We need to talk about Kevin …

I read this book several years ago in book club.

Actually it was me who brought the book to bookclub.  I liked the book jacket, and I liked the blurb.

What I did not like was that it was written in first person and in a diary entry format.   And once I flipped through the book, I was reluctant to read it.

The result was it lay in book club, and no one touched it.  Finally I picked it up – like an unloved child – took it home with the other 4 or 5 books, and thought: “I might get to it if I have a gap ….”

I read the book …once I had got past the first few pages, and the character of Eva, the mom started to unfold, I was gripped.  She was the quintessential “reluctant” mother, and strangely I started to see certain aspects of me in her, which made the story feel more familiar.

The story strongly debates the age-old argument of nature versus nurture.

Did Eva’s lack of affection for her son shape him into the sociopath he was to become – or was his fate predetermined from birth?  Could she have “saved” him by being a better mother?  And what makes a mother, better, if you just don’t have the maternal gene?

The book looks back on Kevin’s life, his mother, Eva describes her coldness toward her son and his strange behaviours, in gripping detail.

The book does not open with a sucker punch, but slowly starts to unfold.  The entire time you are not quite sure what to make of the characters – so you reserve judgement, or at least try to.

Eva starts to question if her son is normal.  She sees and experiences him and something in her starts to question him.  Her son is alert and intelligent, and even as a toddler soon starts to get the upper hand in the relationship.

She is a first time mom, and totally out of her depth, so she is not sure if she is making assumptions because she is inexperienced, or because there is really something just a bit off about Kevin.

The book was TRULY brilliant.  Even years on, it is still one of the most powerful and thought-provoking books I have ever read.  It was a story that really sat with me, long after I had handed the book back to bookclub.

No matter how many books I read, and I do read several, this one still tips the scales as being the story that just sits with me.

I am not suggesting it is an enjoyable read.  It is very unsettling, but the characters feel real and the author shapes this family so well, that you can’t help finding yourself lost in the fiction.  .

I heard there is a movie coming out soon-soon, which I believe is brilliant, so very keen on going to see that.

If you are going to see the movie, try to read the book before you buy popcorn and a move ticket …..

We Need to Talk About Kevin

A Novel by Lionel Shriver

2003 / 400 Pages

Leave a comment


  1. This book scared the hell out of me. Brilliantly written with a lot of substance. BUT VERY VERY SCARY.

  2. I know, I recently reread this book and it is still amazing, I could never actually decide how much was nature and how much nurture, which is the briliance of the book. I have seen the film in the UK, it is excellent but very different to the book, you cannot actually think of it as like the book you have to think of it as an entirely different story where it is much more of a “monster child” story. I think the subtle aspects of the book are too difficult to cover in a short movie, but I thought the film was great too.

  3. Agreed. i loved this book. it was incredibly unsettling, but un-put-downable. i read it before having children, and i think it would have affected me much more if i had read it post-babies.

  4. Katherine

     /  January 20, 2012

    It certainly wasn’t a book I liked but it is remains one of the most brilliant books I have ever read. I know that makes no sense at all. I read it while pregnant with my first child!! It is a book I will never forget, am too scared to read again and I somehow think that watching the movie might spoil it. I also read “the Help” which I thought was excellent and that is also now a movie. The only movie I have ever found to be better than the book was ‘Chocolat’ because actually seeing all that chocolate just made it all so much better. My issue with books and movies is that often I have built up a mental picture of the characters and then when they don’t look like what I imagined them to look like it throws me.

  5. Agree! Now you have to start reading her other books. I got hooked after “Kevin”.

  6. I want to read this now that I read your review! Thanks!


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