Sunday, January 22, 2012

We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lionel Shriver)

Perhaps I shouldn't review this quite yet, as I only just finished the book this evening, and may need some time for my thoughts on it to become un-muddled. And yet, I'm not sure time would make any difference, as this is one of those books that leaves you unsettled, not knowing what to think or how to feel about the reading experience.

I was perusing the 30-40% off discount rack at Walmart recently, and since there were only two novels (the other, hopefully, to be the subject of another review once I crack the spine and work my way through all -- no, I am not kidding -- 849 pages), I picked it up and read the back cover:

Eva never really wanted to be a mother -- and certainly not the mother of a boy who ends up murdering seven of his fellow highschool 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 come to terms with marriage, career, family, parenthood, and Kevin's horrific rampage, in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her estranged husband, Franklin. Uneasy with the sacrifices and social demotion of motherhood from the start, Eva fears that her alarming dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so nihilistically off the rails.

This already caught my interest somewhat, and when a passing customer remarked to me that, "Oh, that's my favourite book! I've read it three time already!", I tossed it into my cart.

Suffice it to say that it's a thought-provoking book. My soft-cover copy is 400 pages long, and it took at least the first 100 of those pages before I felt the slightest bit "into" the book. To be honest, the first 100 pages I just skimmed very lightly, as the writing was a little too wordy and heavy for me. But maybe I just wasn't in an intellectual mood, and others would be drawn in right at the first page. Regardless, the Dutchman in me kept me turning pages, as I had paid good hard coin for the book, after all.

By about page 200, I was finding the book intriguing, although I was still mostly reading it just for the sake of reading and getting my money's worth. At that point I was not yet picking up the book because I wanted to finish it, but more because it seemed a shame not to finish it, since I was now half-way through. The last 200 pages certainly caught my interest much more than the first 200, and I enjoyed the book in the sense that the more I more I read, the more I wanted to keep reading to find out what really did happen.

I find it interesting that furious debate has arisen around this book, with one side pitying the poor mother, (whose son was obviously born unhinged), and who feel that there was nothing she could have done to change him. The other half feels that the mother is completely to blame for her son's behaviour, as she was such a distant and unloving mother that she corrupted him. I will confess to being in the first camp: although I have no doubt that she had many failings as a mother, it seems to me that there was something inherently wrong with her son from birth. But the beauty of the book is that the author leaves this entirely to the reader to decide.

I still don't know what to say about this book, really. Did I enjoy it? I guess I did, in the sense that it was definitely a mentally stimulating book. The author has a fine command of the English language, and when she describes some of Kevin's irrational (and yet, it turns out, entirely rational) behaviours, she does it so well that I can totally envision him. There is some crude language, and a few unsavoury scenes (for example, the mother complains to her husband about how her 14-year-old son purposely leaves the door open when he masturbates, in order to gross his mother out, and at one point it describes one such scene in some detail), yet it fits with the tone and subject of the book.

Sigh. I feel like I'm just rambling and not saying anything worthwhile. Perhaps someone slightly more articulate than I would like to borrow my copy and write a review of her own? :)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Tell us what you think!