The Mandibles: Lionel Shriver

I have been meaning to read this book for ages. It’s been on the must read list for so long, I just have not seen it anywhere. So when I found it in the Waterstones in Exeter I had to have it. Plus, you know, it would make interesting reading material for my trip to the U.S.

The Mandibles is a sort of economic disaster novel. It follows the Mandible family, a typical group waiting upon their inevitable inheritance windfall from the incumbent patriarch in the year 2029. In an echo of the 1929 Wall Street crash the dollar plummets. Queue inflation, unemployment, homelessness and starvation. The only survivors are the increasingly affluent Asian nations. Shriver imagines this reality by documenting the decline of the four generations of Mandibles from 2029 to 2047, as they attempt to survive by pulling together as a family.

This is such an interesting book. The concept is terrifyingly plausible, which makes it all the more fascinating. In his construction of this future world (not even fifteen years away), Shriver has created a not unrealistic image – the developments in technology and stagnating employment markets are not far off our own. I think reading this book in New York, where a lot of it is set, really helped to create a certain ambiance. It was unsettling, but intriguing. The ending is a little twee, yet true to the rest the last sentence does maintain the inevitability of such financial collapse.

I would really recommend this book to anyone who wants something to stimulate the brain cells. I would tell everyone to read it, just because I would be interested in the debates that would develop, just from its concept.


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