Thursday, 3 April 2008

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

My first thought upon opening the book and seeing the author picture was, "Her parents named her Lionel? No wonder she writes about dysfunctional families." And an interview with Shriver confirms that the book stems from her own fears of motherhood.

For anyone who has been hiding in a cave for the past couple of years, this is the story a mother trying to come to grips with the reality of her son, who has killed seven of his classmates along with a teacher and a cafeteria worker. The story is told through a series of letters from Eva to her "estranged" husband.

Unlike many people, I didn't find Eva an unsympathetic character. She is brutally honest with herself and Franklin, and exhibits the not necessarily balanced faults and virtues of a real person. In her letters, reviewing her life with husband and son, she reflects on their familial history in minute detail (the paperback edition I read is 468 pages long), trying to understand why she and her family have been struck by lightening and how she might have made things different.

Although I found Eva an interesting character, her husband is portrayed is someone so unobservant, so emotionally blind, so deaf to reality, his wife's needs and his son's peculiarities, that it is hard to believe he can live outside an institution. In the end, there is no answer for Kevin and much as I might like to have made Eva's journey with her, I couldn't do it in her husband's company.

As for the "twist" to come, promised in the reviews, I'd pretty much figured that out by the second or third letter, so there wasn't much point in waiting around for it.

This is another DNF for me; I read half of it.

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