Reviewing The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver
I should start this review by saying I am one of Lionel Shriver’s greatest fans. I love her turn of phrase, her tight sentences, her unlimited vocabulary. I love her acerbic wit and perceptive intelligence. So I embarked on The Mandibles with both gusto and relish.
Unfortunately though, if this had not been Shriver’s book, I am not sure I would have finished it. Because it is a difficult read – and not only because of her turn of phrase, tight sentences, unlimited vocabulary, acerbic wit and perceptive intelligence. Frankly, and I feel guilty even writing this, I was a little bored.
Set in the not-too-distant future, this book tracks the once-rich Mandible family against a backdrop of America in ruins. Of the characters, Willing stands out most as an adaptive teenager prepared to take on circumstances with admirable precociousness. There is also Enola (Nollie), a former author who, despite her age, shows remarkable good humour in change, tenacity to continue her daily jumping jacks and insistence on carrying around her box of manuscripts at a time when nobody makes money from writing anymore; everything is pirated and available online.
Shriver’s imagination in this book is extensive and really impressive. But the endless discussions on the economy are drawn out and tedious. I found myself depressed by this vision of a future based on “bancors”, house jackings, empty grocery shelves, ineffectual police, microchipped people and where words like “uncruel”, “splug”, “shriv”, “boomerpoop” and “robs” are all the rage.
I am not sure I would recommend this book. I didn’t enjoy it particularly, yet there is still some intangible “it”-factor that makes me think it could stir up quite a few debates around the dinner table.
So perhaps you should read it yourselves and let me know what you think? I’m up for the discussion.