This landmark publication, the first collection of stories from a master of the form, explores the idea of “property” in both senses of the word: real estate, and stuff. These sharp, brilliantly imaginative pieces illustrate how our possessions act as proxies for ourselves, and how tussles over ownership articulate the power dynamics of our relationships. In Shriver’s world, we may possess people and objects and places, but in turn they possess us.
In the stunning novella “The Standing Chandelier” (‘a brutal treat’: Daily Mail), a woman with a history of attracting other women’s antagonism creates a deeply personal wedding present for her best friend and his wife-to-be. In “Domestic Terrorism,” a thirty-something son refuses to leave home, resulting in a standoff that renders him a Millennial cause célèbre. In “The ChapStick,” a middle-aged man subjugated by service to his elderly father discovers that the last place you should finally assert yourself is airport security. In “Vermin,” an artistic Brooklyn couple’s purchase of a ramshackle house destroys their once passionate relationship. In “The Subletter,” two women, both foreign conflict junkies, fight over claim to a territory that doesn’t belong to either.
This immensely readable collection showcases the biting insight that has made Lionel Shriver one of the most acclaimed authors of our time, described by the Sunday Times as ‘a brilliant writer’ with ‘a strong, clear and strangely seductive voice’.
About the author
LIONEL SHRIVER’S novels include the National Book Award finalist So Much for That, the New York Times bestseller The Post-Birthday World, the Sunday Times bestseller The Mandibles: A Family 2029-2047, and the international bestseller We Need to Talk About Kevin. Her journalism has appeared in the Guardian and the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and many other publications. Her short fiction has appeared in the New Yorker and in 2014 she won the BBC National Short Story Award. She lives in London and Brooklyn, New York
‘All Shriver’s stories are satisfying. I exhaled a little triumphant “Ha!” at the end of each one … Shriver is brilliant’ THE TIMES
‘Shriver remains a formidably sharp writer, one of the best we have’ EVENING STANDARD
‘Shriver is at her best here, an acerbic comedian, Dickensian in style, whose vibrant characters are best seen in dramatic action and dialogue’ FINANCIAL TIMES
‘Whip smart … Crisp, conversational and convincingly true to life, Shriver’s stories are a treat’ DAILY MAIL
‘The wry and nimble novellas and stories in this collection by Shriver (We Need to Talk About Kevin) focus on how homes and objects shape the lives of those who own them. The collection, which concentrates on middle-class Brits and Americans, is bookended by two richly detailed and sardonic novellas. In the first, “The Standing Chandelier,” a freelance web designer’s relationship with his girlfriend is tested after his high-strung ex-girlfriend gives them a gift that dominates their house. In the concluding novella, “The Subletter,” an American journalist who has been making a meager living in Belfast for years is brought to the edge of a breakdown when she has to share her apartment with an ambitious young subletter. In between, mordant tales touch down in the lives of a young American making herself at home in an African household (“Kilifi Creek”), a recent widow discovering that her late husband had done more than she thought to take care of a seemingly simple garden (“The Self-Seeding Sycamore”), and a slacker whose parents find him impossible to uproot from the household (“Domestic Terrorism”). Shriver’s stories will make readers laugh when they feel they shouldn’t, and the uniting theme of houses and humans works exceedingly well, turning up new wrinkles with each successive story’ PUBLISHERS WEEKLY