We Need to Talk About Kevin
The gripping international bestseller about motherhood gone awry.
Eva never really wanted to be a mother - and certainly not the mother of the unlovable boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker, and a much-adored teacher who tried to befriend him, all two days before his sixteenth birthday. Now, two years later, it is time for her to co...more
This story is told entirely from the perspective of a woman who didn't love her son and assumed him of evil intentions since he was in the womb. Was Kevin a difficult child/baby? For sure. But is Eva a very sick, paranoid woman who never gave Kevin a chance? Absolutely. (less) (hide spoiler)]
Eva treated Kevin badly from birth and conditioned him to hate her and to behave the way he did, and when Celia was born, she conditioned her to be needy and scared of everything.
Children are NOT inherently bad from birth. Kevin definitely had some behavioural problems (possibly ADHD or an Autistic Spectrum disorder) but that could have been due to the foetal alcohol syndrome he developed due to his mother's drinking when he was in the womb.
There was no way of Kevin being so calculated as a child, to the point of being portrayed as evil because children simply do not think that way. His mother projected all his 'bad behaviour' onto him and in time he began to behave the way she expected him to, and likewise with Celia, who was mollycoddled by her mother from the day she was born.
Celia's unnatural fears were not caused by Kevin. They were caused by her mother. Celia saw how her mother treated Kevin and was afraid that if she did not continue to cling to her mother the way she did, her mother would begin to treat her the same way.
The incident with the acid could well have been a childish plan cooked up by Celia herself to try and get their mother to treat them both the same way by persuading her that Celia is also badly behaved for playing with the drain cleaner fluid, and the plan backfired as she got it in her eye by accident. This explains her reluctance to point the finger at Kevin, because it wasn't actually his fault. He is likely to have gone along with Celia's plan in a last-ditch, desperate attempt to get his mother to see that both children are the same and should be treated as such.
It's actually really surprising how many of these answers are siding with the mother. Eva was the evil one in this novel. She is a VERY unreliable narrator and definitely has some kind of mental health issue. Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy comes to mind here, where parents project certain behavioural traits onto their children for various reasons (the actual syndrome pertains to illness and diseases).
Reading this novel put me in mind of Dave Pelzer's 'A Child Called It' although that is from the point of view of the mistreated child and not the mother who is convinced her child is bad and evil. Eva broke Kevin's arm once, who knows what else she did to him. She may well have caused his 'illness' when he was 10 that confined him to his bed and could have killed him. Maybe she poisoned him? She (as the narrator) is definitely not going to admit that to the reader so it's up to us to judge.
I believe that is the author's aim though - to present us with a one-sided ambiguous story and leave it up to us to judge. (less)
First of all, I consider this to be truly a great work of literature, not simply "fiction". As a great writer of my native language said: "The real story is on the unwritten pages"; that is, it is the gaps, the pauses and the undercurrents between the characters (which the reader is forced to complete or imagine) which is the mark of great literature. This is one hundred percent correct as far ...more
Seeing as We Need to Talk About Kevin is famous for being such a gritty, disturbing read, I always expected to love it in a sick, twisted kind of way. Unfortunately, it is not what I expected at all. I had to force myself through one overstuffed sentence after another, only to be left feeling drained and dissatisfied.
I knew I was in for a paint-dryingly slow read almost immediately. Every sentence is padded out with big words and details that are clearly there to imp ...more
And that is underselling it.
Suffice for now to say, you might not enjoy this if:
- You believe that a lack of maternal instinct or feeling is a character flaw or a moral failing;
- You com ...more
From the first page I was SO irritated by the writing. I'll bet that the first purchase Ms. Shriver made after finding a publisher for this book was a new thesaurus. I'm positive that hers was absolutely worn out. It was like, "Hi! Let's see how fancy we can sound!" Especially for a boo ...more
I’m so horrified that I feel sick, and I’m nearly crying, not because of Kevin but for Kevin, and I don’t know who to blame anymore, or what to feel, or what to think. I only know that this book is unlike anything I’ve ever read, and in all likelihood, will ever read.
How can I so deeply love a book that is this agonisingly ugly??
I knew before I started that reading this was going to be hard. We Need to Talk about Kevin is listed as one of th ...more
Maybe it's because I'm not a mother and I did find it believable that Eva doesn't love her son completely.
Maybe it's because I enjoy the big words that were used in the letters and found it believable that she would write this way.
Maybe I'm a sucker for good endings and this one ended with a bang.
I think the writing was superb and despite it being a hard book to read (the incident with the maps was particularly brutal), it w ...more
I guess it's lucky that this was chosen for our latest group read then, because I fil ...more
Or perhaps it's the lonely ramblings of a woman who has nothing left except guilt, and it's only guilt and anything that feeds it that sustains her. Like a drug addict she gets her fix from visiting her son, then the rush, the letters, free-flowing words, all the guilt tumbling almost joyously out, no detai ...more
I have no doubt that fertility rates among women who have read this book have dropped significantly from the average. It is a Proustian-like meditation on the overwhelming irrationality of having children in the modern world. The upside potential of children is marginal in a post-industrial society; and the downside is... well too tragic to think about.
The risks only start with possible physical abnormality. Personality is far more of an issue. And ultimately one has to cons ...more
There's no story. We know from the beginning that Kevin has shot a bunch of students dead, and then Eva goes on to tell random, often exaggerated stories from his childhood leading up to the shooting.
Doris Lessing addressed the topic also in her weedy novel The Fifth Child. It's a big taboo, and all that.
For my money though, bypass these poor excuses and go straight to nettyflix or ...more
We need to talk about Kevin was painful to read/listen to. It felt like with every sentence that I was advancing through a mass of skewers that were poking my brain and heart. However, I could not stop listen ...more
In a series of letters to her estranged husband, narrator Eva dissects her family's life, from the decision to have a child to the day her son locked 9 classmates and a t ...more
Third Most Disappointing Read of 2018 Award
First of all an apology to my GR friends Debbie and Amanda who I know really loved this one...sorry gals I didn't so I'm going to rant !!
Ummmm let's get this out of the way..... so frustrated !!
Lionel Shriver can write ! She can write damn well with razor sharp observations on American Culture that are valid, important and on the mark !
However...this book was such a miss on so many levels ---
1. Kevin is ...more
Not sure if I would recommend this book as it is NOT an enjoyable read or a book I would read again, but despite the sometimes drawn out 400 pages, I just had to keep reading to find...more
We Need to Talk About Kevin was it "Impossible to put down" as suggested on the front cover? No, out of the 400 pages of this book, I thought that the first 200 or so pages were extremely hard to get through because this was not an easy read for me. I did not particularly like the authors writing style, choice of words used, and all the details c ...more
The main character (Eva) is trying to search through her memories to establish whether she could be responsible in any way for her 15 year old son's killing of several of his schoolmates and two adults. This is not ...more
I bought it with high hopes. Boy was I wrong. I don’t even know where to begin.
Basically every character in this book is an intolerable asshole. You're supposed to sympathize with them, but it's impossible because they are all such horrible people. The whole escapade turns in to a frustratingly unsatisfying schaudenfraud.
Chapter after chapter contains nothing but the characters going OUT OF THEIR WAY to make you hate them. I hope this was intentional b ...more
I think the relationship between mother and son (a son trying desperately to get a reaction from a mother who not only wa ...more
It is now abundantly clear to me why this novel is such a popular selection for book clubs the world over -- it is a family saga that features a sordid tragedy, filled with abhorrent, compelling, wretched, titillating detail. It is a book meant to conquer and divide its readers, elicit strong emotion, a take-no-prisoners approach that leaves you anything but detached and unmoved. I can't imagine anyone coming to the end of this ordeal (for it is an ordeal) and not have some opinion, if not a ple ...more
It can be both uncomfortable and compelling, to think about the private thoughts of others. I think we would all be protective of many of our innermost tho ...more
In two of her novels, Shriver is not afraid to write about subjects which stick in the craw of most American's today. In her 2010 novel, So Much for That she tackled to American health care system and in 2003 in We Need to Talk About Kevin, it was school shootings.
The story consists of Eva Khatchadourian's letters to her husband Franklin; they start from twelve months after their son Kevin has done the unthinkable and killed seven classmates, one teacher and a cafeteria worker. Eva is looking b ...more
The details: A few weeks ago, a GR friend of mine reviewed a book about women who are regretlessly childless. (Yes, my spellchecker just told me "regretlessly" isn't a word. It is now.) A troll swaggered over to the comment section and mansplained that he knows plenty of women who wish they'd had kids when they had the chance, so all us gal ...more
I kind of sort of knew the gist of the book. It was a rubbernecker… something to do with a deviant child, national tragedy, bandwagon message but I was not expecting this. It is so well written, so proper in its delivery that it takes awhile to warm up to the protagonist as she writes these letters to her husband post trauma or as she calls i ...more
It has spurred so many conversations regarding nature vs. nurture, I couldn't even count them all.
One thing I did learn from this tale was that I could absolutely LOVE a book without liking any of the characters in it. Previously, I didn't think that was possible. Now I know that it is.
I highly recommend this story to horror fans, especially those that love psych ...more
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