We need to talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver

NOTE: there are no spoilers in this post.

A scene from the film

This is a good book. This is a great book. Another one of those “when am I getting on the metro I really need to know what happens next” kind of books.

It’s a monologue of sorts, a diary that isn’t a diary, a story about a mother, a son, a daughter, a family. Slowly, through a series of flashbacks and flashforwards, moments in which you’re not sure if you’re now, before or after,  Eva unravels the story of her life with her son, Kevin. Softly, like a skilled chiropractor melting your backache away, she describes her feelings, her emotions, her thoughts as he grows up, revealing a plot and a succession of events that will never make you look at another child the same way. Gently she leads you to the inevitable conclusion of the novel (which isn’t the end of the novel), obvious since the beginning but not complete without every detail she gives you.Unsuspectingly, you rush with her to the hospital to find out what you know you, know you know cannot be true, can’t have happened. Unsuspectingly, you are in their living room, she turns on the lights and you see what you both never wanted to see before.

Traitor, you think about the author, this is why I don’t watch horror movies…. how did you manage to lead me here and show me this without me closing the book, without me realising what was about to happen? 

And that is exactly what makes this book special. You know the culminating event. She tells you almost immediately, if you don’t already know by word of mouth or by reading other reviews. But the author’s skill is in making the book absolutely unexpected, surprising and realistic even though you already know what’s going to happen.

Another fact that makes this book unique is that the is no opinion. It could be the mother’s fault, it could be the son’s. Or the father’s, or the school’s. Who knows? The author doesn’t, the characters don’t, the readers certainly don’t. They are, however, free to mould the facts they are given into whatever opinion they prefer. They are given the chance to decide the moral of the story, which was, maybe, the sprinkle of magic in this novel.

Personally, my conclusion is that it was not Eva’s doing. Kevin was born that way and nothing she could have done would have changed his nature.



A short note on the film: don’t watch it. I watched it alone, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and about halfway through I went to get some homework to correct while I was watching it because it was, as such, unwatchable. The actors are exceptional, perfect for the part they play. It’s the director that was in fault, making the film difficult to follow even for someone that had just finished reading the book and impossible to understand for someone that had never heard of it. A colossal waste of time.

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