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Lionel Shriver - We Need To Talk About Kevin

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Michelle may remember this better than I do, but I seem to recall we had Lionel Shriver's PR on the Forum a couple of years ago asking what we thought of her. As I recall, the majority view seemed to be "Not much".

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It's a while since I read it but I found it a very involving read and enjoyed it very much; maybe because I found myself thinking of how I would feel/what I would do if my son behaved like Kevin. I have kept the book and will definitely read it again some time - my mother really enjoyed it, too. But if you are just not enjoying the style, chaliepud, maybe it's not worth spending the time on! :D

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I've tried reading the book a couple of times but fight to get past the first 10 pages. I thought it sounded like an interesting read so it's still on my bookcase for a later date.

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I bought this from a charity shop last week. I will read it soon because it looks interesting. Will let you know whether I love or hate it then! (I have children)

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I never heard of this book, but it looks so interesting that I went and ordered a copy from amazon.com.

 

You people are a bad influence! :irked::D

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I loved so many things about Eva, the fact that she had a life of her own before she met Franklin and before she had that baby .And that she and Franklin took their time to have that child . Its just an amazing book and it did actually change my view about a lot of things & its definitely one of my favorites .

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I can't say this is a book I enjoyed, but it has stayed with me, even after having read it quite some time ago.

 

It touches on a topic it find quite thought provoking: are people born evil, or are their personalities moulded through their environment, genetics and relationships?

 

A similar topic is covered in Nineteen Minutes by Jodie Picoult, and after reading her novel I didn't think anyone could top her on such a subject - guess I was wrong.

 

As others have mentioned, Shrivers writing style is pretty unique. It's a bit difficult to get into, but id say its worth sticking to.

Although I liked the way the book was set out as an epistolary, I found it difficult to believe that Eva would write in such a manner through her letters. I would imagine them to be get more informal and personal.

 

I am also interested in the idea of unconditional love as it is something I believe doesn't exist. After finishing the book, it took me a long time to gather my thoughts and figure out who I believed to be responsible for Kevin's actions. Shriver does an excellent job of putting the reader in Eva's shoes and truly empathising with her.

 

Having had some time to think about it though, I don't think that Kevin was entirely to blame. I think there are certain details Eva didn't share with us, perhaps deliberately, or maybe she just believed they were too trivial and didn't have an affect on Kevin's growth. But I think Kevin could sense, even as a baby, that Eva didn't feel comfortable around him, and that had an impact on how he saw himself as well as his relationships with others. Although Eva tried her best to get along with her son, I don't think you can truly hide such strong feelings, especially with someone who sees you day in, day out. I imagine her feelings showed through her body language and facial expressions, and Kevin unconsciously picked up on the fact that he wasn't wanted. My theory is that he internalised such feelings about himself, and reacted in a similar way.

Not that Eva is entirely to blame.

Frank annoyed the hell out of me - how can you have this wool covered over your eyes for so long when you're living with the kid?!

 

Although I have to say I did not see the ending at all. Throughout he entire book I had one question in my head - how did Frank react to all of this? I've read a coupe of reviews where the reviewer criticised the ending and said it was 'too obvious.' Maybe I'm just dense, but I didn't foresee it at all.

I did like the ending though - it was obvious that it wasn't going to be a happy ending from the start, but I've started to get a bit sick of all the happy endings I've been reading in other books. It was nice to have something a bit more realistic.

 

I also like the way the book ended wih Kevin seeming to appear more mature. I wonder if he will begin to regret his actions, and how that will affect his relationship with Eva. That part where we realise that he keeps a photo of Eva really touched me, and I began to wonder why he let Eva live. I'd like to hope that the apathy that he showed towards Eva was just a mask to hide his true feelings for her.

 

Props to Eva for visiting her son though. I wanted to reach into the novel and slap the kid everytime she visited him in prison and he responded so rudely.

Edited by Angury

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I read this at least 3 years back but I can still remember it. It does stay with you.  Angury, I didn't see that ending coming either so you are not alone there! I like the fact that the reader has to make his/her own mind up as to why Kevin turned out as he did. There is much real emotional meat in this novel to chew on; it is not superficial.

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These are some of my rather ramblng thoughts on We Need To Talk About Kevin, extracted from a long discussion started by me elsewhere about 15 years ago.

 

A thickish book, 400 pages, and smaller print than is currently used for many popular paperbacks, which made it a little awkward for reading in bed. This probably contributed to the slow start I made on this book...That and the self-obsessed soul-searching that Eva indulges in when trying to decide whether or not to start a family.

 Once Kevin arrived, however, and we start to see the differences emerging between Eva and husband Franklin as they try to relate to their son, the story began to hold my attention more and more.

Eventually, I was reading late into the night, which I have not done for quite some time, and read the last couple of chapters in a moving car (which is risky, as it makes me travel sick!).

 

Although we know before we start what Kevin has done to be imprisoned, it is the gradual erosion of trust between the parents, and the disintigration of the family that is compelling. Those last few chapters really took me by surprise, and I felt quite moved by the ending.

Thoroughly recommended.

 

 

I had some trouble with this book for the first few chapters. All the anguishing over whether or not they wanted a baby,and why, plus Eva's dreadful labour/delivery, followed by the bonding and feeding problems.

I just thought it would be dreadful to read this if you are pregnant, or have a cranky baby.

 

There are two people in any relationship, and I felt that Kevin and Eva were similar in character and just irritated each other from the start, building up a spiral of aggravation which Kevin couldn't express in an acceptable way, and eventually he exploded. Although 'explosion' seems rather inaccurate way to refer to something so carefully planned and executed.

 

I think that Kevin actually respected Eva for her ability to see through him, and because she did not try to live the illusion of a 'happy family'. I think that he actually does love her.

 Franklin has a picture of how the 'All-American Family' should be, and imposes it on Kevin and Eva (even dictating the proper way for an expectant Mom to behave). I think the illusion is despised by Kevin, even when he goes along with it, and think there is a sense in which Eva and Kevin team up as 'the ones who know it's a lie' when Franklin is doing all his 'father and son' activities.

 

Of course, it is wise to have doubts about the reliability of Eva's account. We do hear this story from one point of view only.

I assumed from the start that these letters were not being posted, and were being written purely as a way for Eva to deal with her own feelings of guilt and failure, and possibly to justify her actions. or inaction, as Kevin's mother.

 

 

I don't think that the twist at the end was actually intended as a shock or surprise, it was pretty inevitable, but those of us who had been drawn into the story, and had been seduced by the letters into believing Eva's version of events, had developed a blind spot and didn't see it coming.

 

 

I didn't see it as primarily a nature v nurture debate. I didn't see that there was a 'reason' for Kevin doing what he did, or at least not a single, definable reason such as nature or nurture.

 

As far as I remember it, (and it is fading, somewhat) the book consisted of a series of letters, giving a view of events from one single standpoint, that of a mother feeling guilty because of the way her child has behaved (which mothers do, with or without justification).

 

Apart from the pre-pregnancy/pregnancy chapters, which I remember least well, but possibly including them, the book as I see it is Eva's attempt to shift the blame onto Kevin himself, because of his cold and manipulative personality, or onto Franklin for denying Kevin's evil character and so leaving her to cope with the problem unsupported.

 

However much she tries to spread the blame, inside she still agrees with the universal judgement: 'It must be the mother's fault!'

 

Did anyone else see the preparation of the room, and plans for welcoming Kevin home at the end of his sentence as an attempt to make amends (subconsciously) for the lack of preparation and welcome when he was born?

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When I read it I thought, 'This woman thinks deep. I don't think I've thought about anything as deeply in my whole life.' Compared to hers, my thoughts are like a budgerigar chirping, 'Who's a pretty boy' to its owner. Pretty grim read though.

 

A friend gave me a poster of the film as a bit of a joke, as my name is Kevin. Some of my friends seemed to think this was hilarious. I've never seen the film, but it's supposed to be good. The bit that interests me the most it that it says it contains sexualised nudity.

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