We Need To Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shriver

June 16, 2015 § 1 Comment

This book has long since been on my radar. I’ve heard many good reviews about it, and when I found out that the theme of this book was regarding school shootings, I had made a mental note to keep an eye out for it. I grabbed a second-hand paperback copy at the Hospice shop that my mum volunteers at.

When I opened the book, though, I was mildly disappointed that it was written in letter form. I don’t like reading books written in this manner, for reasons I cannot decipher. Sometimes, I feel that instead of bringing me closer to the author and what he/she is trying to say, the form makes it even more difficult for me to indulge myself into the flow, as I find myself constantly pulling away to find out who’s writing to who.

Thinking back, though, I do realise that I did, in fact, enjoy Dracula, which is also another book written in letter form. So I told myself to not judge this book too quickly, and give it a go. So I did. And I’m glad for it.

The letters are written entirely by Eva, to her absent husband who never replies, so there was none of that “who’s talking to who” issue. And they’re all written by present-day Eva, about the events and happenings that led up to that one fateful day two years ago. The slight mixing of what’s happening today, and tying it back to what happened before, but still keeping quite nicely to the actual chronology of events was very nicely done. It felt quite seamless, and the flow of the story was easy.

This book was a surprise. From its form, to the storytelling, right down to the individual events that Eva recounted to us via her letters to her husband, they were little surprises sprinkled freely, and all over the place. The surprises weren’t the usual, “just when I least expected it, *fill-in-the-blank* happened”. Instead, I almost felt like I didn’t know what to expect, or when to expect it. I had nothing – Eva was holding all the cards, and she was adamant about only showing what she wanted to show, when she wanted to show. I was entirely at her mercy.

In an interview that can be read HERE, Shriver says that she likes to “craft characters who are hard to love.” Looking at Kevin, and the characters within it, I’d say she’s been quite successful in doing so. It’s almost impossible for me to say that anyone in Kevin is particularly likeable, not even little Celia, Kevin’s subdued and very innocent younger sister.

If anything, I rather liked Eva and Kevin himself. They’re hard to love, yes, but in a way, I found myself cheering for them. Their characters were flawed and truthful – there was a certain edge to them that I felt was reflective of what a real human, outside of novel-world – was really like. We always say that nobody’s perfect, and yet we somehow expect perfection from the people around us, and from ourselves. It’s annoying that we think to behave a certain way because that’s how people should behave, and we do it so naturally that we believe that’s how we are. Eva and Kevin tell me that if we’re really honest with ourselves, we may each find a darkness within that doesn’t gel with the image of ourselves that we hang so proudly for all to see.

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§ One Response to We Need To Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shriver

  • This is one of my all-time favourite books, but I read it a long time ago and had completely forgotten that it was written in the form of letters! I don’t normally enjoy epistolary novels either and can’t think of any others I enjoyed. Isn’t it good when a novel challenges our preconceptions?!

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