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We Need to Talk About Kevin Hardcover – 25 Mar 2003

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; export ed edition (25 Mar. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582432678
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582432670
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 16.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (788 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 343,306 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 One of the most powerful books I've read... brilliant -- Boy George Elle An original and startling story of family life. A brilliant and thought-provoking read. -- Jackie Brown Woman's Own --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

Exclusive author interview with Paul Blezard. 'Elegant investigation...with a brilliant denouement' Observer --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By littlegreenfrog on 23 Mar. 2012
Format: Paperback
I can't make my mind up about Kevin...

On the one hand, I stayed up reading this book until nearly 3am on a night when I had work the next day. It wasn't that I was enjoying it, or that I needed to know what happened (it tells you on the back cover), but it was more like I needed to sweat out a fever. I knew I wouldn't rest properly until I'd finished it, so I might as well get it over with.

So it ended up being a page turner... does that make it a good book? I'm not sure.

As some other reviewers have commented, none of the characters are particularly likeable. Eva is egotistical, selfish and self-absorbed, Franklin is weak and two-dimensional, Celia is similarly undeveloped as a character, and Kevin could be interesting, but his psychology isn't really explored, because it's all about Eva. As a character, Eva is someone who quite plainly should not have had children, and if she were a real person, she probably wouldn't. Her relationship with her husband is unconvincing; it's difficult to see what bonds them together, and the author doesn't do a very good job of trying to persuade the reader. As such, it's hard to see why their relationship is so close and so loving that Eva cannot bear to leave him even when he defends their son's behaviour, particularly towards their daughter.

It's also difficult to believe that in a real-life situation, a couple would let their son behave the way he does without getting him seen by a psychologist. I've worked with children who have been sent to therapy for a lot less... And again, who would buy their violent and disturbed teenage son a crossbow for Christmas? There are so many things about this novel which just do not work.
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86 of 91 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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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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