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We Need To Talk About Kevin Paperback – 1 Mar 2005

4.2 out of 5 stars 867 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Serpent's Tail; New edition edition (1 Mar. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1852428899
  • ISBN-13: 978-1852428891
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.5 x 21.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (867 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 429,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

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)

Few novels leave you gasping at the final paragraph as if the breath had been knocked out from your body. Yet such is the impact of We Need to Talk About Kevin ... by American writer Lionel Shriver. It is a provocative, hard-hitting book that carries an extremely powerful charge, but which is certain to polarize its readers (Book News)

In crisply crafted sentences that cut to the bone of her feelings about motherhood, career, family, and what it is about American culture that produces child killers, Shriver yanks the reader back and forth between blame and empathy, retribution and forgiveness. Never letting up on the tension, Shriver ensures that, like Eva, the reader grapples with unhealed wounds (Deborah Donovan Booklist)

...Shriver's fascinating, painful meditation on motherhood-as-regret (Time Out New York)

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

Just as Eva wrestles with her own conscience, we as readers must grapple with our simultaneous revulsion and attraction to such crimes. There are no answers here, no pat explanations. Shriver doesn't take an easy way out by blaming the parents. Instead, the novel holds a mirror up to a whole culture. Who, in the end, needs to talk about Kevin? Maybe we all do (Boston Globe)

Shriver has skilfully hit the bulls-eye on two best-selling targets in the American market: the fear of rampage killings by teenagers at school, and the guilt of working mothers... The novel explores but gives no simplistic solutions to the horrors of copycat killings, the choices before women combining careers with rearing children, or whether evil can be innate (TLS)

My beach novel of choice is Lionel Shriver's book We Need to Talk About Kevin - a tense account of a mother who gives birth to a child she unapologetically dislikes from the start, and who grows up to be a teenage mass murderer - although the book serves only to reinforce what I already knew: that it is unreasonable, not to say unnatural, for adults to be expected to like all children just because they are small (Judy Rumbold Guardian)

A superb book, challenging and thought-provoking, with a shocking twist at the end and degree of redemption that leaves you literally stunned (New Books Mag)

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 2005-06-06)

A great read with horrifying twists and turns (Marie Claire)

Shriver's graceful and detailed prose is reminiscent of Don DeLillo, while the story is perversely gripping (Morning Star (New Zealand))

A chilling yet compulsive book that'll keep you hooked until the very end (Yorkshire Post)

This powerful novel uncovers the disturbing truth behind a mass killing at an American high school... There are true, terrible things said here about family life that most of us would leave unspoken (Saga Magazine)

Shriver's novel is a timely one... Nature or nurture? Shriver leaves it to the reader to decide in this powerful cautionary tale (Belfast Telegraph)

This book deservedly won this year's Orange Prize. It has the page-turning compulsion of a thriller and the fascination of a psychological study. But its main strength lies in its ordinariness. Far from feeling that nothing like this could happen to families like ours, the author makes it all entriely believable and possible. There but for the grace of God we could all be harbouring a Kevin (YoungMinds Magazine)

A macabre thriller, with a heart-stopping, heartbreaking ending, Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin is an entrancingly written novel that understandably won the 2005 Orange prize for fiction (Disability Now)

...taps into unspoken fears of maternal ambivalence that are not easily acknowledged and do not fit neatly into glossy magazine notions of female empowerment (Guardian Unlimited)

Hugely engrossing (Diva)

Powerful novel...shocking and insightful (Sunday Tribune (Ireland))

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

A study of childhood psychosis that should come with a health warning (Guardian)

Most wanted (Alison Steadman Sunday Express)

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

At a time when fiction by women has been criticized for its dull domesticity, here us a fierce challenge of a novel by a woman 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)

It is a book about the dangerous distance that exists between what we feel and what we are actually prepared to admit when it comes to family life. (...) It is a book about what we need to talk about, but can't. (...) Shriver's satire on child-centered families captained by adult buffoons whose intellectual, not to mention erotic, life is in pieces, could not be more timely. Motherhood, even in our liberated world, is still a process of requisition, of appropriation that feels more painful perhaps because there is more to appropriate (Guardian Weekend)

Harrowing, tense and thought-provoking, this is a vocal challenge to every accepted parenting manual you've ever read (Andrew Morrod Daily Mail)

'[An] intelligent ending and such important themes' (Independent on Sunday 2005-03-20)

Highly original and beautifully crafted novel (Good Book Guide)

[A] powerful, painful novel... The ending Shriver chooses will shock many readers in these policitcally correct times that take for granted the innocence of children and the corrupting culpability of adults. There are true, terrible things said here about family life that most of us would leave unspoken (Saga Magazine)

I think it is 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 (Ireland))

A shocking, sometimes funny and unputdownable novel (Sunday Business Post (Ireland))

Shriver's surprise bestseller has been hailed for exploding unspoken taboos, such as non-maternal feelings towards "nine-month freeloaders". More interestingly, she exposes the pantomime of family life in which kids are just a desirable consumer product (Guardian 2005-03-12)

Lionel Shriver grabbed the Orange Prize, a raft of headlines and a well-merited name for taboo-busting provocation in her fictional bad mother's handbook (Boyd Tonkin Independent)

Compelling account of parental feelings in extremis (Nicholas Clee New Statesman)

Book Description

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

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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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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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By Brida TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 13 May 2005
Format: Paperback
I saw this book on BBC1's Page Turners and so decided to buy it. This novel is absolutely brilliant, I cannot recommend it enough.
The story is narrated by Eva, in letter form, as she writes to her estranged husband. Eva's son, Kevin, is in a juvenile detention centre, as at the age of 15yrs he went on a killing spree at his high school. He killed 7 fellow students, a teacher and a cafeteria worker. Through Eva's letters, the reader is taken through Kevin and her story, going right back into their past, even before Kevin was born. As Eva spills her heart out onto the paper, you are struck by how she is debating the point of just how to blame, if at all, she is for Kevin's actions.
The exploration of the past, especially Eva's relationship with her husband, brings up many areas of life and truth that are often not spoken about. This, I think, is why this novel is so good; the book is not just about Kevin's terrible crime. The dynamics of Eva and Frianklin's relationship are also explored, both as a young couple and as a family once Kevin is born.
This novel really does stay with you long after you have finished the last page. The ideas, suggestions and debates it raises are complex and intriguing, something to really get your teeth into.
This is a great book, one of the best I have read, and that really is saying something.
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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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