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on 20 October 2017
After watching the author's interview on BBC... I 'so-got-it', and just had to read this book.
The author is Brave.
Maya Angelou inspired me to write my own book, and will always be my favourite author,
but Lionel Shriver is now my second favourite.
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on 4 December 2017
There are several layers to this story which is so well written and for this reason offers much on which to reflect.
Lionel Shriver has an amazing gift with words which leads me to award the book 5 stars
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on 29 August 2017
Very thoughtful story. No sugar coating.
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on 12 October 2017
Readable and interesting.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 13 June 2010
Reading "A Perfectly Good Family" by Lionel Shriver with a ghastly fascination I felt as if I were watching something so private, so complicated and so human that I was embarrassed to be a voyeur into the McCrea family lives.

Getting to know each of the three adult children who have to sort out their responses to an unexpectedly challenging situation following their parents' deaths was creepily interesting and ultimately rewarding. When you get a handle on the character of the narrator Corlis you realise that anything could happen.

Lionel Shriver gives us glimpses of Corlis when she lived in London where her ménage a trois foreshadows the Janus like way in which she behaves towards her older and younger brothers.

With these two very different men; Trueman and Mordecai, together with the `Fourth Child" which is their parent's named charity bequest; the Heck-Andrews house, that has intriguingly also a beguiling character of it's own; needs fresh ownership arrangements.

Sorting through their parents effects sparks off varied reminiscences to the point the reader gets to know all too well what kind of family the McCreas were in their prime. I loved the scene when the freezer is cleared out. It rang so very true. Unravelling the allegiances, fantasies and personal visions of the way things were is hauntingly sad and therapeutic.

I enjoyed this book immensely for the family story it contains but feel that were I from the USA I would get even more from it as the references are densely everyday cultural ones for Americans, more alien to a UK readership.

It is interesting that some of our authors are not well received in the USA and are not offered publication but we perhaps more tolerantly read so much that is not familiar, in the way of food references, fashion, politics and manners. Even if we have never been to the USA we feel as though we know it, sometimes it feels as if we are reading in a foreign language, although over the years of reading their books we have absorbed so much of their way of doing things.
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on 14 April 2011
As a massive fan of 'Kevin' I was really disappointed by this self indulgent novel. It tried too hard, the characters didn't feel authentic. This was my choice for our book club and I felt I had to apologise for it. Not one member really enjoyed it. However I have to say that it inspired the most debate of any of our choices to date, not so much about the novel, but about the issues of inheritance that it it raises.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 November 2010
Having been enthralled by We Need To Talk About Kevin (Serpent's Tail Classics) and So Much for That I was perhaps expecting too much from this book. As is her hall-mark Lionel Shriver again deals with difficult issues, in this case, of the squabbles that can split a family over inheritance and the interpersonal difficulties among siblings. The title, I think, was meant to be ironic and it certainly turned out to be that way with the resentments against their dead parents being aired and the two brothers and their sister chaffing against one another as the story unfolds as to what will happen to the rambling property left to the three of them plus, to their surprise, also to a Civil Rights Charity supported by their father. There are some good black-humour scenes, such as the painfully awful Christmas, but I feel that the book is too long for what it has to say. About half-way through I started skipping pages and even chapters and I don't think I lost much of the story as there's not much story but a lot of descriptive stuff about family dynamics.
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on 16 September 2017
I've never found a Lionel Shriver book I didn't enjoy. This one is slow-paced, which it suits, and cleverly introspective.

Although the characters were only partially based on the author's own family, placed in a fictional setting, I thought it was very brave.

I found the 'about the book/return to Raleigh' addendum very touching.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 26 October 2017
I find Lionel Shriver infuriatingly opinionated and smug when I hear her broadcasts and when I read some (though not all) of her journalism – but I have to say that she can write very stylishly and well – some of her articles, usually when they’re not on politics, are truly brilliant. However, there’s a strong strand of misanthropy in her work that can make it – even when she’s witty – quite depressing, and this book was no exception.

‘A Perfectly Good Family’ deals with that increasingly prominent topic – inheritance. Corlis McCrea (that’s a woman, by the way, as a child she was ‘Corrie Lou’, rather as Shriver was ‘Margaret Ann’) returns home to Raleigh, North Carolina, after the death of her mother, to sort out her parents’ will (her father having died some years previously). She soon finds herself embroiled in a complicated family row, as each of her brothers wants the colonial mansion, ‘Heck Andrews’ in which the family grew up – but, for complicated reasons, needs her to buy the other out. As Corlis feels her loyalties torn – between her iconoclastic elder brother Mordecai, a rebellious businessman who left home at 16, and her shy, decent younger brother Truman, who has never really left home – and as she faces her own conflicted feelings about her childhood and her parents, tensions rise to breaking point.

Shriver makes some interesting points about sibling dynamics and about the complicated feelings that children have about their parents, and Corlis, a sculptor who has quit London after a threesome with her two male flatmates went horribly wrong, is quite an intriguing character. There’s also some slyly clever observations of family get-togethers – the one where Truman’s wife Averil reveals a tape of ‘Corrie Lou’ as a small child, for example. The quality of writing is on the whole high, and some sections are quite addictive to read – Shriver’s never afraid to admit how badly families can behave! For good writing alone, Shriver deserves a four-star rating.

However, I don't feel I can give more than three, as the book suffers so much from Shriver’s darkly misanthropic outlook. The late Jenny Diski, in a piece on the writings of Caroline Blackwood, noted that Blackwood’s terror of sentimentality made her go to the other extreme, creating a world in which no one was really capable of goodness or altruism, and in which, therefore, nothing really mattered. There is something of the same flavour about this book. Everyone acts badly, and harbours nasty thoughts about each other. The main feeling that the children have towards their parents appears to be resentment, and for adults Mordecai, Corlis and Truman are remarkably inept at thinking about their parents as people rather than just as child-rearers, and have an endless potential for bearing grudges, and little ability to forgive. And Shriver appears to view her three main characters with almost as jaded a view as they do their parents. Mordecai is an alcoholic, self-pitying bully (and if he was really a genius, how did he get so in debt?), Truman’s kindness and gentleness is largely ascribed to his being ‘weak and frightened’. Corlis is a cynic, siding first with one brother and then the other, coming out with all sorts of prim self-righteous statements such as ‘inheritance is evil’ but never actually doing anything particularly admirable herself. Of the few remaining characters, the mother is largely caricatured, while Mordecai’s wife and colleagues are bad-tempered slobs, and Averil a prig. While I’m aware that wholly ‘good’ characters can tend to be boring, one longs for someone to commit an act of genuine kindness or courage now and then, or show some positive human qualities that aren’t based on fear or wanting something.

The book is also – as often with Shriver – quite repetitive, though this novel is only 270 pages. If much of your novel consists of people complaining about each other, you tend to get into a repetitive cycle of moaning. This certainly happens here. We don’t need to be told ten times that Eugenia McCrae was fat and obsessed with making pie, or that Mordecai flipped burgers as a teenager and resented his parents, or that Truman was scared of school, but Shriver keeps hammering home her points obsessively. It means that what started off as a pleasingly caustic read soon becomes simply sour and jaded – like one of those conversations with people who always see the worst in people. I was reminded of Chaucer’s injunction to ‘Seek ye good in every man’ – it really does matter.

One senses that even Shriver has realized that she’s gone too far by the end of the book, as the last ten pages turn into a stylized ‘happy ending’ where everyone gets what they want (though I’m not sure one of the characters would have been so happy in reality), and a truly good character (David Grover) at last arrives. But it’s too little too late. Well-written this book may be, but it will leave you with a nasty taste in your mouth about families, about children’s attitude to their parents and about inheritance.
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on 14 November 2009
Families are funny things. WE can moan about them all we like to our mates, but stand up for them with grit if anyone else pipes up. So I can't fathom why someone would want to publicly explore a family which is very close to their real-life set -up.I couldn't deal with the indignation, or the letters or the silence which the author recieved when her family read this.

Although totally engaging, the characters in this are flawed and unsympathetic, which is how real people are innit? Corlis infuriated me, with her lack of decisiveness, as did Trueman - a grown up who was whinier than a teething baby. Eldest brother Mordecai was spot on for the time - all long plaits, meat and grunge - and reminded me of many men I've met who desperately try to be provocative in order to hide the softness underneath.

The idea that adults feel like they are entitled to their parents belongings no matter what fascinates me. If someone leaves you something fair enough, but to ffeel liek you;re owed just because you exist is madness. So the central story grabbed me from the outset, although I really wanted at least one the chracaters to realise they were not entitled.

I loved the way she spun this - from an interesting premise, past arguments and grudges right up to the unexpected ending - and whilst this may not be the most flattering portrait of families , it was honest and unflinching, funny and embarrassing, just the like the best families.
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