It took me over a month to finish this book (something which I discussed a little bit in my Blog Review of 2012) so I was actually in the slightly alien position (for me!) of not having finished the book on time. Thankfully, no one else had either. It seems that November and December are busy months for everyone!
A little about We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver –
The book is a series of letters written by Eva to her husband Franklin, after her teenage son Kevin murders his classmates in a massacre at his school. The letters give her version of Kevin’s upbringing, her doubts about motherhood, her reservations about his character and her struggle to love him, both before and after the event. The details of the massacre are held back for quite some time and the whole event is filed in the Eva’s mind as Thursday, looming over her and affecting every aspect of her life.
I found this book incredibly unnerving, how it makes you question a mother’s love for her child and the eternal debate on nature versus nurture in forming a child’s character. It was quite chilling to hear about Kevin’s childhood and, although it was skewed from Eva’s perspective, it did paint a picture of child without the same emotional and moral compass that we consider defines us as human (or humane). There were times when I threw it aside, fed up of the incessant and relentlessly wicked behaviour of Kevin, and Eva’s long looks into his actions and psyche, analysing every single thing in an attempt to make some sense of Kevin’s actions. I found the understanding that exists between a mother and child really interesting – for it is Eva who knows him best of all, and Eva who continues to visit him in prison despite the fact that neither of them seems to look forward to these visits.
I can’t make my mind up about who is responsible for his actions – Kevin is an intelligent boy and I think the reason that some readers struggle with this book is Eva’s attitude. Eva switches between trying to figure out where she went wrong; blaming part of the failures in her family life on her husband, and washing her hands of her son’s actions altogether. Eva also strikes a tone that I imagine would grate on some people – she is not one to shirk using a more obscure word when something more colloquial would do, and her status as a successful career woman writing travel books also brings up the issue of the battle between motherhood and career for the working woman.
Again, everything was related through Eva’s eyes so it is incredibly difficult to make up your mind about it all. That’s what this book is all about though, a mother’s perspective, however honest and frank Eva tries to be she will always be prejudiced when it comes to family. It was a very, very interesting book.
Everyone in the book club seemed to love it – as we met up when we were all still in the process of reading it we began guessing at what would happen and what our thoughts on Eva, Franklin and Kevin’s characters were. It certainly provoked a lot more discussion than other books we had read and I would recommend it for book clubs because of that.
Next month’s book is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.
What is your book club reading this month?