The last, and only other, book I read by Lionel Shriver was the much hyped ‘We Need to Talk about Kevin’. I read this way back when, and it was an excellent book, with a disappointing movie follow up.
Despite enjoying the book, I hadn’t revisited any of Shriver’s other works. Then I happened upon her new release novella and the blurb captured me. As many things about the psychology of relationships tend to do.
The Standing Chandelier details a short, but hard-hitting, play on the old adage ‘three’s a crowd’. Shriver has an impeccable knack for creating realistic characters. These are people you can sympathise with, while simultaneously shaking your head at their less than socially acceptable behaviour.
Jillian Frisk and Weston Babansky have been the best of friends for over 25 years. Throughout the course of their friendship they’ve attempted romance a couple of times, only to have the experience fall flat. Their timing never worked and they decide they are much better off friends, playing tennis three times a week and sharing with each other their deepest and darkest moments. It’s a friendship many can identify with. It’s only when Weston decides to propose to his long term, younger girlfriend, Paige that things get gritty. She’s happy to marry him – on one condition – the friendship needs to end.
This is very well written, with the point of view delivered from all three characters. All points of views have their validity. I liked that Shriver created the self-awareness for Weston, that if Paige were spending three evenings a week with a male friend, he equally would be uncomfortable with the scenario. Despite the views of all three characters having validity, it doesn’t stop them continuing with less than favourable behaviour. With an ending to the book you know could have been mediated better, if all three characters had only taken the time to reflect on their behaviour before acting.
I loved that this ended at what felt like the right moment. The dynamic that plays out will be familiar, to some extent, to many couples and third wheels out there, and we all have our own experiences of how these ended (usually not happily). The Standing Chandelier ends at the point in the story that allows your own ideas and experiences to take over. It’s resulted in a few interesting conversations when I’ve discussed the book with others, with the highly contested ‘should you be friends with ex’s’ question rearing its head.
An excellent afternoon read, that will certainly get you thinking and reflecting on your own experiences, as much as the plight of the characters.
Find out more of what's on my reading list over on my Goodreads account.