Big Brother

The author, whose own brother died from obesity-related causes, tells the story of just what happens when Pandora's big brother, Edison, visits after a few years absence - with a weight gain of 200lbs+.  Do we, she asks, have a duty to intervene?


Big Brother Author - Lionel Shriver

Lionel Shriver's novels are unique for their focus on issues and themes frequently avoided by other writers, the best known being "We Need to Talk about Kevin."  As a journalist and essayist Shriver writes for many international newspapers and magazines. 

Review by Jeryl Scurr

With a seeming link between those with obesity and poorer outcomes from Clovid-19 many now feel even more entitled to an opinion on your weight and the size of your body.

Lionel Shriver pointedly asks the reader: –

Should one intervene over another’s weight? When is this ever justified?

In this novel housewife Pandora decides to ‘save’ her literally Big Brother by leaving her family to set up home nearby. Here, she can not only keep her brother Edison on a strictly controlled diet but can lose a few pounds herself.

Author Julie Myerson’s review in The Guardian newspaper perceptively observed: –

“…what follows is one of the most suspenseful and engaging accounts of a diet that I can imagine reading. But then again, this is a novel about so much more than weight-watching…

With honesty, precision and humour, she conveys all the boredom and exhilaration of weight loss, along with its tendency to threaten the people around you.”

In Big Brother Shriver eloquently describes the reality of living with obesity as well as the impact it can have on our closest relationships.

Edison and Pandora’s story highlights weight stigma, health bias and diet culture plus our own, internal prejudices.

I found it fascinating to see how Shriver plots and connives to challenge our perceptions.

Is he or isn’t he the same person as before his weight gain?


“Size is relative. If everyone is fat, no-one is fat.”

“Incredibly, the self-starved never appear capable of taking any pleasure in the very vessel for which they’ve sacrificed.”

Why I chose Big Brother:

Many of us have family or a friend we consider to be an ‘unhealthy’ weight.

This book stands out among a growing number of novels dealing with the effects of obesity not because Pandora assumes Edison must want to lose weight. It is his acceptance of himself that is not allowable. To her, or our culture.

What would you do in this situation?

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