Friday, September 10, 2021

Book Review - Should We Stay or Should We Go? Lionel Shriver

 

Should We Stay or Should We Go; Lionel Shriver

Harper Collins - June - 2021

In 1991 when Kay Wilkerson's father dies in his 90s, Kay feels nothing but relief.   Kay felt that Alzheimers, in reality,  took her father from her some ten years earlier.  Kay and her husband Cyril are medical professionals for the NHS. Kay is a (National Health Services Nurse) and Cyril a NHS doctor.  Both of them realize that living a long life does not mean living a quality life.  After some discussion, Kay, now 51 and Cyril just slightly older, make a pact.  They decide that when Kay turns 80 the two of them will end their life with a lethal cocktail so that they won't be a burden to anyone.  Sound simple?

Fast forward and it's 2020 and Cyril has turned 80 and Kay will be there soon. They are both in pretty good health. What about the pact? Over the next (12) chapters some very different scenarios play out - some are quite funny and downright cynical, while other scenarios fell flat. Topics like Brexit, the NHS, the pandemic / lockdown, immigration and other sometimes controversial issues arise.

I'm not sure what I was expecting when I began this book somewhat blind.  I did think it was about an elderly couple deciding to end their life at the same time.  I really thought I would enjoy it but, I ended up being disappointed. My biggest complaint about this book, was not the story itself but the writing.  I found her literary style rather pretentious and after a while just plain frustrating.  It was like she chose to use a version of a word that had the least frequently used synonym.  Here are just a few of those unusual word choices: Wherewithal - tautology - horlicks - ebullience - propinquities - foetal and that was just some of them in the first 100 pages or so.

It's been a long while since I read a Lionel Shriver book. In fact, I checked it was the summer of 2013 when I read both: We Need to Talk About Kevin and Big Brother.  While I liked both of those well enough (especially Kevin), I'm wondering whether her writing style has changed drastically over the years?  Have you read this author recently, if so, what did you think?

Rating - 2.5/5 stars

eGalley provided by Edelweiss and Harper Collins in exchange for my unbiased review.

23 comments:

  1. The vocabulary won't work for me at all. English is my second language and if I need to consult the dictionary too often when reading a book, it will probably end up abandoned (not the dictionary 😉). I don't think this one Sparks my interest actually.

    Loved your honest review!

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    1. Yes, a couple of the words, must me British slang, I'm guessing now as the Kindle dictionary stated the definition could not be found!

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  2. That sounds like a really good one to skip.

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  3. I don't remember ever hearing most of those words. I wonder why she felt the need to use them? It's a pass for me.

    I have We Need to Talk About Kevin on my list.

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    1. I'm now think some are British slang or expressions common there as Kindle didn't have definitions for some of them.

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  4. The only book I've read by this author is We Need to Talk About Kevin, and I liked that very much. If this one was disappointing for you, I will skip it.

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  5. Horlicks? Really? Seems like the author was searching for words to impede rather than facilitate the reading experience. I admit I have not read any of the author's work, even the more famous ones, but I don't think I'll be picking this one up.

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    1. Yes, when I looked that one up I saw it was a person's name who invented a hot milk drink?

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  6. I haven’t read it but maybe her word choices stem from the fact that she lives in the UK now? Horlicks is a popular nighttime drink (think hot malted milk), particularly among older people in the UK.

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    1. Oh, I wondered that as several words she used either sounded totally foreign of variations of English words like foetal for fetal. I just grew very frustrated as her writing has lots of run on sentences with words that are not commonly used by authors.

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  7. Just when I was reaching for a pen to jot down this title for future reference, I got to the part of your review where you lower the boom on this one. I do love the basic premise, especially as everyone I know best is getting closer and closer to that age, but this one sounds like way too much work and frustration for the payload it ultimately delivers.

    I feel as if I just dodged a bullet. LOL

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    1. As someone else pointed out she lives in the UK now which explains some of the sentences that add to my reading frustrations. I do see where this story could have been made into a winner. As a senior I do love older protagonists these days :)

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  8. I have not read this author, and I don't think I'll be reading this book either. I'm sorry it wasn't better.

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    1. I thought it might be a winner but, the writing and overly wordy sentences just became annoying.

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  9. Wow- those are interesting word choices. Hmm that might not work for me either- writing style can have a big impact on my enjoyment of a book, for sure. Sorry this was disappointing.

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    1. I agree, clunky writing, flowery writing and long run on sentence turn me off.

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  10. I haven't had good luck with this author. Guess I won't try again with this title!

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  11. Perhaps she's always sort of written like that .... hmm. I have read two of her novels but it's been a long time ... Double Fault (1997) and The Female of the Species (1987) ... She's a different kind of author and can be frustrating but I think I'd read her again.

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  12. I've heard of this book but had already given it a pass. I did not enjoy We Need To Talk About Kevin, at all. Just read it last year when it was available and I knew other bloggers liked it.
    Sometimes we click with a writing style, chosen vocabulary and a turn of a phrase.. and sometimes we just don't. Thanks for an informative review despite your low rating, Diane.
    p.s. foetal is the "British English" spelling of fetal. I run into that sometimes with my British crime fiction. I know the meaning of wherewithal and ebullience, but I don't come across them in other books, so either it's common to use those kind of words in U.K. or... ?

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  13. Oh no I'm sorry to hear this one was disappointing. I've only read We Need to Talk About Kevin and thought it was an incredible read and the premise of this one sounds interesting but may not be rushing to get to this one. I do have another of her books on my shelf and should try that one and see what I think.

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  14. I've always meant to read We Need to Talk About Kevin, but never have. I doubt I'll give this one a try, though.

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