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Sunday, 5 July 2015

Book Review: We Need to Talk About Kevin

A book review of We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

This has been on my 'To Read' list for a very, very long time. After my new Kindle Paperwhite arrived (*hallelujah emoji*), We Need To Talk About Kevin was the first book I purchased and it's certainly left me ticking over with a few thoughts since I finished it. Written in 2003, Shriver seemed to target the US's growing hysteria over teenage mass shootings, which in the wake of the recent Charleston shooting still seems very relevant today.

We Need To Talk About Kevin revolves around a fictional school massacre. It documents the life of Kevin, the killer, from the perspective of his mother over the course of a series of letters to her husband. It was this twisting of outlook that really fascinated me as soon as I heard about the book; how could you begin to imagine raising a child who turns out to be a killer? The whole novel plays on the natural human fears of parenthood and children. How can you truly punish a child? How much can be blamed on nature and how much nurture? Kevin's mother seems to favour the former, but her words definitely don't feel like they can always be trusted..

It's not always a page turner. In terms of plot, there's actually a surprisingly small amount to work with, but it's with everything that's unsaid that Shriver manages to say the most. The recounting of past events via letters took a while to get used to, and I'll admit that Shriver's writing style could be frequently unrealistic and overindulgent. I often got the feeling that she'd written the book in Word and used the Thesaurus tool for every fourth or fifth word - I've never heard someone use the words 'sobriquet' or 'obsequiously' so many times in informal letter writing. Nevertheless, Shriver is clearly a very intelligent writer who can produce great literature.

This book is by no means perfect, but its provocative and thought-provoking way of storytelling will keep you thinking for a long, long while after turning the final page. And it will also make you bloody terrified of having kids.

Have you read We Need to Talk About Kevin? What's the latest book you've read?


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Sunday, 5 July 2015

Book Review: We Need to Talk About Kevin

A book review of We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

This has been on my 'To Read' list for a very, very long time. After my new Kindle Paperwhite arrived (*hallelujah emoji*), We Need To Talk About Kevin was the first book I purchased and it's certainly left me ticking over with a few thoughts since I finished it. Written in 2003, Shriver seemed to target the US's growing hysteria over teenage mass shootings, which in the wake of the recent Charleston shooting still seems very relevant today.

We Need To Talk About Kevin revolves around a fictional school massacre. It documents the life of Kevin, the killer, from the perspective of his mother over the course of a series of letters to her husband. It was this twisting of outlook that really fascinated me as soon as I heard about the book; how could you begin to imagine raising a child who turns out to be a killer? The whole novel plays on the natural human fears of parenthood and children. How can you truly punish a child? How much can be blamed on nature and how much nurture? Kevin's mother seems to favour the former, but her words definitely don't feel like they can always be trusted..

It's not always a page turner. In terms of plot, there's actually a surprisingly small amount to work with, but it's with everything that's unsaid that Shriver manages to say the most. The recounting of past events via letters took a while to get used to, and I'll admit that Shriver's writing style could be frequently unrealistic and overindulgent. I often got the feeling that she'd written the book in Word and used the Thesaurus tool for every fourth or fifth word - I've never heard someone use the words 'sobriquet' or 'obsequiously' so many times in informal letter writing. Nevertheless, Shriver is clearly a very intelligent writer who can produce great literature.

This book is by no means perfect, but its provocative and thought-provoking way of storytelling will keep you thinking for a long, long while after turning the final page. And it will also make you bloody terrified of having kids.

Have you read We Need to Talk About Kevin? What's the latest book you've read?


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