Wednesday, 9 May 2012


We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver is an odd book. The Kevin of the title has, prior to the beginning of the novel, killed several of his classmates and a teacher in a high school massacre that is likened to Columbine. Each chapter of the book is a letter written by his mother to his father, trying to understand Kevin's actions and the years leading up to them.

Like I said, it's an odd book. I didn't really like it, but I wasn't expecting to. I was expecting it to be "good," though, as it's very critically acclaimed. My theory is that the writer (or, perhaps more importantly, her editors) thought the premise of the book was compelling enough to convince people to wade through the sea of dross that is the first hundred or so pages to get to the point where it becomes interesting. Not only is this a really stupid plan, it wouldn't have worked on me. If I hadn't been at home with my mother nagging me to read the damn thing, I would've given up after ten or twenty pages. And for me, never giving up on a book is a point of principle. I start a book, I finish it. End of.

Despite how hard I found it to read, and the fact that I was definitely losing interest towards the end (which is a shame because that really lessens the impact of the climax), Shriver deals with some interesting topics that I have a personal interest in. The whole idea of loving or liking your children just because they're your own has always been something of a foreign concept to me. Like the idea of people falling in love. What are the odds of you falling in love with someone who will fall in love with you? Out of the infinite number of people you're child could turn out to be, what are the odds of you actually liking them? I thought she was brave to tackle these subjects, though I was a little disappointed to discover that she doesn't have children. That her fear of not loving them kept her from having children. Until then I'd thought she might be writing from personal experience, it has a lot less impact when you realise it's entirely hypothetical.

What really worried me about the book was how often I found myself agreeing with Kevin. His contempt for people who seek meaning in life was alarmingly close to how I feel about the same thing, and his perceived envy of people with passions certainly struck a chord. I would never condone the action that he took, but I feel that I understood where he was coming from.

It's an odd book (yes, I've said it three times now) and it's very hard to talk about without spoiling it for people who haven't read it. I haven't watched the film yet, but I'm told that this is one where you need to read the book before you see the film. If you can be bothered to read it at all. Perhaps it's just me, I really didn't like the writing style, but there must be a reason my mother forced me to read it, and I really need to think that reason isn't that she's trying to break it to me gently that she isn't overly fond of her children!

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