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Lionel Shriver


Lionel Shriver (b. 1957) was born in North Carolina, attended Columbia University in New York, traveled around Europe on a bicycle, lived in Israel for six months and in Belfast for twelve years, then spent a year in Nairobi and some months in Bangkok.  Shriver finally settled in London where she has lived since 1999.  Her travels and her acute sense of place clearly inform her novels:  Game Control, for instance, is set in Nairobi, Ordinary Decent Criminals in Ireland, and A Perfectly Good Family in North Carolina, the state in which she spent her childhood.  In addition to writing novels, Shriver has pursued a career as a jouralist and columnist, with work appearing in The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and The Guardian among many other publications.

Shriver has written ten novels, each exploring a different theme.  She identifies her themes in an "about the author" addendum she wrote for the Harper Perennial P.S. editions of her books: The Female of the Species is about anthropology, Ordinary Decent Criminals addresses the "troubles" in Northern Ireland, Game Control is centered on demography and AIDS in Africa, and We Need to Talk About Kevin concerns school violence and motherhood.  Her other novelistic themes include romance, career competition, and inheritance, while her most recent novel (So Much For That) takes on the issue of health care.

While her novels frequently touch upon political issues from a liberal perspective, Shriver claims to have "a viiolent, retrograde right-wing streak." Shriver's writing is often infused with wit and gentle humor that keeps her work from becoming strident regardless of the political views her characters express.  Shriver notes in the P.S. edition addendum that some people label her a feminist, a label she rejects because it implies an absent sense of humor.

This is Lionel Shriver's bibliography.

Shriver's best known work is We Need to Talk About Kevin,  a thoughtful exploration of the forces that might lead children to engage in Columbine-style violence and of parental reactions to a child's horrific behavior.  While that 2003 novel and Orange Prize winner is likely her best to date, her other work displays her range and showcases her talent as a humorist and as a sharp observer of people, places, and politics.  The Lionel Shriver novels reviewed on the Tzer Island book blog are:

A Perfectly Good Family - a 1996 novel about three siblings coming together after their parents' deaths to decide which of them should retain possession of the family house.

Game Control - a 1994 novel that addresses AIDS in Africa, population control, and the manipulation of statistics in the context of an unmarried woman's hapless search for love.


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