Friday, 9 April 2010

We need to talk about Kevin

No. 5
We need to talk about Kevin
by Lionel Shriver

Read or re read?
A much loved re read. I recently got the chance to meet Lionel Shriver in person and that, and this article I found in the Guardian, prompted me to pick it up again.

Fascinating Fact
A film is set to hit our screens either this year or the next, with Tilda Swinton playing the lead and narrator, Eva Khatchadourian.

The Blurb
Published in 2003, Shriver's novel about a fictional high school massacre seemed to be on everybody's bedside table that summer. Narrated through letters to her estranged husband Franklin, Eva Khatchadourian reflects on events before and after the 'Thursday' their sixteen year old son Kevin commits mass murder in his high school gym.

Now living alone in a rickety flat, she traces their marriage and family life from the beginning. She examines their happy marriage pre Kevin, and tries to explain her seemingly hot and cold desire for having him. When Franklin doesn't come home one night, Eva imagines her future without him, and this fear of losing the love of her life, seems to spur her final decision. They start trying to conceive.

From the very moment of his conception, Eva and Kevin fight. She resents her pregnancy, he is a fractious unattractive child, nannies won't stay and Eva, the founder of a successful travel guide, is forced to stay at home and become a full time mum. As Kevin gets older, Eva finds it impossible to not draw conclusions when things start to go wrong at his preschool. She sees him as a malevolent force, a calculating clever child who is determined to drive a wedge between his doting father and mistrusting mother. Even so, she tries and it is in these flashes of her earnestly trying to Be A Good Mother that redeem Eva as a character.

Time goes by and Eva continues to see her former life and her marriage drift disappear. They have another child, Celia. The sides even out. Eva and daughter. Franklin and Kevin. But things don't improve and Kevin is increasingly implicated in more worrying incidents.

But even Eva is unprepared when, one Thursday Kevin walks into his high school and murders a select group pupils and teacher in cold blood.

Is it a keeper?
Bit of a no brainer as I have had this for a good 5 years and still enjoy re reading it. I know that many people feel that Eva is a unappealing and self indulgent narrator but I can only commend Shriver for writing such an honest account of motherhood. We seem to have this invisible line of what we can and can't say when it comes to family life and Shriver bulldozes through it, exposing the very fabric of family life and the complex, painful relationships that hold us all together. Ultimately Eva loses everything, yet she still seems to love her son. To say this book gives you food for thought is an understatement; its a feast.

More like this
A Perfectly Good Family - Lionel Shriver
Bowling for Columbine - Michael Moore (film)


  1. Tilda as Eva = perfect casting choice!

  2. I still have not read Lionel Shriver but I definitely want to - people seem to either love or hate her books!

  3. thank you for great review to this book.
    it's useful for me.
    I ' m not sure to buy its.


  4. you should find an article in the guardian about her brother - who recently committed suicide... it's fascinating - if upsetting.