available if required. The link between cancer specialists in the hospital and the local general practitioners is to be seen to be believed.
Shriver has outclassed herself. The research that has gone into this novel is obviously extensive. Her portrayal of Shep's stoicism, his determination to do the right thing, no matter what the circumstances touches one. The pacing is steady and metered. I felt I was there at every stage of the illness.
The relief at the end was so welcome. I smiled at Shep's ingenuity and the way he managed the situation to everyone 's, including his benefit.
A book that will stay with me for a long time.
While the novel is indeed about the US healthcare system, it's not really ABOUT the US healthcare system - in the same way that Lord Of The Rings isn't really ABOUT elves, orcs and hobbits. So Much For That is about mortality, the meaning of life and human relationships - so, just the boring stuff!
Shepherd `Shep' Knacker is in his early 50s. Throughout his adult life he's dreamed of giving up the rat-race and moving to a developing country where the cost of living is a fraction of that in the US. He and wife, Glynis, use their yearly holidays as reconnaissance missions but as the years go by, as Shep works hard, building up a $700,000 nest-egg, Glynis clearly loses interest.
The novel begins as Shep plans an ultimatum. He buys tickets to Africa and tells Glynis that he's leaving, with or without (but preferably with) her. Glynis listens as Shep attempts to persuade her to accompany him and then drops a bombshell. She has inoperable cancer - mesothelioma - a nasty cancer of the lining of the lungs caused by asbestos exposure.
Shep drops his plans like a handful of hot stones and devotes all his energy to his role as dutiful husband. He's also a dutiful son (to his aged father who ends up in a nursing home), brother (to his feckless, selfish, demanding sister) and friend (to Jackson, his best friend and co-worker).
As the novel unfolds, Shep's nest-egg dwindles alarmingly, Glynis suffers as a result of all the various `treatments' for her cancer, Jackson comes to terms with his own medical problem and rails against `the man', Shep's sister becomes more demanding and the three main characters ruminate on `what it's all about'.
I struggled a little to get into this novel. None of the characters seemed, initially, particularly likeable. Shep seemed to be little more than doormat. Glynis seemed self-absorbed and callous. Jackson seemed simply boorish. But - presumably as a testament to Shriver's writing skills - as the novel progressed so I came to like - and care about - them all.
Some reviewers have praised the book because it tackles the problems of the US healthcare system. Others have criticised it for the same reason. Perhaps due to my medical background, other than some astonishment at the cost, this didn't really get in the way for me at all.
Shriver handles Glynis's terminal illness - and Shep's reaction to it - exceptionally well. I read the last 80 pages or so in one session and was - I'm not ashamed to admit - in tears at certain points. Sure, the ending involved a plot development which wasn't quite believable but, hey, it's fiction!
Shep's surname was something of a stumbling block for me. I kept thinking `Inspector Knacker of the Yard' which will mean something only to those who can recall `The Two Ronnies' (a British TV sketch show) from the late 70s.
A very good book, very well written, about the important stuff in life. Highly recommended. I will be reading some of Shriver's other books in due course.
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