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We need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Title: We Need to Talk About Kevin
Author: Lionel Shriver
Pages: 432
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Harper Perennial (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: April 15, 2003 (first edition)


 
You can only say so many times that a book is on your MUST read list or that you reallly want to read a book before you have to actually pick it up and do it. So I finally am in the know both about this book as well as the style and talent of the author herself. Although I was utterly depressed by the end (which didn't really happen to me until about the last 50 pages), I'm glad I read this because it was so amazing in its content, its writing, its characters and psychology. It's the kind of book I'm glad to say I have read. And I'm really curious about the author's other work as well... are all her books like this?

We know from the beginning that Kevin, son of the narrator, Eva, has perpetrated a mass murder at his high school. In letters that Eva writes to her husband, Franklin, she recaptures their lives from the beginning when she first made the decision to have a child despite never having quite felt maternal desires. She then chronicles their relationships with their son as well as the various misgivings she had about him. Whereas Eva never felt truly bonded to him, Franklin passion for this child was overkill.

At first, this novel's epistolary format was strange to me only because having Eva essentially narrate their lives back to her husband didn't make sense to me. Eventually I got used to it and also decided if nothing else it must have been therapeutic for her so that it made more sense in my head. One of the points of this book was to invoke thoughts about the nature vs nurture debate. While I suppose it did that, I actually thought that Kevin was so extreme from the beginning that this book truly fought for the side of nature. Or if it was making a fight for nurture, it wasn't so much Eva but Franklin's pure ignorance that I think influenced anything. I've read of other readers severely disliking Eva, but for the most part I liked her.

Despite the serious and depressing nature of the book, I was enthralled... by the psychology of if all as well as by Lionel's writing style which was not just astute but so intelligently crafted. I felt my brain growing smarter just by reading her book, haha. (I'll admit there were times in the beginning when it felt clunky with what I thought were unnecessary high brow adverbs and adjectives. But I must have gotten used to it).

But then the last 50 pages or so left me so bereft -- shockingly upset considering I knew more or less where it was going. I felt evil leaking off the pages and I wondered what it must have been like to even write this book. Was it as horrifying as it was to read? Then the very ending, the last page or so, was exactly as I figured it would be. This is definitely a book I will highly recommend to those who think they can stomach the atrocities within its pages.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

12 comments:

Meg @ A Bookish Affair said...

I read this book several years ago! It's definitely one that will stick with you for a long time!

Jennifer @ Mrs Q Book Addict said...

I have this one, and I haven't gotten around to it. I think I'm hesitant because of the topic and knowing it make me really sad.

Sandy Nawrot said...

If the subject hadn't been so horrific, so visceral, it would probably be on the list of my favorites of all time. But I felt physically ill by the end, and about halfway through I KNEW where it was going. Still! It would be an excellent book club book I think...so much to talk about here. I would highly recommend The Post Birthday World by Shriver. Now that one definitely IS on my best of list of all time.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

This is one of those books I can feel is awesome but I'm not sure I could hack. So psychological and creepy. A mother's nightmare. Kudos for reading and awesome review.

Zibilee said...

I also loved this book, and must say that if you liked Shriver's style in this book, you will like her others as well. This was my favorite of hers by far though, and it did make me very heavy-hearted indeed. It was an excellent read though, but totally terrifying. Wonderful review on this one today, Jenny. I am glad that you finally read this one.

Ti said...

I sort of figured it out by the end but the last few pages were still shocking for me. Especially since the entire time I was so mad at Eva for well...for being Eva. When I read those last few pages my feelings changed.

I am STILL getting comments on that review and I read it ages ago. It's definitely a book that you have to talk about after reading.

Marce said...

I considered giving up with in the first 100 pages but then like you got used to the chosen style. I was completely wow'd by the end. I would put it as my most memorable book and recommend it to book clubs.

Marce said...

BTW - the movie was crap crap crap, don't bother.

Jenners said...

I'm a big Lionel Shriver fan but I will say that her books are uneven. The other one by her that is really really good is The Post-Birthday World -- in which she imagines two parallel lives for a woman with two different men. Make time for it-- it is nothing like Kevin but totally well written.

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

I agree with you about this one 100%. I think it's a more difficult read for those of who are parents (not me) but still it was incredibly distressing for me too. I'm with Sandy, you should definitely pick up The Post-Birthday World. That one is SO incredibly creative and oh my gosh, the writing.

Booksnyc said...

This is a very timely read considering recent events. I, too, have wanted to read this for a long time - thanks for the reminder!

Athira said...

Now you have me curious about the ending. I have to check this out soon. Like you, I must have mentioned about this being on my wishlist for ages!

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