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The Standing Chandelier: A Novella

Lionel Shriver’s brand new novella The Standing Chandelier tells the story of Jillian Frisk and Weston Babansky, two former lovers who have held an intense friendship lasting a quarter of a century. Jillian is a loud and opinionated woman with an artistic sensibility, while Weston is a natural introvert.

The story centres around an artwork created by Jillian, known as the “Standing Chandelier”, a symbol that is representative of her life and everything in it.

When Weston becomes involved with a new woman, Paige, his friendship with Jillian is truly tested and becomes increasingly threatened. Paige gives Weston an ultimatum when he proposes marriage – stop seeing Jillian. She says, “I couldn’t stand her when I met her, and I can’t stand her now that I’ve gotten to know her better”. When Weston and Paige are given the Standing Chandelier as a pre-wedding gift, the question arises as to whether it is a simple gift of friendship, or something more devious. And Weston starts to question whether it is possible for a man and woman to ever be “just friends”.

The prose throughout the novella is incredibly intelligent, pulling me in from page one. Shriver involves a lot of depth when crafting her characters, and both Weston and Jillian come across as fully-formed and believable individuals in the novella’s 122 pages. The way that the characters’ frailties and insecurities play off each other, to a miserable end, is beautifully achieved.

This story asks many tensely awkward questions about our social natures, the emotional risks of intimacy and the limits of friendship.