My Scottish family have for ages been nagging me to read Lionel Shriver’s We need to talk about Kevin. If they hadn’t been so insistent, I would probably have put it away after a couple of chapters – it was slow-moving and not exactly a page-turner.
That’s not to say that it isn’t in many ways a good book. There are lots of wonderful passages throughout the book, but it didn’t really come together for me.
As far as I know, Lionel Shriver is childless, and she wrote Kevin at a time when she seriously had to decide whether she wanted to be a mother (she decided against it).
The book basically strikes me as being a childless person’s collection of parental horror stories – I imagine she might have been asking everybody she knew about the worst thing they had ever experienced a child do, and then strung it all together as a book.
The result is to my mind not very believable. Every simple episode strikes me as being authentic, but I don’t believe they could all have been done by the same child.
In particular, I don’t think any teenager as clever and articulate as Kevin would find it necessary to commit a school massacre – he would have so many other ways to spread havoc without having to go to gaol for anything.
However, many people have clearly found it plausible enough to enjoy it, so do read it and judge for yourself.