Book Review – The Standing Chandelier

The Standing Chandelier: A Novella by Lionel Shriver (The Borough Press) ISBN: 9780008265274

Can men and women ever be just friends? Lionel Shriver has written a story that examines the fine line between friendship and how people try to own each other in relationships.

When Weston Babansky receives an engagement present from his best friend, Jillian Frisk, he and his fiancée, Paige are unsettled. It’s a huge, handmade sculpture that they would have to live with forever. Paige decides that Jillian has to go.

Shriver is good at highlighting the pettiness in relationships and the meanness that develops as possessiveness turns into anger. The novella still feels hollow though, and this may have something to do with the non-existent plot, unappealing characters, and the flimsily poor dialogue. The characters and their stories really didn’t matter to me, but maybe this is what Shriver was aiming for?

Lionel Shriver’s previous novels include The Post-Birthday World and the international bestseller, We Need to Talk About Kevin, which won the 2005 Orange Prize.

Amanda Patterson

The Standing Chandelier: A Novella by Lionel Shriver (The Borough Press) ISBN: 9780008265274

Shriver, well known for her book We Need To Talk About Kevin, has written a novella. It took me 29 pages to get into the story. The first pages were dense and full of descriptions. But then the story took hold of me and became a swift, but forgettable afternoon-read.

Jillian and Weston have been lifelong best friends. He calls her by her last name Frisk and she calls him Baba. They’ve had a mostly platonic relationship and play tennis three afternoons a week. Nothing to be jealous of, they think, until Weston’s new, more serious, much younger girlfriend Paige objects to their time spent together. When Weston asks Paige to marry him, she sets an ultimatum to cut all ties with Jillian. Jillian, unaware of Paige’s request, offers the couple her most personal artwork, an installation piece called The Standing Chandelier.

The story is told from three viewpoints. The best part of the book for me was the psychology of the three characters and their decisions, although I found it hard to relate to them. The question ‘can someone still be best friends with an ex’, is worth examining, but the plot was not very strong and the end just faded away.

Pauline Vijverberg

Posted on: 11th February 2018