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Review: The Mandibles: A Family by Lionel Shriver

BY James Walton

1st Jan 2015 Book Reviews

Review: The Mandibles: A Family by Lionel Shriver

The Mandibles is so dazzlingly good that it might even mean Lionel Shriver won’t be described as “best-known for We Need to Talk about Kevin” for the rest of her career. Here's our full review. 

Lionel Shriver

The Mandibles is powerful proof of the idea put forward by one of its own characters that, “Plots set in the future are about what people fear in the present.”

By 2029, the Euro has fallen apart, books are a thing of the past and China is firmly in charge.

Meanwhile in America, where the book takes place, the dollar has collapsed, wiping out savings and causing middle-class comfort to be replaced by an increasingly ferocious struggle for survival.

But what makes the book so impressive is not just how thoroughly Shriver imagines every aspect of her near-future world. It’s also how perfectly she combines that with the old-school satisfactions of a proper family saga.

All the characters and all the relationships between them are beautifully done, and the book bristles with pin-sharp observations about the way families work—or don’t.

The result is both a fierce exploration of our current anxieties and an irresistibly rollicking read.


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Feature image via Dublin Town