Customer Review

75 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A complex , frightening and ambiguous creation, 8 Sep 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: We Need To Talk About Kevin (Paperback)
I won't retell the story; it is well known by now.
I have read it twice and think it is one of the most astonishing modern novels I have read. I want all my friends to read it so we can discuss it.
On first reading I thought it powerful and affecting. What makes a good-enough parent? There but for the grace of God etc. I also thought it had its faults; the opposition between Eva and her husband and between Kevin and Celia are a little too schematic.
A second reading revealed greater complexities. We only have Eva's perspective and Eva is clever and clear-sighted but also vain, selfish and judgemental. She is distinctly childish in her relationship with her husband, looking to him to provide an anchor while she goes off to explore the world (her own mother was emotionally absent). And, ccording to her account, her judgement is, in a twisted sort of way, vindicated. Yes, we now know that Kevin is a monster and she was a bad mother. And seeing things clearly, being smart is very important to Eva.
Once I began to question Eva's view, I saw clues scattered through the book that, far from being born a monster, Kevin was a child largely formed by his mother's antipathy towards him that started before he was even born. The account of the apathetic and joyless toddler is deeply sad. Why did she not seek help? When he is ill, she recognises that Kevin's indifference requires huge effort to maintain so why does she think he needed to do it? Did she think that no psychiatrist or psychologist was clever enough to teach her anything? She frequently criticises Kevin for things that are frankly minor - eating before going to a restaurant, for example, which would matter less if she were ever positive. On occasion, Kevin makes tentative efforts to engage with her but is usually greeted with a self-justifying lecture. He tells her she is harsh and he is right. His English teacher asks why he is so full of anger.
A major theme of the book is responsibility and Eva makes much of her sense of guilt. Yet, Eva does not really take responsibility for a relationship between two unequal parties (something else she fails to recognise) that went wrong before it even began. She just accepts its hopeless nature because to do otherwise would require a far more difficult kind of self-examination than the one in which she actually engages.
A rare book to engage such strong feelings and moral examination, beautifully written and crafted.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 30 Apr 2010 07:43:42 BDT
This is the only review in several that I have read that I'm in agreement with. An intelligent,thought provoking and ambitious book which provides the reader with remarkable insight but lacks in some areas. Didn't the child even in his tiniest years ever bond? Its human nature to crave companionship so why wasn't some help given to him when it became apparent that this wasn't happening? Why are her feelings so uppermost in the whole scenario?

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Jan 2012 10:35:19 GMT
Neil says:
I suspect that Eva's failure to seek psychological help for Kevin is more of an oversight by the author, rather than a deliberate dramatic clue, since the fact that it didn't happen isn't even mentioned. It seems likely to me though, had Eva ever suggested it, Franklin would have said Kevin was perfectly normal, and it was just 'a stage'.

I think you're being a bit easy on Kevin, to be honest! Eva made plenty of efforts of her own to engage with Kevin, and considering the difficulties she had to endure with Franklin's refusal to take her concerns seriously, I'm surprised she even stayed!
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