Review: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver

I was listening to the radio .... And playing is Oliie Murs song, Troublemaker. There's a line in it that goes "Why does it feel so good, but hurt so bad?" ....


That's how I feel about Lionel Shrivers We Need to Talk About Kevin .... I both loved this book, hence the five star rating, and hated it with a passion. Reading it felt like I had tied one end of a piece of thread round one of my teeth and tied the other end to the door handle, and I was just waiting for that door to slam. And yet I kept going because I became completely sucked into Eva's bitter, hateful, pretentious world. I hated Eva but I couldn't let her go. Despite all the over use of adjectives, all the long winded monologues and all the sour faults of the main characters Shriver sure can weave a compelling story!

I'll admit it took me a while to warm to the story. I actually had to stop, put the book away and start again at a later date because the beginning is a real slog. Heavy, dull and seemingly going nowhere. But I picked it up again and ploughed on.

As the story unfolds we learn that ambitious and independent Eva never wanted a baby, having children was her all-American husband Franklin's dream. Eva is all geared up to hate Kevin the moment he arrives and she is clearly suffering from post-natal depression which was never picked up on or dealt with. Eva refuses to stop working at her wildly successful travel guide company after Kevin is born and so she denies herself the chance to bond with her son. She views him as a setback to her own plans and ideas. She never embraces motherhood, but instead sees it as a burden and for this reason never connects with Kevin or makes any attempt to understand or even love him.


In my opinion the saddest aspect of the story is that none of this should ever have happened because Eva should never have had Kevin in the first place. She should not have been pressured into becoming a mother when she clearly was at a place in her life when it didn't feel right. Motherhood is something that no woman should feel pressured into. Motherhood is a choice, just because you have a womb does not mean you have to use it! Everyone in the story ends up suffering terribly due to this ill thought out decision, born from a sense of duty on Eva's part rather than a genuine desire to create another life.

From this I can see it from Kevin's point of view .... From his first moment on Earth he felt shunned and rejected by a person who should love him unconditionally, his mother. I'm not saying Kevin was not a difficult child, but to be honest it's easy to see where he got his bad attitude from with a mother like Eva. His actions get more and more disturbing as the story progresses (that awful incident involving his sister and the drain cleaner!) but equally, Eva's hatred and resentment of him grows page by page too. She never takes any time to understand him. She's just so hellbent on blaming him and punishing him, even if only inside her own head, that when she eventually does begin to care it's far too late.

A very thought provoking book that I'm sure have brought about some strong reactions reactions in other readers as there's just so much covered in there: nature vs nurture, what makes a good mother, how our decisions affect others, at what age is personality formed, what makes a sociopath .... I could go on. Give it a go if you are prepared to be in pain as you read as it is not an easy story to swallow, but well worth the slog for the interesting subject matter.