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Should We Stay or Should We Go

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What to expect

‘Hilarious… Fiery phrases spit and crackle. Disgust expands and bursts into belly laughs… a very funny book’ Sunday Times

‘Thought-provoking, timely, and extremely funny’ Metro

‘Shriver said that her favourite novels are those that pack both an intellectual and emotional punch. With Should We Stay or Should We Go, she’s added triumphantly to their number’ The Times

‘Witty and thought-provoking’ Woman’s Weekly

‘I think Shriver’s novels are wonderful… fun, smart and, perhaps because of their author’s unconventional political views, unlike anything else you’ll read’ Financial Times

‘Entertaining and poignant’ Daily Mail

‘Very moving… Shriver has the magic ability to make the reader invested in the fate – fates, I should say – of her characters’Daily Telegraph

‘Wickedly witty’ Spectator

‘Decidedly timely’ Scotsman

‘This sharp-elbowed satire is also a brusquely tender portrait of enduring love’ Washington Post

When her father dies, Kay Wilkinson can’t cry. Over ten years, Alzheimer’s had steadily eroded this erudite man. Surely one’s own father passing should never come as such a relief?

Both healthy and vital medical professionals in their early fifties, Kay and her husband Cyril have seen too many of their elderly NHS patients in similar states of decay. Determined to die with dignity, Cyril makes a modest proposal: they should agree to commit suicide together once they’ve both turned eighty. When their deal is sealed in 1991, the spouses are blithely looking forward to another three decades together.

But then they turn eighty.

By turns hilarious and touching, playful and grave, Should We Stay or Should We Go portrays twelve parallel universes, each exploring a possible future for Kay and Cyril, from a purgatorial Cuckoo’s-Nest-style retirement home to the discovery of a cure for ageing, from cryogenic preservation to the unexpected pleasures of dementia. 

Weaving in a host of contemporary issues – Brexit, mass migration, the coronavirus –  Lionel Shriver has pulled off a rollicking page-turner in which we never have to mourn deceased characters, because they’ll be alive and kicking in the very next chapter.

Critics Review

  • ‘There’s something bracing about reading a novelist so admirably heartless, watching her pull the legs off her characters again and again… I think Shriver’s novels are wonderful… fun, smart and, perhaps because of their author’s unconventional political views, unlike anything else you’ll read’ Financial Times

    ‘A work of undeniable moral seriousness, yet one that’s never just a series of (admittedly juicy) discussion points. Even the most fantastical outcomes are envisaged with exhilarating thoroughness — while Cyril and Kay remain the same richly conceived characters throughout. Despite the grimness of the premise, the book also offers the stirring sight of a writer clearly enjoying herself’ The Times

    ‘It’s hideous — but also hilarious. Through the potent spell of Shriver’s language, horror gets alchemised into amusement. Fiery phrases spit and crackle. Disgust expands and bursts into belly laughs… a very funny book’ Sunday Times

    ‘After a (pun intended) deathly start, Shriver’s typically provocative novel manages to be both entertaining and poignant, with the novelist even poking fun at herself as she questions what makes a good innings. It might (almost) be a beach read’ Daily Mail

    ‘Characteristically contrarian, fiercely experimental and decidedly timely’ i paper

    ‘This is a supremely odd book, but an utterly original one. Shriver’s refusal to write the same novel twice remains as exhilarating as ever’ Sunday Independent

    ‘Shriver uses a ‘parallel universe’ structure to explore various outcomes – and somehow makes conversations about death feel far from taboo’ Sunday Telegraph

    ‘Some books become so popular that the lucky author can thereafter churn out any old cobblers, confident in the knowledge that it will be published and find an audience. Lionel Shriver never took that easy route’ Irish Independent

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