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We Need to Talk About Kevin | Lionel Shriver | Review

'In a country that doesn't discriminate between fame and infamy, the latter presents itself as plainly more achievable.'- Lionel Shriver.

I have to admit, We Need to Talk About Kevin is probably one of the darkest books I've found myself reaching for in a long time.

Kevin Katchadourian is, as his mother Eva refers to him 'one of those Columbine kids'; going on a  killing 'spree' at his high school which left nine people dead, Kevin is afforded some kind of twisted infamy in their small suburban town, and his mother finds herself an outcast, labelled as a 'bad mother' who neglected her son.

It's through a series of letters that Eva begins to analyse her memories of Kevin, right from birth up until that drastic day, and beyond, as she regularly visits her son in incarceration, wondering if her  suspicions about Kevin's...questionable nature, even in infancy, were correct - and worse, if the fact that she'd never much wanted him in the first place, had lead him to become the young man capable of such cruelty.

I don't know what I was expecting, when I first bought We Need to Talk About Kevin - it is far from consistent with what I'd usually opt for - but whatever it was, the sheer darkness of the theme I'd chosen was enough to stop me from reaching for it for about 18 months, where it sat on my bookshelf, tauntingly.

All I can say, now, is that I certainly didn't get what I'd bargained for when I did finally start reading; I'd expected gore (of which there is surprisingly little, if you're squeamish, like me, and find it off-putting), explicitness (of which there is some - minor swearing, one or two brief mentions of sex which anyone 16+ would probably not bat an eye at), and a certain sense of bias - letters written by the child's mother, after the fact, I expected to be full of retrospective insight, lending to a sense of 'I knew this was coming'/'I told you so'...and, again, I was wrong (although Eva's character did grate on me, more than a little).

Although a work of fiction, there is something startling realistic about Eva's account of her life both before and after her son's birth, and the events which followed his most horrendous act; it's almost disturbing, the way Lionel Shriver has managed to construct this narrative through the eyes of a mother who feels, at times, entirely to blame for her son's actions, who wonders constantly why this, who, despairingly, sees a darkness in him that she can't quite seem to get her husband, Kevin's father, to open his eyes to.

We Need to Talk About Kevin is harrowing, at times, heartbreaking, at others, and entirely frustrating - for, even as you read about their decision to have Kevin, his birth, his early childhood, and even the morning of the 'incident' itself, you know how inevitable it is that it will all go wrong.

I will say this, though - it is a truly incredible read, as details are revealed slowly, slowly, in such a way that, even though you might think you know how this story ends, I can promise you, you don't. 5/5 stars

This review was written by regular reviewer Francesca, get to know her here.
Photo © Francesca Sophia.

1 comment

  1. I've been thinking about picking this up for a while now. I definitely will after this review, I need a bit of dark and harrowing to break up the fluffy YA/ chick lit rut I've been stuck in :)

    Isabella | BELLAETC


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