Just read, We need to talk about Kevin, Lionel Shriver

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I have to admit to my own stupidity here. When this book came out, I’d just read DBC Pierre’s Vernon God Little and didn’t feel like reading another book about a high school shooting. I thought they’d be similar, ha, stupid. Then I forgot about it, the film got made – haven’t seen it despite it having Tilda Swinton in the main role. Anyway, a friend gave me her copy of We need to talk about Kevin, saying I really must read it and still it sat in the ‘pile of shame’ for a good few months, a year possibly. Stupid resistance to a book for no real reason. So I finally picked it up and of course, couldn’t put it down and finished it in less than 36 hours. It is unsettling, thought provoking, very well written and pretty much brilliant. I think the timing of when I eventually selected to read it was unintentionally right too, I kept thinking of anhedonia in Infinite Jest, which I only finished a week ago and of Kevin. I don’t think I belong to either of the camps that Lionel Shriver mentions in the Afterword, one generally blaming parenting and the other inherent personality of Kevin as basically evil, I guess I’m somewhere in between the two. I found it quite sad that Franklin desperately tried to relive his childhood or rather create a better version of it through his son Kevin and how (at least this is what we see through Eva’s letters) he never stopped to ask Kevin or paused to observe him, so cocooned was he in this perfect father-son relationship, which ended up being completely one sided. I found it odd that Franklin and Eva managed to remain married for as long as they did being such polar opposites of each other. I suppose they did precisely because Eva seemed to have needed grounding that Franklin provided, we don’t really know what Franklin needed other than his son. I loved the dissection of middle class values and snobbishness and I loved that this book asked many more questions than it answered. I seem to remember than I liked Vernon God Little a lot when I read it but now don’t remember all that much of it (I’ve just read too many other books since), I think this book will stay with me for a long time and I’m glad I didn’t see the film before reading it. I’ve also discovered another Lionel Shriver book in the pile of shame, an earlier one possibly – I’ve no idea, someone gave it to me years ago so will definitely read that too.

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