We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver


Children are so alien. It wasn’t long ago that I was a child but I cannot understand what goes on in their minds. This is partly why We Need To Talk About Kevin scares me so much.

It’s already had the full Hollywood treatment (with screen queen Tilda Swindon, no less) so I’m pretty late to the party and know the plot. Down-and-out Eva writes letters to her husband, detailing their life together, their domestic arrangements, their children. All up until the point their son Kevin stages a notorious mass school killing.

It’s a fascinating story of where it all went wrong. Eva herself is a spiky, difficult characters with her stylised self-image and pretentious conceits. These almost do the job of conveying character too well as they bog down the text and irritate with their twisting complexity and intellectualism. Ultimately though no one deserves a psychopath child no matter how annoying the narrator.

This book is an exploration of parenting, responsibility, the age old nature/nurture debate, but with the adrenaline-spiking feel of a thriller. This may be once instance where a book’s slow start works in its favour. The ponderous theorising of early chapters gives longer to ponder the scenarios and shades, making the ultimate denouement all the more chilling.

Read: If you’re thinking about having kids…

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