Wednesday, 12 September 2012

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN- Lionel Shriver, 2003

Very interesting and very clever. I was so cross when I looked up the author and the end of the story was revealed. I suppose most people know what the twist is now, or soon will when the film becomes popular, but I genuinely did not when I began reading.

High school massacres, as this book makes clear, are all-too frequent and it is a brave author who writes a novel about the subject. But this is not at all sensational. Neither is it over-sentimental. The mother still hates her child and he is unrepentant throughout. Although he says at the end that he is not sure why he did it and gives her a strange and harrowing gift, it was hardly an apology and her constant unpicking of her own actions makes it far from a happy, or even conclusive, ending.

I can’t say that I enjoyed reading it, as it was harrowing and unsettling. I am, however, so glad that I did. Too many contemporary novels either play it safe or go all out to shock. It is satisfying to find one which gets the balance right.

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