Sunday, 17 May 2009

No Jokes This Time

Finished We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver yesterday.

Unbelievably powerful and harrowing book. One of those novels I didn't want to put down, but read with trepidation nonetheless.

Told in an epistolary style, it details a mother's desperate attempt to understand why her son has committed a horrific deed (I won't be giving too much away by saying that it was a school massacre).

The novel brings up lots of modern debates about what makes a good parent; if children are born a certain way, and if so, is there any point trying to parent them at all? Eva (Kevin's mother) admits in her letters that she isn't a good mother, but also that Kevin is not a good child.

The detail in which Eva describes her feelings and actions and Kevin's misdeeds is shocking, but completely believable. She knows that her parenting skills are not up to scratch, but she makes it clear that her heart wasn't in it for most of the time - especially when dealing with the malevolent force that is Kevin.

In her quest to understand why Kevin did what he did, Eva naturally brings up several actual school shootings and compares them to Kevin's crime - Kevin himself knows every intimate detail. In discussing these events, Shriver brings up the debate of how these incidents are handled in the media, and how more of these events might be triggered (and indeed, virtually encouraged) by the overwhelming attention given to them by the nation's media.

Fascinating, sad, heartbreaking. Odd to say that I enjoyed reading this novel, but I did.

Up next: Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.

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