The Tzer Island author blog is a forum for discussion of writers whose works have been reviewed in the Tzer Island book blog.  It may call attention to a new or relatively unknown author or to an established author's lesser known works.  Readers are invited and encouraged to comment on the writers featured on this blog, to discuss books that the author has written that aren't reviewed here, or to chat about anything else of relevance to the featured author.  As is true of the Tzer Island book blog, the author blog is an ongoing project, a work in progress that will forever be unfinished.

Thursday
Mar242011

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.

 

Wednesday
Mar232011

Nevil Shute

Nevil Shute (1899-1960) is the pen name used by Nevil Shute Norway, a British writer who published more than two dozen novels.  His experiences as a soldier during World War I, as a volunteer naval reserve officer during World War II, and as pilot and aeronautical engineer are reflected in his work.  War often has an impact on his characters and it isn't unusual to find ships sailing and airplanes soaring through his texts.  The books that are arguably Shute's best were written during and after World War II.

Shute and his family moved to Australia in 1950, where he lived until his death.  Most of the novels Shute wrote after 1948, when he first piloted an airplane to Australia, are set in that country.

Shute wrote quiet novels about decent people who meet adversity with dignity and courage.  His prose style was never flashy; it never got in the way of the stories he told.  Those stories are often deeply moving.  Shute mastered the ability to balance the character-driven sensibility of literary fiction with the plot-centered demand of genre fiction.  Although his novels have fallen out of fashion, they are just as vital and haunting today as they were when they were first published.

More information about Shute is available in this Wikipedia article and at the website of the Nevil Shute Norway Foundation.

This is Nevil Shute's bibliography.

Shute's best known novels are A Town Like Alice and On the Beach.  Although they are both excellent, some of Shute's lesser known books are just as good.  The Nevil Shute novels reviewed on the Tzer Island book blog are:

Most Secret - a 1945 novel about a secret project to attack German ships in a French harbor that incorporates the elements of a wartime thriller, a spy novel, and a love story.

The Chequer Board - a 1947 novel about a man who, knowing he has less than a year to live, finds a way to make his remaining life meaningful.

The Breaking Wave - a 1955 novel (Tzer Island's favorite Shute novel) about a partially disabled veteran who learns about his own life by reading the diary of a woman who committed suicide on his parents' farm.

 

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