We Need to Talk About Kevin – a short review

This book is not fun, and yet I enjoyed it immensely.

It deals with the ultimate taboo of a woman who does not feel any maternal instinct when her first born is placed into her arms, and the subsequent guilt as she raises a child with whom she develops an ambivalent relationship, and who as a teenager ends up killing several of his classmates in a Columbine-style massacre.

Rarely have I felt so drawn into somebody’s life, and it is all the more surprising as there is absolutely nothing in common between the narrator (a woman, a mother with a murderer son in prison) and myself. I suppose that’s what makes good literature.

I imagine We Need to Talk About Kevin is the kind of novel that splits readership in half, and it is not a pleasant read. Often one finds uncomfortably sucked in and does not manage to turn away but can only witness the car crash of a life that is portrayed. As a reader, you feel dirty, a bit of a voyeur, and at the same time touched and honoured that you have been granted the trust to look into this woman’s shattered soul.

We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver, winner of the 2005 Orange Prize for Fiction.

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