Saturday, 9 August 2014

Review: We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

I’ve wanted to read this book ever since the film came out (which I still haven’t seen), so when I was looking for birthday presents for my dad in and saw this book in a charity shop I picked it up.

We Need To Talk About Kevin is an epistolary novel – narrated by Kevin’s mother Eva in letters to her husband Franklin. It details Eva’s memories of growing up with Kevin, the strained family dynamic he created and Eva’s life after Kevin’s massacre. It is a dark, haunting book (although not without its moment so of lightness) and isn’t the easiest read.
I really struggled to get into this book. I didn’t like any of the characters, and found the writing style confused. Eva was either writing memories down verbatim, or listing off endless things about her life which she thought were going to happen but didn’t, or flitting around time frames and memories. There was no consistent style, and it wasn’t giving me what I wanted from the book, which was an insight into the relationship between Kevin and his mother, and also a view into both their minds – Kevin as the committer of mass murder and Eva as the mother of a mass murderer. I found myself wanting a lot more from the novel than it was giving me – I wanted to hear Franklin’s side of the story, I wanted more depth rather than the background width we were getting.

However, around about 150 or so pages into the novel something clicked into place. I think once Eva stopped focussing on her life before Kevin, and even her life before Franklin and all the things she thought her husband would be, the novel became a lot more streamlined and goal driven, which it should have been from the start. From this point onwards the novel became very interesting and a lot darker. A lot of the questions I was asking of the novel got answered (namely, why didn’t she just leave, and why is she the one visiting Kevin every two weeks).

Overall, I did enjoy this novel. It was a mostly interesting look into the mind of a mother whose son committed murder, and we also get an insight into Kevin’s own mind from the person who knew him best. I really want to see the film now, so I might be posting a book-to-film review once I’ve done that.

My edition of We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver was published in the UK by Serpents Tail and released in 2005. Originally it was published in the US by Perseus Books and was released in 2003.

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