Friday, 4 November 2011

Book Review - "We Need to Talk about Kevin" by Lionel Shriver

It was haunting but...

I have been remiss and this review is long overdue and not just because I promised N. that I would write it. You don't know N., but we go back quite a few years and we've always swapped book lists. Our tastes aren't always the same but that's the beauty of it. It works most of the time... Last year though, it almost ended in tears. I finally got around to reading one of N.'s favourite books and I wrote my not-so-thinly-disguised thoughts here. I think I am the only person in the whole wide world who didn't enjoy that book. Everyone else I've spoken with about it, speak of it in those soft and dreamy angel-voice tones. Many also enjoyed the movie, and again, speak of it in dreamy-like angel tones. As for the movie, I understand the ending is somewhat different (and by that I mean TOTALLY) and casting Cameron Diaz as the mother? Goodness, what were they thinking? In my head, Diaz is the last person I'd imagine playing that role in that movie.

So, to the point of this post and speaking of actors and the characters they play, segues perfectly to - "We need to Talk about Kevin" by Lionel Shriver. If I had a Top Ten list of favourite books EVER, then Kevin would be in the Top Three. I don't know about you, but when I read I build images in my head of what I think the characters look like. And I think that's why I see so few movies based on popular novels - the actors tend not to match the characters in my head. The exception is Kevin. I cannot imagine a better actress than Tilda Swinton to play the part of Eva, Kevin's mother. And John C. Reilly as Franklin and Ezra Miller as Kevin - WOW! perfect casting!

If you haven't read Kevin, it's a toughie. This is the sort of book you'll either love or hate, there won't be a middle ground. I found the story haunting. Each page delivered a punch to the guts that didn't let up for any of the 468 pages. Each night I would apprehensively open the book and although I was cosily tucked up in bed, I always had the feeling of being on a precipice. A craggy, crumbly precipice only barely held together by some non-gravitational force; one that could give way at any moment if I dared breathe incorrectly.
So, if it made me feel so uncomfortable and anxious, why did I read it? It was the language. It was personal. It was as though I had a friend recounting her life's story to me; a gripping, heart wrenching, difficult and challenging one at that. And you don't turn your back on a friend when she's pouring her heart out. You  listen, with patience and without judgement, until she finishes. And when it's over, you can sink back into the chair you've been ever-so-slightly sitting on and be grateful that her life isn't your life and even more grateful that it is, after all, fictional.
I can see how this story can spark debate about parenting, communication among other things. In fact, in the back of the edition I have, the publisher has even supplied a list of possible questions you're meant to sit and chat about with your book club buddies. That really isn't necessary, the story supplies you with all the questions you'd ever want to debate. Unlike "The Slap", which also sparks debate and division, you develop empathy with the characters in Kevin. At the end of the story, I wanted to hug Eva and simply cry. As for the movie, I'll be putting it on my To Watch List and who knows, I might even meet up with N. so we can watch it together.
For a great interview with Tilda Swinton by Kira Cochrane on the role she played in Kevin, click here.

N. - you are so redeemed. :)

Now, what other books have you read lately?
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