“So Much for That” by Lionel Shriver – an example of why I love words

I can’t live without words. They swirl around my head sometimes, my mind getting stuck on the particularly delicious ones. Like esoteric; or slumber; or balderdash.

And the best place to find words is in books, of course. Books are where words live, where they build homes: sometimes castles, made out of bricks of serious, pompous words; mansions of literary merit. There are words in dark caves, shivering in thrillers and murder stories; swooning words, crossing and caressing each other, in love stories. Words that skip across the pages in children’s books; sashay in chick-lit; and glide in erotica.

There are always books next to my bed, at least two, but more likely eight to ten. Sometimes they rest on the bedside table, but when the pile gets too big, it tends to fall over. So now I have a leather box on the floor, into which I put the books – initially in neat piles, which tend to slowly collapse over the month.

I can’t sleep without a book next to the bed. In fact, I feel worried and insecure if I haven’t got at least one there. Even if I don’t read before falling asleep, I like to know that I could if I wanted to. Preferably, though, I like to have a few so that I can choose depending on my mood.

I’ve just finished reading “So Much for That” by Lionel Shriver and so enjoyed it that I continued holding it in my hands for at least five minutes after finishing reading it. It was almost as though I could taste the words, their aftertaste lingering like the bittersweet memory of dark chocolate.  She’s the author who wrote “We Must Talk about Kevin”, which was a hectic, angry, scary book. This one is still hard-hitting and honest, but has a lighter touch in that she imbues a sense of humour into it, albeit dark and ascerbic. She writes  about cancer without romanticising it; her character Glynis is bitter and angry about having cancer – it doesn’t turn her into a nicer person. Flicka, a teenage girl with Dysautonomia, is sarcastic, rude and gaspingly honest about her condition. Shep, Glynis’ husband, had been hoping to escape the rat race to go and live on a carefree African island, when Glynis is diagnosed with cancer and Shep has to carry on working to get his health insurance.

Shriver uses the story to highlight the short-comings of the American health system, and how it screws the man in the street, by highlighting how Shep’s savings are rapidly depleted by the medical demands of his wife’s cancer treatment.

This is such a well-written book that I didn’t want to stop reading it and after I had finished it, other writing seemed childish or inept for a while. The story started flagging towards the end, and I felt that Shriver was trying to tie the whole story up too neatly, but it didn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of it.


Author: Nella

Constant reader, sometime writer, school resource manager. I can't imagine a life without books, nor my children, my cats, my dog, my family, my friends. I belong to two book clubs, and I don't mind whether I read a paper book or an electronic one - as long as I read.

4 thoughts on ““So Much for That” by Lionel Shriver – an example of why I love words”

  1. Nella, this is brilliant. I didn’t enjoy his first book – agree it was heavy – so will give this one a try. Well done on your blog!

  2. I enjoyed both this and Kevin — if ‘enjoy’ is the right word! Shriver writes about serious subjects yet she uses a lightness of touch and a wry humour. I found myself giggling throughout.
    I identified with many of her issues. The health care system is much like SA’s — with resistance to national health. Yet we pay huge amounts to the likes of Discovery Health only to ‘discover’ that, when we really need them, them won’t cover all. We pay our taxes faithfully; the government taking almost half of what we earn, they take our profit on anything they call ‘capital gains’, we faithfully provide for our retirement — only to find that after 35 years of hard work (as in the case of my husband) he is cast out like an old dog by his company and our expenses increase. Taxes on our home are increased, electricity, water services are up. God help us if we get sick too! Maybe it’s time to go and live on a dollar a day on Pemba!

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