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March 19, 2013 / ljbradburn-Smith

We need to talk about Kevin

…seriously we do!


I have to admit that I really didn’t enjoy this book at first. Shriver presented the narrator, Eva, as cold and self-pitying and I didn’t find her appealing in the slightest. Shriver’s conflicted protaganist just didn’t satisfy my need for a narrator that I could connect with and the initial feeling that I got about Eva, and the book as a whole, was similar to the feeling I imagine you might get if you were to bear-hug a cactus – spikey and uncomfortable.

A few chapters in I did an unusual thing, for me, and actually gave up on reading this book. However, despite my dislike, it stayed with me and i’m sure that it even called my name once or twice (in a creepy fashion, fitting of its subject matter) from where I had abandoned it on a chest of drawers. I am so glad that I gave it another go because, in the end, I found it to be a mesmerising read and what I first saw as a lack of feeling in Shriver’s writing I came to apprecaite as a powerful presentation of a protaganist who had been jaded by a truly traumatic experience.

Lionel Shriver writes this novel in the format of a series of letters that the narrator, Eva, writes to her estranged husband after their son, Kevin, commits a horrific crime. Eva tells the story of how Kevin grew up and reflects on the fact that she and her husband were initially divided on having children and how she felt a disconnection from Kevin before he was even born. Through Eva’s letters the reader begins to understand her character and the hold that Kevin had over her, even as a young child. As the story of how he tore their family apart unfolds, Eva reveals herself to be incredibly damaged by her son’s subtly abusive treatment of her and isolated by her husband’s refusal to see it. Even whilst the reader begins to empathisise with Eva we are aware that she is an unreliable narrator, as the recollection is told purely from her point of view, through a heavy layer of bitterness, heartbreak and resentment, and it is more than possible that parts of her story were exaggerated or only seen in a certain light after the event.

We Need to Talk About Kevin is a startingly brilliant novel which forces the reader to question their views about innocence, and whether evil is born or made. Was Kevin born evil or did Eva’s lack of maternal feeling and her determination to always see the bad in Kevin make him that way?

For a story that appears, at first, to start after the main event there are twists and turns that I couldn’t have predicted. As I found out the hard way, it isn’t the best thing to take on holiday because it will leave you reeling for at least a day and a half!

This chilling read is so poignant because of the reality of it for so many families, particulary in America, where the novel is set. Shriver has taken a sadly all too familiar story and told it from a new perspective. This stunning tale will stay with you forever and I can promise you that you will be talking about Kevin to every reader you know.



Leave a Comment
  1. travels with mary / Mar 19 2013 12:28 pm

    I’ve seen the movie (super creepy) but haven’t read the book… I think I may need to read it now!

    • ljbradburn / Mar 19 2013 6:42 pm

      The movie is good isn’t it! I thought it was really effective how they used a lot of red imagery to represent anger and blood. It’s definately worth a read, the book is even creepier. Hope you enjoy it! let me know what you think 🙂 x

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