We Need to Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shriver

“Eva never really wanted to be a mother; certainly not the mother of the unlovable boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker and a teacher who tried to befriend him. Now, two years later, it is time for her to come to terms with marriage, career, family, parenthood and Kevin’s horrific rampage in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her absent husband, Franklyn. Uneasy with the sacrifices and social demotion of motherhood from the start, Eva fears that her alarming dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so nihilistically off the rails.”

You must read We Need to Talk About Kevin if you haven’t already (another one I’m rather late to the party on), but a word of caution: it will change you. It’s one of those novels that alters your perception ever so slightly. You will look at stories of these horrific school shootings in a different light. You will regard everyone around you with just a tad bit more suspicion than usual because you realise that everyone can be pushed over the edge – it’s just finding out their limit. You will realise that some people are evil without a reason – even if they won’t admit it, even if they pay people to stand up in court and throw reasons at juries – and that is a terrifying thing. This book is haunting, brutally chilling – but brilliant and razor-sharp.

Although this book is fiction, it’s more threatening than a true story, because fiction isn’t bound by the constraints of true stories – and Lionel Shriver more than plays upon this advantage. The story is so meticulately detailed, so peppered with convincing anecdotes and stories and so realistic that you begin to convince yourself that it’s true. That’s the most dangverous element of this book: its believability. The novel is so brutally honest – Eva’s admission of her reluctance towards Kevin and her love for Celia, and Kevin’s unflappable, honest nature – that to believe it is true lowers humanity in your eyes a little bit. Her portrayals of the relationship between Kevin and each parent is fascinating – his fake amiability with his father turns to hatred, and his strongly expressed dislike of his mother turns into grudging respect which is matched by narrator Eva – “I often hate you, too, Kevin,” she admits during one prison visit.

It’s a disconcerting book, but beautifully written and devastating in its simplicity. I was truly hooked – and the end, which I’m usually quite good at figuring out early on, took me by surprise. Simply brilliant writing.


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