We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver

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We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver

We Need to talk about Kevin is one of those books that you shouldn’t really admit to liking. You can picture the conversation:

Friend: What book are you reading?

Me: We Need to Talk about Kevin

Friend: What’s it about?

Me: It’s written from the point of view of a mother whose son goes and kills his class mates. It’s really good.

Awkward much.

A psychological rollercoaster told through letters to her husband, Franklin, Eva recounts her life with her husband, the arrival of her killer son Kevin and the trauma he puts them through.

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An avid traveller, Eva doesn’t want to settle but wants something different in her life. She decides to have a child, not because she yearns for one but because she wants a change. She struggles to deal with her new pregnant body and the subsequent arrival of Kevin. Maternal, she is not. As he grows she notices things which are a cause for concern, he cries constantly, doesn’t crave affection and doesn’t speak. Multiple nannies quit on her due to Kevin’s unusual nature.

As he grows older he does everything he can to challenge his mother. In his father’s eyes he can do no wrong, whether this is because he doesn’t want to see it or actually cannot see it is left up to the reader to decide. I’m with the latter option.

Eva grows to dislike her son as much he seemingly dislikes her, none more so than when she loses her temper and throws him across the room causing him to break his arm. Amazingly Kevin tells doctors he fell but Eva knows he is just waiting to pay her back for her loss of control.

Eva decides she wants another child, I believe so she can show she isn’t the terrible mother she thinks she is and ‘make up’ for the mess that is Kevin. From the off Kevin’s erratic behaviour increases and reaches fever pitch when he bathes his sister in bleach and causes her to lose an eye. An accident in Franklin’s mind, malice in Eva’s.

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The novel builds up to Thursday’s events and Thursday is just as horrific as we thought it would be. Kevin took an avid interest in archery and his parents but him a crossbow as a Christmas present. Kevin calculatingly decides to show off his skill in his high-school gym where a group of gifted and talented student have gathered to receive awards. He kills seven of his class mates by firing arrows off the gym’s balcony. But that’s not even the most shocking aspect of his rampage.

Throughout the novel I believed Celia was taken off Eva and Franklin left her. Boy was I wrong. Eva franticly tries to contact Franklin to talk about what Kevin has done but cannot get hold of him. She comes home and turns on the outside lights to see her daughter pinned up with multiple arrows through her limp body and her dead husband on the floor who has suffered the same fate as his daughter. We are led to believe he tried to save Celia but Kevin got to him before he could.

We are left with the debate of – did Kevin turn out how he did because of his mother’s lack of want and love towards him or was he just inherently evil? I leaned to the latter. Eva goes to visit her son in prison and does admit she forgives him. But Kevin’s ultimate revenge is the real killer – he killed everyone his mother loved so he could watch her suffer.

It’s a chillingly excellent read.

 

 

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Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

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Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

My first thought when trying to sum up Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go is it’s not an unenjoyable read but it makes for uncomfortable reading. Never Let Me Go falls into the same category as Brave New World and 1984 – unsettling but so powerful.

Told through thirty-one year old Kathy’s perspective she looks back on her seemingly wonderful childhood and raises questions as to what was kept hidden from her and her friends and why.

Starting at Hailsham, Kathy and her friends Ruth and Tommy are very aware that they are shunned from the outside world by Hailsham’s ‘guardians’. The only thing they know about their fate is some of their peers will become donors, others carers. Each year they await the visit from Madame, a scary woman who picks work the students have produced and shows to the outside world. The rumour mill goes into overdrive when guardian Miss Emily is suddenly absent from the school. However on the outside the school is made out to appear just like any other.

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After Hailsham comes the Cottages. Ruth and Tommy are now in a relationship and are exploring the sexual world. As is Kathy who has ‘urges’ as she calls them, which are looked down upon by her housemates, especially when she is caught looking at a pornographic magazine. Tommy, still a great friend of Kathy’s starts to put theories together as to why they all live the life they do. This is immediately shot down by Ruth especially when she learns he shared his analogies with Kathy rather than her.

Tensions get the better of the trio and they all move away from the Cottages and live separate lives – Kathy becomes a carer whilst Ruth and Tommy (now no longer in a relationship) become donors. A chance meeting causes Kathy to become Ruth’s carer but the latter dies from all her donations. Kathy then becomes Tommy’s carer and enters into a relationship with him and the pair try to discover the truth behind their childhood. They track down Madame who explains Miss Emily was fired from the school as she gave away too much about the outside world and the fate that lay ahead for the students.

Hailsham’s intentions were to shelter the children from the awful outside world that awaited them therefore they wanted to make their childhood as idyllic as possible. Madame explained she chose art from the students to show the outside world that the children are in fact humans and should be treated as such.

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Once the pair uncover the truth it breaks them apart and Tommy asks Ruth to no longer be his carer -perhaps demonstrating that ignorance can sometimes can be bliss.

Kathy and all her peers are clones of humans created and reared for vital organ donations. Disturbing – absolutely but there’s also something wonderful about the way Ishiguro writes about this dystopian world.