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We Need To Talk About Kevin (Five Star Paperback) Paperback – 9 May 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 500 pages
  • Publisher: Serpent's Tail (9 May 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1852424672
  • ISBN-13: 978-1852424671
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (751 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 224,888 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


In fact everybody needs to talk about Kevin. 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 superb, many-layered novel intelligently weighs the culpability of parental nurture against the nightmarish possibilities of an innately evil child (Daily Telegraph 2006-05-06)

Urgent, unblinking and articulate fiction (Sunday Times 2006-05-07)

Cleverly balances the grand guignol and the mundane (Guardian 2006-05-06)

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 (The Sunday Telegraph 2006-05-21)

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

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

Book Description

The Orange prize winning, million copy bestseller: now a Serpent's Tail classic, with a new foreword by Kate Mosse --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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I'm unsure why one trifling incident this afternoon has moved me to write to you. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By BookWorm TOP 500 REVIEWER on 18 Aug. 2013
Format: Paperback
Having heard people rave about this book for years, I finally got round to reading it, and I can now see why barely ten years after first publication it is already being described as a 'classic'. It is brilliantly written, deeply disturbing and powerful, and the sort of book you will be thinking about for weeks after finishing, if not longer. I have read other books by Shriver and found her style off-putting, but I barely noticed it here. True, she never uses a one-syllable word when a six-syllable one will do, but you're soon too swept up in the story to analyse the technicalities and it actually works well in context here. It is written as a series of letters from a woman, Eva, to her estranged husband, discussing the 'Kevin' of the title - their teenage son who committed mass murder in a 'school shooting' incident. The actual shooting is not discussed in detail until right at the end, although we know from the start that that is where the story is going. Most of the book is about Kevin, his impact on the family and Eva in particular, from before his conception right up to the present, where he languishes in prison. It is a very unsettling story of a mother at war with her son, narrated with great openness and bitterness.

Eva is not a likeable character, but she is fascinating and well drawn. I was entirely convinced by her throughout the book, and did have sympathy and empathy for her even though she was not one of those characters I deeply loved and cared for. It goes to show it is possible to write an effective first person novel even if the narrator is not hugely appealing to the reader. Likewise, the other principal characters - her well-meaning husband, her passive daughter, and of course the sinister Kevin himself, are pitch perfect.
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82 of 86 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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5 of 5 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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35 of 38 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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