Friday, May 18, 2012

Book Review: We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver


I'm trying out using a GoodReads summary today guys - I've spent two days agonizing over how to write a non-book-report-ish summary for this and all my attempts have been lame.  From the book's GoodReads page:

Eva never really wanted to be a mother - and certainly not the mother of the unlovable boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker, and a much-adored teacher who tried to befriend him, all two days before his sixteenth birthday. 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 estranged husband, Franklin. 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.

Ok are we all on the same page now?  Here are my thoughts:

Writing
The writing was very well done, obviously.  The book is an award winner (Orange Prize in 2005) for good reasons.  My favorite aspect of the writing is the characters.  I found most of the characters in this book intensely dislikable, but still fascinating.  The fact that we're given the story by Eva, a very unreliable narrator, just makes her character, as well as Kevin's all the more interesting.  Eva is a character who is simultaneously dislikable and pitiable.  And the issue of nature versus nurture is a great frame for her character to develop within.  There are several moments in the narration when Eva specifically contradicts her earlier writing, and those were the best moments of the book for me.  I loved trying to figure out what really happened.

Entertainment Value
I'm not going to use the "this book's subject matter is too dark to be called entertaining" lie because I was entertained by this book.  I was caught up in the story and in trying to figure out what was wrong with Kevin and if Eva was the cause of Kevin's evil or the victim.  So for me, it was a very enjoyable read.  It does need to be said that it is a dark read though, and one that I may have felt very different about if I were a mother.  As Kevin grows up, he does some truly terrible things that are difficult to read about.

Overall
I recommend the book to those who aren't easily disturbed and who enjoy psychological intrigue in a book.  Also to those who enjoy unreliable narrators and ambiguity in literature.  It's not an easy or fast read but it's rewarding.

6 comments:

  1. This is one of those books I hear about and I forget to just look up on Goodreads and see what the plot is. So this is a good review. I didn't know this was the plot. I think I'm going to check it out. Thanks.

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    1. I highly recommend it, Wendy. It's one of the best books I've read this year.

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  2. This was a very difficult book to read but memorable, so amazing. I love the unreliable character of Eva but initially hated it but in the end it was the perfect choice. A wow book.

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    1. Wasn't Eva just perfect as a narrator? I think her ambiguity really made the book for me.

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  3. I don't necessarily care for ambiguity and unreliable narrators but I have been wanting to read this for so long, LOL. I actually got it from the library recently so I plan to get to it soon! I hear it leaves tons to think and talk about!

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    1. Jenny,
      I'm anxious to hear what you think about it. It was an amazing read for me, and it certainly provides a lot to think on. My online book club read it and had a great discussion.

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