Paperback: 266 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: June 2021, Borough Press, imprint of Harper Collins
Source: With thanks to LoveReading UK for providing a copy in return for an unbiased review.
First Sentence: "Was I supposed to cry?"
Review Quote: ‘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
Setting: Lambeth area of London, England.
My Opinion: ‘With Should We Stay or Should We Go’, a title that has me humming The Clash song ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’, Lionel Shriver has produced a thought provoking and intelligently written novel about a dilemma of the current times. The topic of ageing and how Kay and Cyril Wilkinson, both medical professionals decide how they will cope is the basis of the novel.
Having decided in 1991 whilst in their fifties, the couple planned to enter a suicide pact together when they reached eighty. Exactly how this pans out for them makes for a sometimes disturbing read, but also with humour along the way.
Social criticism at its best, with Covid19, Brexit, Migration, Suicide Pacts and Human Longevity all covered in the twelve different scenarios that the author presents to us.
In conclusion this novel is at times a horrendous insight into the pitfalls of old age, if you are no longer fit and healthy with all your faculties. Light and dark a read that will both entertain and provoke, highly recommended.
Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:
When her father dies, Kay Wilkinson can’t cry. Over ten years, Alzheimer’s had steadily eroded this erudite man into a paranoid lunatic. Surely one’s own father passing should never come as such a relief.
Both medical professionals, Kay and her husband Cyril have seen too many elderly patients in similar states of decay. Although healthy and vital in their early fifties, the couple fears what may lie ahead. Determined to die with dignity, Cyril makes a modest proposal. To spare themselves and their loved ones such a humiliating and protracted decline, they should agree to commit suicide together once they’ve both turned eighty. When their deal is sealed, 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. Were they to cut life artificially short, what would they miss out on? Something terrific? Or something terrible? Might they end up in a home? A fabulous luxury retirement village, or a Cuckoo’s Nest sort of home? Might being demented end up being rather fun? What future for humanity awaits—the end of civilization, or a Valhalla of peace and prosperity? What if cryogenics were really to work? What if scientists finally cure aging?
Both timely and timeless, Lionel Shriver addresses serious themes—the compromises of longevity, the challenge of living a long life and still going out in style—with an uncannily light touch. Weaving in a host of contemporary issues, from Brexit and mass migration to the coronavirus, Shriver has pulled off a rollicking page-turner in which we never have to mourn perished characters, because they’ll be alive and kicking in the very next chapter.
Lionel Shriver (born Margaret Ann Shriver; May 18, 1957) is an American author and journalist who lives in the United Kingdom. Her novels include the New York Times bestseller The Post-Birthday World and the international bestseller We Need to Talk About Kevin, which won the 2005 Orange Prize and has now sold over a million copies worldwide. Other books include Double Fault, A Perfectly Good Family, and So Much for That. Lionel’s novels have been translated into twenty-five different languages and. Her journalism has appeared in the Guardian, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and many other publications.