The Borough Press is publishing the first standalone novella by Lionel Shriver this November: a "biting" examination of love and ownership entitled The Standing Chandelier. The novella will publish simultaneously as a £9.99 hardback and as an audiobook, narrated for the first time by the author herself, on 2nd November.
The book follows novels from the author that have explored subjects including the US healthcare system, obesity, high school shootings, human population growth, terrorism and, most recently, a near-future fiscal collapse. Best known of these is the 2005 Orange Prize-winning We Need to Talk About Kevin (Serpent's Tail).
In The Standing Chandelier Shriver turns her attention to "the particular complexities of friendships between men and women", according to The Borough Press, with Shriver's story circling around the question: "Can men and women ever be friends? Just friends?"
The book's blurb introduces Weston Babansky, who on receiving an extravagant engagement present from his best friend (and old flame) Jillian Frisk, doesn’t quite know what to make of it – or how to get it past his fiancée. Especially as it’s a massive, handmade, intensely personal sculpture that they’d have to live with forever. As the argument rages about whether Jillian’s gift was an act of pure platonic generosity or something more insidious, battle lines are drawn, promises The Borough Press.
Shriver said of the experience of recording an audiobook for the first time that it was "a shocking amount of work" and "humbling too". "There's nothing so humiliating as having to re-record a simple sentence five different times when you wrote the bloody sentence," she quipped, before adding: "I've always enjoyed reading to audiences, and this was a great opportunity to bring these stories to life in a fuller fashion than on the page. Authors aren't likely to be as polished in the delivery of accents or in the distinguishing of male and female characters as the pros are, but I hope we bring an understanding of the content and a feel for the rhythms of the prose that compensate for our shortcomings as amateur performers.”
Fionnuala Barrett, senior audio editor at HarperCollins, commented further: “Lionel Shriver’s inimitable voice is familiar to many through her extensive broadcast work, and so we are delighted that she has narrated the audiobook of The Standing Chandelier. No one can capture Shriver’s exact and witty tone better than the novelist herself.”
Shriver's first collection of short stories, Property, will follow on in April 2018.