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We Need To Talk About Kevin (Serpent's Tail Classics) Paperback – 29 Apr 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Serpent's Tail (29 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846687349
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846687341
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (766 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 666 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lionel Shriver's novels include The Post-Birthday World, We Need to Talk About Kevin, and A Perfectly Good Family. Her writing has appeared in The Guardian, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. She lives in London.

Product Description

Review

Once in a while, a stunningly powerful novel comes along, knocks you sideways and takes your breath away: this is it... a horrifying, original, witty, brave and deliberately provocative investigation into all the casual assumptions we make about family life, and motherhood in particular (Daily Mail)

This startling shocker strips bare motherhood... the most remarkable Orange prize victor so far (Polly Toynbee Guardian)

An awesomely smart, stylish and pitiless achievement. Franz Kafka wrote that a book should be the ice-pick that breaks open the frozen seas inside us, because the books that make us happy we could have written ourselves. With We Need to Talk About Kevin, Shriver has wielded Kafka's axe with devastating force (Independent)

One of the most striking works of fiction to be published this year. It is Desperate Housewives as written by Euripides... A powerful, gripping and original meditation on evil (New Statesman)

Shriver keeps up an almost unbearable suspense. It's hard to imagine a more striking demolition job on the American myth of the perfect suburban family (Sunday Telegraph)

One of the bravest books I've ever read... We Need to Talk About Kevin is an original, powerful, resonant, witty, fascinating and deeply intelligent work (Sunday Business Post)

A study of despair, a book of ideas and a deconstruction of modern American morality (David Baddiel The Times)

This superb, many-layered novel intelligently weighs the culpability of parental nurture against the nightmarish possibilities of an innately evil child (Daily Telegraph)

Urgent, unblinking and articulate (Sunday Times)

[A] powerful, painful novel... There are true, terrible things said here about family life (Saga Magazine)

A fierce challenge of a novel that forces the reader to confront assumptions about love and parenting, about how and why we apportion blame, about crime and punishment, forgiveness and redemption and, perhaps most significantly, about how we can manage when the answer to the question why? is either too complex for human comprehension, or simply non-existent (Independent)

Pitch-perfect, devastating and utterly convincing (Geoff Dyer)

One of my favourite novels... the best thing I've read in years (Jeremy Vine)

We Need to Talk About Kevin is not a treatise on crime prevention but a meditation on motherhood, and a terribly honest one (Wall Street Journal)

What an amazing piece of storytelling. I could not put the book down. (Shirley Henderson (Bridget Jones & Harry Potter actress) Daily Express 2010-07-09)

One of the most powerful books I've read... brilliant (Boy George Elle 2011-06-01)

An original and startling story of family life. A brilliant and thought-provoking read. (Jackie Brown Woman's Own 2011-08-15)

Book Description

The Orange prize winning, million copy bestseller: now a Serpent's Tail classic, with a new foreword by Kate Mosse

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

83 of 88 people found the following review helpful By S. Hartwell on 30 July 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Schriver is frequently slated for writing a book about motherhood when she is childless. In slating Schriver and in condemning Eva (Kevin's mother) reviewers overlook the fact that Kevin scores highly on the Cleckley checklist used to identify clinical psychopathy and Eva also alludes to all 3 of the classic triad of childhood indicators of psychopathy. She's done her homework in this respect. Kevin evades diagnosis (there is a great unwillingness to diagnose psychopathy in children) and the family are left to flounder with a child whose behaviour cannot be modified with either reward or punishment.

As a mother, Eva blames herself for not bonding with a son who is incapable of bonding or, indeed, of forming normal relationships. She does her best to understand and cope with his aberrant behaviour, but faced with her husband's refusal to acknowlege the problem and his inability to see through Kevin's play-acting, she is out-manoeuvred by her own son. Through it all she loves her son as best she can, but his inability to respond in a normal fashion stymies her attempts to mitigate his behavioural and deep psychological problems.

It takes a while to get into the book, but as the story progresses, it becomes hard to put it down. The real reason for Eva's estrangement from husband and daughter is a twist I didn't see coming until a few pages from it. The final scene, however, seems out of place.
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100 of 107 people found the following review helpful By Tiny Dancer on 19 Jun. 2007
Format: Paperback
This book is very well written. Contrary to other reviews of this book, I think it is a strength in the novel that Eva does not always inspire empathy in the reader. Eva is a terrifically well rounded, believable and flawed character. The book is in the form of letters to her husband trying to rationalise the tragic killings performed by her son. I think it is in trying to rationalise why Kevin committed such atrocities that Eva questions her role as a mother... is it because she didn't really want a baby, because she couldn't bond with Kevin after he was born, because she wanted a career or was Kevin just born inherently evil?

This book is gripping from beginning to end, thought provoking, funny, scary and sad... well worth a read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By mental_nomad on 28 Oct. 2011
Format: Paperback
I bought this book on the back of all the hype and the movie. As other readers have said, its a hard read. Even if like me you enjoy literary novels and actively seek them out as I do. For about 200+ pages, Eva, the self absorbed narrator tells us her every thought and feeling, after a while we are almost pleading with her to narrate the story of the evil Kevin and his unlikely exploits.

I think this reluctance to relate the events in the story is the books biggest flaw, so much of Eva's ramberling does nothing but dull the senses.

For fear of sounding harsh, the story has an unusual and riveting subject matter, the characters are interesting if perplexing and it does all gel to give the image of an American family, who have everything but have lost control of their lives.

An interesting but demanding read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Machine on 27 Mar. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
The book is written as series of letters from Kevin's mother Eva to her husband Franklin, who has cruelly deserted her in the wake of Kevin's rampage, taking their daughter with him and effectively leaving Eva wholly and solely answerable to society at large for the tragedy. In a manner different from Kevin, but arguably more painfully, she is paying the price of his crime. For me, the depiction of Eva's emotional state is one of the most compelling things about this book.
The tone of the letters is curiously dispassionate, but the content reveals emotions seething beneath the surface and only barely held in check. That Eva shares Kevin's guilt is evident, and her examination of Kevin's history is almost forensic in its analysis. Her guilt about the ambivalence of wanting a child - any child - clearly invests her early days with Kevin, and she never manages to shake off the need to compensate for her initial lack of total commitment. She comes to believe that in spite of her best efforts she is in some way responsible for Kevin's nature, and her attempts to `normalise' her relationship with him serve only to compound the problem.
One book you have to read before you die.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Vernon M. Hewitt VINE VOICE on 25 Dec. 2007
Format: Paperback
At one level, I found this a compeling read. Unlike many here, I managed to finish it, and I did not find the style distracting or over detailed. Eva is clever and opinionated and, yes, insufferable and snobby, but in many places (if not in others) she is plausible. The wider story - which is probably best read as a sort of parable - is intimately drawn, the teleogical style hiding a neat twist (which came to me as a relief, since otherwise the format and the style of the letters was not, even in the story's own terms, convincing). Kevin, like Franklin, draws and commands our attention even if, on closer scrutiny, they are too black-and-white, too two dimensional, too much like pantomime characters. Like any other liberal critique of liberalism, the book gets caught up and largely nullified by its own conclusions - if there are any. Shriver seems to me to brilliantly parody a society that must ask WHY and be answered, even when some situations and outcomes have no WHY. The true horror of Kevin is rather like the true horror of Orwell's 1984: Obrien teasing Smith with the discovered journal entry `I understand how, I don't understand why?' to which Obrien remarks, `because there is no why' Yet the impact of this nnialism is lost when, in fact, Shriver can't help put pose the why again at the end, and in the final scene, struggle to offer us an explanation which robs Kevin of much of his fictional dynamism.

In other senses the work has flaws. Though a personal account, Franklin is so ludicrious in places as to beg wider questions as to how or why Eva would have married him in the first place. Even on this side of the pond, a fraction of Kevin's antics would have landed him in some sort of therapy.
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