“The Last Must Be The First”: A Lionel Shriver Novel | NDR.de – Culture – Book

Status: 06/02/2022 06:00 AM

Lionel Shriver’s latest book is an elegant, and at times heart-wrenching, novel about marriage on the rocks and old age that we all can’t escape.

by Katja Esbach

Serenata and Remington are in their 60s and have been together for many years. The children have left the house and life has become calmer. But then Remington threw his wife out of balance with one sentence:

“I decided to run a marathon.” In the humble sitcom, she would have spit coffee all over her breakfast. But Serenata was a reticent person between sips. “What or what?” Her tone was a bit mischievous, but polite.
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After the marathon before the triathlon

Remington wasn’t at the best of his life at this point, and his relationship with the sport has always been a theory. On the other hand, his wife was an immeasurable athlete. Even her arthritic knees forced her to quit smoking. Now she wonders why Remington wants to start walking now and she can’t. He simply resents her:

Their different views on this great project created a rift between them that should not have arisen in their time. (…]After a long and happy marriage with a comfort inclined to belittle her, she forgot what it was like not knowing what was going on in his head and a certain fear haunted her that she wouldn’t love him if she ever knew.
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Remington is already running the marathon, and Serenata is hoping everything will go back to how it was before. What you haven’t been counting on is Bambi, the personal trainer who instigates Remington to do something more violent: triathlon.

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Pointy story in a mean tone

Of course, it seems, Lionel Shriver didn’t write a novel about recreational athletes going berserk. Sports is just a way to talk about how the stats of this marriage have changed. This was unsettled for a time, as Remington lost his job for defying his young black boss, whom Remington felt unqualified and burdened.

Unfortunately, Lionel Shriver remains on the surface of the rather boldly described ending story and can’t provoke any sparks from it either in terms of content or literature. Regardless, it tells a very sharp story with a gentle sinister tone and funny scenes, sometimes meaning:

Valeria raised the seven-month-old at her sweeping waist as if she was holding a six-round pistol. You cannot criticize mother and child, you cannot speak kindly in the presence of mother and child, you cannot ask mother and child awkward, curious, or difficult questions—for Madonna next to Dodge The Great Caravan radiated luxury, holiness, and self-sacrifice, which made her beyond reproach.
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Valeria is the daughter of Remington and Serenata. Years ago, she fell into a Christian fundamentalist sect and cut off contact with her parents. Now he’s rekindling old conflicts.

“The Last Shall Be First” is an elegant, and sometimes heartbreaking, novel about a marriage in turmoil and old age that we all can’t escape.

The last will be the first

by Lionel Shriver

page number:
432 pages
Type:
a novel
additional information:
From the American movie Bettina Abarbanel and Nicholas Hansen
publisher:
Piper
Order number:
978-3-492-07111-6
price:
24 EUR

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Culture NDR | New books | 02/06/2022 | 12:40 pm

Keywords for this article

Novels

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