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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