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megustaleer

We Need To Talk About Kevin

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Synopsis from Amazon:

Two years ago, Eva Khatchadourian's son, Kevin, murdered seven of his fellow high-school students, a cafeteria worker, and a popular algebra teacher. Because he was only fifteen at the time of the killings, he received a lenient sentence and is now in a prison for young offenders in upstate New York. Telling the story of Kevin's upbringing, Eva addresses herself to her estranged husband through a series of letters. Fearing that her own shortcomings may have shaped what her son has become, she confesses to a deep, long-standing ambivalence about both motherhood in general and Kevin in particular. How much is her fault? Lionel Shriver tells a compelling, absorbing, and resonant story while framing these horrifying tableaux of teenage carnage as metaphors for the larger tragedy - the tragedy of a country where everything works, nobody starves, and anything can be bought but a sense of purpose.

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A thickish book, 400 pages, and smaller print than is currently used for many popular paperbacks, which made it a little awkward for reading in bed. This probably contributed to the slow start I made on this book...That and the self-obsessed soul-searching that Eva indulges in when tryingto decide whether or not to start a family.

 

Once Kevin arrived, however, and we start to see the differences emerging between Eva and husband Franklin as they try to relate to their son, the story began to hold my attention more and more.

Eventually, I was reading late into the night, which I have not done for quite some time, and read the last couple of chapters in a moving car (which is risky, as it makes me travel sick!).

 

Although we know before we start what Kevin has done to be imprisoned, it is the gradual erosion of trust between the parents, and the disintigration of the family that is compelling. Those last few chapters really took me by surprise, and I felt quite moved by the ending.

Thoroughly recommended.

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The well deserved winner of 2005 Orange Prize for Fiction is definitely a must read novel.

 

It is utterly compelling and I could not put it down. Extremely well written, the story unfolds in a series of letters written by Kevin's mother.

 

I put this forward as a title for my reading group and am looking forward to discussing it with them in the New Year.

 

Thoroughly recommended - add this one to your Santa wish list.

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I rarely recommend books to friends, but I've been pushing this one on to anyone who will listen.

 

This was one of the most thought provoking novels that I have read for a long time. It leaves a lot of questions unanswered, most notably the nature/nurture debate that many parents must have to tackle. The mother isn't a particularly likeable character and as the narrator of the story, doesn't attempt to apologise for the way she is which is a strength of the story. No-one could be accused of sentimentality here!

 

The ending was truly didn't-see-it-coming shocking. A unique piece of writing.

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I found this a really interesting novel, really thought provoking. I didn't like the way there was only the mother's view of events, which may or may not have been a 'reliable' account, but it makes for interesting discussion, I may suggest it for the next meeting of my book group! The ending was quite a shocker, although I had sort of guessed about half way through, won't say too much more just yet because of spoilers and I can't remember how to make a spoiler tag! I found the ending inconclusive and disturbing, but I guess it was all the more effective for this. I really hope loads of other people read this because I'd really like to discuss it properly! Recommended, if only for the many questions it poses.

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Hi Seraphina

 

Glad to have another devotee of what must be one of my top three reads of the year (so far!). It does give food for thought doesn't it?

 

 

 

I think your frustration with the one sided narrative is part of the author's intention. I read and hear her interviewed a couple of times earlier in the year and she is certainly a strong character with definite ideas about things, so I think that she meant for the book to challenge, disturb and undermine conventional thinking. In fact, I seem to remember her on Richard and Judy (!) with two other authors who had written loosely along the lines of not wanting children. One of the other books seemed to be a bubblegum 'I'm not going to have kids because I'm a crazeee chick having too much fun'. The contrast couldn't have been stronger!

 

I didn't guess the ending (I never do) and was totally shocked, although I immediately felt that of course that's what Kevin would do. I'd assumed that the father had taken the daughter away somewhere.

 

 

 

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well, that wasn't really 'the ending' was it?

 

It finishes with the 'second bedroom,the plain bedspread and the copy of Robon Hood'. Is there really hope for restoration, or is that hope against hope?

How did you feel about continuing with the book after we discover exactly what he did?...and I really did NOT see that coming, I too thought Franklin had taken Celia away.

 

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Now I'm trying to remember how close to the end of the book we found out that Kevin had killed his father and sister. It was a while back that I read it. I can rememebr feeling shocked for a good while. I also got the sense that the author tried to change our feelings toward Kevin by giving him an air of vulnerability as he approached his 18th birthday. The style of the book worked the emotions very well, a bit like a Hollywood weepie where even as you are crying your eyes out, you know you are being manipulated by the writer/producer/actors.

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There is one more letter (10 pages), after we are told of the mayhem at home, in which Eva stops trying to figure out the degree to which she is responsible for Kevin, and decides that she does love her son.

 

My bookgroup is supposed to discuss this book on Monday, but if anyone has still to finish it I don't see that we can.

Talking about it without mentioning what has happened to Franklin and Celia woulkd be like ignoring the proverbial elephant in the corner - as this thread is proving!

 

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I think I had guessed that the father and sister were dead as I couldn't see any reason for Franklin to totally cut Eva from his life, and the fact that he never seemed to reply to the letters. Plus she mentions early on in the novel that she has 'lost' Celia, and it seemed odd to me that she would talk in this way if her daughter was still alive. Saying that I didn't really like that it happened, I was hoping I was wrong!

 

 

I thought it was quite effective the way we were made to feel a bit sympathetic towards Kevin at the end...for me anyway it heightened the futility of the whole thing. I think it would have been easier to deal with if he hadn't shown any remorse, but the fact that even HE didn't see any reason for what he'd done in the end made me really angry!

 

So what about the whole nature/nurture thing? Is Eva partly to blame for Thursday or not? I personally believe not. I'm a firm believer in nature, although I think nurture can bring certain things to the fore, but they have to be there already. So I suppose I'm saying it's a mixture really. Kevin must have had the ability to do this in his nature from the start, but perhaps Eva's behaviour enhanced it.

But if Eva was such a terrible mother, how come she's the one still alive and why does he have a photo of her in his cell?

 

 

Also do you think Eva's account is reliable? Or is she lying and making things up? Is she writing with a particular agenda? And what is her reason for writing these letters anyway? Is she trying to assign blame? It almost seems as if she's trying to pin the blame on Franklin sometimes...

an easy target as he's dead!

There's no one to contradict her story so she can say what she likes.

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I thought that the reason that Kevin didn't kill Eva was to make her suffer even more. OK, being dead is hardly a happy ending, but the pain of coping with a son who has murdered your husband and daughter must be almost unbearable. The ultimate punishment for the 'crime' of giving birth to Kevin.

 

Eva is an unreliable narrator, I don't think any narrator is entirely impartial and this is an emotional tale. In the first part of the book, she give the impression that it was largely pressure from Franklin that resulted in her pregnancy and she does seem to hold him responsible for lack of support when Kevin is difficult as a child. This seems unfair and there are always two sides to any such story.

 

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I had some trouble with this book for the first few chapters. All the anguishing over whether or not they wanted a baby,and why, plus Eva's dreadful labour/delivery, followed by the bonding and feeding problems.

I just thought it would be dreadful to read this if you are pregnant, or have a cranky baby.

 

There are two people in any relationship, and I felt that Kevin and Eva were similar in character and just irritated each other from the start, building up a spiral of aggravation which Kevin couldn't express in an acceptable way, and eventually he exploded. Although 'explosion' seems rather inaccurate way to refer to something so carefully planned and executed.

 

I think that Kevin actually respected Eva for her ability to see through him, and because she did not try to live the illusion of a 'happy family'. I think that he actually does love her.

 

Fanklin has a picture of how the 'All-American Family' should be, and imposes it on Kevin and Eva (even dictating the proper way for an expectant Mom to behave). I think the illusion is despised by Kevin, even when he goes along with it, and think there is a sense in which Eva and Kevin team up as 'the ones who know it's a lie' when Franklin is doing all his 'father and son' activities.

 

Of course, you are right, Seraphina, to have doubts about the reliability of Eva's account. We do hear this story from one point of view only.

I assumed from the start that these letters were not being posted, and were being written purely as a way for Eva to deal with her own feelings of guilt and failure, and possibly to justify her actions. or inaction, as Kevin's mother.

 

It was very perspicacious of you to have seen in advance that Kevin had also included his father and sister in his plans. I think it took a lot of people by surprise. I genuinely thought that Franklin had taken Celia away,and that Eva didn't know where (I was waiting for some dramatic revelation to explain why). I was slightly confused by the resurgance of passion between them after Franklin announced his plans for splitting up, but I didn't doubt that they had separated.

 

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Well, we were supposed to talk about Kevin at my RL bookgroup last night.

 

We meet quarterly and talk about three books. Rarely has the whole group read all the books, but we usually talk about them all, anyway, and decide whether or not to read the one/s we've missed based on the discussion.

 

Last night only 3 of us had finished WNTTAK, two were halfway through, and 3 had yet to start. Although we who had read it were eager to talk about it we felt we shouldn't, as we couldn't ignore the events of the penultimate chapter and didn't want to spoil it for the ones still reading it.

 

We did manage to intrigue the others, 'though, and enthuse the ones who had been discouraged by those difficult first chapters. So, it has been held over until the next meeting...in February!

 

Seraphina,

you are still the only person I know of who had any clue about what had happened to Franklin and Celia

 

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Well, we were supposed to talk about Kevin at my RL bookgroup last night...

...it has been held over until the next meeting...in February!

 

How frustrating!

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Recovered thread

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Mungus

22nd December 2005 10:02 PM

 

Hi Leese and thank you for 'dragging up' this thread again, I'm always interested to read other people's views on this powerful novel.

 

Like you, I have no children (by active choice) and was drawn to the book partly for this reason. Your reaction to Franklin was interesting. I realised that I hadn't really give him a lot of thought but you're right, he is a bit of a drip. Kevin obviously realised this and used it to his own advantage. I originally resold my book on ebay but have put it on my Christmas wish list as I want to re-read it. Here's hoping!

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minxminnie
7th January 2006 11:26 PM


Hi everyone

I'm so glad to have discovered this book group as I've just read WNTTAK and was dying to talk about it.
It's a long time since a book has occupied my thoughts for so long after finishing it. I felt very ambivalent about it: on the one hand, I was horrified and gripped by the story and found the observation of Kevin very perceptive in places, particularly of the teenage Kevin (I work with teenagers). But at times I felt the characterisation did drift into caricature - of all 4 main characters - and I was reminded of those old cartoon strips in kids' comics where one child in replaced by a malevolent alien who seems innocent to everyone except the protagonist, who cops all the flak for the alien's misdeeds.
Franklin did really annoy me, and in a way I loved Kevin's disdain for him and the way he sent him up. Someone said Eva and Kevin are alike - that hadn't occured to me, but yes, I can see that.

I too thought that Kevin's apparent redemption at the end was bogus, and he was keeping his mother on a long leash, just to draw her back in again later. In fact, her commitment to take him in on release really disturbed me - I found myself worrying about a fictional character!


Like many people who works with kids, I think, I am a bit naive and think that they are essentially good underneath. This novel made me question that assumption. Maybe no bad thing?
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Hazel
28th January 2006 05:32 PM


Whole thing in spoiler I am afraid, as I really don't want to spoil this book for anyone.


I think that Eva's disdain for Kevin in the formative years was really responsible for the character he became and there is no getting away from that. But I think he grew into a carbon copy of her, though a violent malevolent version, as she rebelled from her agoraphobic mother, he rebels from his family. He dislikes his father as he views Franklin as a phony and everything he and his mother are against. Other than her love for Franklin, I really don't see what Eva and he had in common. Love truly was blind in this case. I really disliked Franklin and the way he spoke to Eva, it made me so mad that I physically felt as if there was a rock on my shoulders waiting to be hurled at him.

I guessed the fate of Celia and Franklin pretty early on, as there was a repeating motif throughout Eva's cataloging of similar events, when she would mention the parents fate.

I really liked the ending because Kevin grew up, and it showed that teenagedom is transient and those feelings of hate, isolation, depression, change, polarisation do diminish, and any actions you take during them can affect the rest of your life. As the old adage goes "suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem". I think in a way Kevin comitted a sort of suicide which he was bound to come out of eventually - he just killed others who caused his feelings, rather than himself. I do think he loved Eva as all his actions were directed at her, to get her attention and he couldn't manage life without her. His feelings, bad or good, were just too strong to share her with anyone - she was his cause for living and vice versa. They filled each others lives up too much. It's kind of sad.

Great read though one of the most thought provoking I can remember reading.




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megustaleer
28th January 2006 08:09 PM


When it comes to the nature v nurture debate, I think character is a mixture of both.
If Kevin had been a sunny-natured baby, then Eva's negative feelings might have been lightened. I think they bounced negative feelings off each other, and reinforced them.

The argument that the mother's coldness causes the child to withdraw is one that has been cruelly and incorrectly levelled at the mothers of children on the autistic spectrum for decades.

I agree very much with the last three or four sentences of your 'spoilered' post, 'though, Hazel.
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Hazel
30th January 2006 07:06 PM

 

Originally Posted by megustaleer
If Kevin had been a sunny-natured baby, then Eva's negative feelings might have been lightened.

I don't think Eva's feeling would have changed, she seemed determined even before the birth to view Kevin as an imposition on her life.

 

Originally Posted by megustaleer
I think they bounced negative feelings off each other, and reinforced them.

Yes, they were definitely the same type of person and therefore compounded any 'problems' they had. You often see it in families where a certain parent and child are like oil and water, but people often comment that they are "just too alike". This was the case with Eva and Kevin. Has anyone noticed irony that Franklin wanted to give the baby and American name unlike his mother's yet EVa and KEVin are phonemically alike? I think Shriver was trying to tell us more about their relationship there.
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megustaleer
30th January 2006 07:23 PM

 

Originally Posted by Hazel
Has anyone noticed irony that Franklin wanted to give the baby and American name unlike his mother's yet EVa and KEVin are phonemically alike? I think Shriver was trying to tell us more about their relationship there.

I'd missed that completely!
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crispychez
3rd February 2006 01:28 PM


I finished this book last night and so have a couple of comments.

I agree with Megustaleer about beleiving Kevin actually loved Eva. And Seraphina isn't on her own - I had no doubt in my mind from very early on in the book

that Kevin killed his father and sister



I didn't even realise that is was supposed to be such a big shocker until I spoke to a colleague of mine this morning and she couldn't beleive I knew. Then I read everybody's comments on here and I'm sorry to say I thought it was obvious - not sure how I knew though - don't know exactly what it was that gave it away.
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Hazel
3rd February 2006 03:39 PM

 

Originally Posted by crispychez
Then I read everybody's comments on here and I'm sorry to say I thought it was obvious - not sure how I knew though - don't know exactly what it was that gave it away.


 

I think, for me, what gave it away was Eva's repetitions of the other events similar to Kevin's. She always mentioned what happened to the boys' parents, in that they killed them. So I knew that Kevin would do the same and I guessed that Celia would be killed too as he showed her less interest than anyone else.



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Cathy
8th February 2006 11:18 AM


I haven't hated a book as much as this one in a long, long time, I really truly absolutely hate it. I guessed from very early on that

.



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Hazel
8th February 2006 12:19 PM


Blimey Cathy! I think it is great that you had such a reaction to the book, as it makes a change to hear a completely different viewpoint. I agree that the end wasn't really a shocker, ot a twist but I don't think it was meant to be I think the whole book was just shocking from Eva's feelings towards her first-born, Franklins indifference to Eva's feelings, and blinkered view of his son, to Kevin's behaviour and treatment of everyone around him. It was just a great portrayal of a dysfunctional family breaking down and culminating in some horrific events that are sadly being more common. It makes people question the 'blame the parent' theory, and certainly made me think more about the two young men I am raising and how I do it.
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These posts complete page 2 of the original thread

Mungus 8th February 2006 05:00 PM
Wow! Excellent rant Cathy, glad you got it off your chest!

Maybe this is one of those books that provokes reactions because the characters are so hateful - and unapologetically so. I didn't mind that I didn't like Eva and you're clearly not meant to like Kevin (although that would be an interesting reaction...). In your case, it seems that you did mind that you didn't like them and the lack of empathy affected you in a different way. And there's always the risk you take when people have told you that something is so fabulous that you just have to read it. I read this novel about a year ago and wasn't aware that there was a twist in the end, and I'm very gullible ;). As for Shriver being childless, maybe this gives her a strange take on motherhood, but crime writers aren't murderers but still usually manage to make a decent job of writing about them. In interviews that I saw and read, she seems to be an odd character anyway.

I'm going through a bad book phase and it's really annoying me. I'm just about to abandon a book on page 418 of 698 because I need to read something enjoyable again. Hope your next book gives you more pleasure.
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megustaleer 8th February 2006 06:43 PM
I don't think that the twist at the end was actually intended as a shock or surprise, it was pretty inevitable, but those of us who had been drawn into the story, and had been seduced by the letters into believing Eva's version of events, had developed a blind spot and didn't see it coming.

That is the reason for the use of the spoiler tag, and if the reader has remained detatched, or has disliked the book as you did, it probably is obvious, and seems weird that the rest of us didn't see it.
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Hazel 8th February 2006 06:52 PM

 

Originally Posted by Mungus
As for Shriver being childless, maybe this gives her a strange take on motherhood, but crime writers aren't murders but still usually manage to make a decent job of writing about them. In interviews that I saw and read, she seems to be an odd character anyway.

I think it is remarkable that she is childless, she wrote with such conviction and with a great deal of truth about motherhood, embarking on pregnancy, the change between lovers when a child enters the relationship. Some of what she wrote rang true for me, and even then I didn't feel as Eva did. Shriver must have done a great deal of research, asking prospective mothers their innermost fears.
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Mungus 8th February 2006 09:58 PM

 

Originally Posted by Hazel
Shriver must have done a great deal of research, asking prospective mothers their innermost fears.



And maybe non-mothers too. I am married but we have made an positive choice not to have children. One our reasons was that we didn't want our relationship to be changed by the addition of children. It's a selfish reason, but not to be under-estimated. Eva and Franklin's relationship was changed by the arrival of Kevin and clearly not for the better.
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Cathy
9th February 2006 09:56 AM


I've been thinking about the book some more, and the fact that Shriver clearly sets out to provoke by excluding a bunch of things which people normally turn to to find reasons for these school shootings:

firearms, religion, marylin manson, drugs, poverty, abuse, bullying, psychiatric illness. Don't you think that by excluding all of this she makes her comments less meaningful? What is her story really about then? Not loving her child or not liking him? By the end she admits that she does love him, and so did his dad and his sister so he didn't even lack that. I find it hard to justify why she wrote this story, what does it really have to tell us? What is the point? Has she really researched motherhood or is she just exploiting women's fears of motherhood? I just found that so manipulative, and for no good reason.



Thank you for letting me rant on! I've calmed down now and am reading something much more enjoyable!
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megustaleer
9th February 2006 03:39 PM

 

Originally Posted by Cathy
What is her story really about then?

Maternal guilt?

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Meg, thanks for recovering this thread. It was the one that brought me to BGO, and a book that still seems to evoke a lot of discussion. I recently recommended it to my senior pupils as a possibility for their essay on personal reading, and I had about 5 essays on it, all taking very different stances.

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Page 3.

 

Mungus

9th Feb 2006 03:42pm

 

What is her story really about then?

 

Nature vs. nurture?

_________________________________________________________________

 

Hazel

9th Feb 4:16 pm

And maybe non-mothers too. I am married but we have made an positive choice not to have children. One our reasons was that we didn't want our relationship to be changed by the addition of children. It's a selfish reason, but not to be under-estimated.

 

 

Very good point Mungus. And don't think that is a selfish decision after all, you can't be expected to consider the 'self' of someone who doesn't exist yet. I felt very much the same as you and was terrified I would never want children, but something changed and it was the best change I made to my life, but I am well aware that it is not for everyone and if only everyone thought as carefully and honestly as you, then there might not be so many little Kevins and Kevinettas running the neighbourhoods.

 

I must add that when I was pregnant with our second, I was terrified that I wouldn't love it as much as the first, and I was terrified that it would be a girl as I knew in my heart that I wanted boys. I think a lot of mothers don't really own up to their true and possibly selfish feelings about pregnancy and children, and I think that's why this book came as a shock and is much talked about.

_________________________________________________________________

 

Hazel

9th February 2006, 04:21 PM

 

What is her story really about then?

 

Thank you for letting me rant on! I've calmed down now and am reading something much more enjoyable!

 

 

I think the beauty of this book is it's simplicity, that Shriver doesn't rely on any crutches (like those mentioned in your spoiler), to explain Kevin's behaviour, It is just between him and his mother, and whether maternal love or lack thereof can be the most devastating thing in a child's life. It's so very different to Vernon God Little which highlighted each of those reasons for the events that unfolded. Shriver avoided, successfully, the paranoia, scapegoating nature of the media.

 

I am glad you had a good rant - does you the world of good!

 

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Cathy

Old 10th February 2006, 11:42 AM

 

Me and Seraphina had a huge conversation about all this yesterday, in the BGO chat room, and it seemed a shame not to share it so we've saved it and slightly edited it to make it readable and cut out irrelevant bits. Please excuse us if its rough around the edges, we weren't writing for the message boards at the time and we sort of trail in to it at the beginning and out again at the end! And its going to be in two chunks as its so long, give me a bit of time to get it up here...

 

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Cathy

10th February 2006, 11:44 AM

 

Part One:The kevin debate is ongoing….

[Cathy] 5:15 pm: i did get that it was about nature vs.nurture but i just thought 'yawn!' which is perhaps a bit dismissing and insulting to those who loved it?

 

[seraphina] 5:15 pm: what is yawn about nature versus nurture? it's an ongoing debate that hasn't been settled by scientists OR philosophers!

 

[Cathy] 5:15 pm: Its just so pointless, its clearly a bit of both and we're clearly never ever going to get a satisfactory answer so what's the bloody point debating it? and it seems to me the only thing on the side of 'nurture' that was bad for kevin was his mother not being sure she wanted him, everything else was fine, so it seems to me she's saying 'NATURE' and not much else.

 

[seraphina] 5:15 pm: which in America is quite a statement, as the general consensus there seems to be nurture nurture nurture

 

[seraphina] 5:15 pm: just because people like me and you can accept that it's a bit of both doesn’t mean everyone does. Some people have a pretty warped

idea of what makes kids the way they are, I didn't know this until my ex boyfriend told me how controversial the work he is doing actually is.

 

[seraphina] 5:15 pm: people have really been slated in the past for daring to suggest that parenting isn’t as important as we first thought.

 

[Cathy] 5:15 pm: Well we're not America! Sorry, i just hated it so much...i'm not sure i'm even being fair...i wish people would write about how things really are you know, people have bad things happen to them and don't murder anyone, its just so middle class angst! I didn't know it was such a controversy. What gene is he looking for? the murder gene?

 

[Cathy] 5:15 pm: And the whole mother-bashing element really pissed me off too, all those poor women who have trouble connecting with their babies, if i was one of them i'd be near suicidal after reading this and i guess i just think that's unhelpful. Mental health problems are treated hysterically in so much of the media!

 

[seraphina] 5:15 pm: well it was written in America! I agree with you about the mother bashing thing though, I'm not sure it was helpful, and if I had post natal depression it would probably push me over the edge - of a cliff! but those kind of events ARE treaded hysterically by the media - it was Marilyn Manson's music, blah blah blah, isn't it interesting (if scary and unpleasant) to see someone taking a different viewpoint and actually acknowledging (although perhaps going a little over the top about it) that it could actually be the fault of the

people's genetic make up rather than something that can be fixed with nicey nicey psycho babble?

 

[Cathy] 5:15 pm: Is that her only point then? It bugged me that it was too subtle, he was too subtly evil, i just didn't believe that to be true when lots of annoying and bad people are clearly bad and we know it clearly, we just aren't good enough at covering up like kevin does.

 

[seraphina] 5:15 pm: but there ARE people who are good at covering up their evilness. Think of the serial killers who are married and live a

normal life, there are plenty of them. They are the scariest type of people! And also I guess no one ever really focuses on the mothers in these types of incidents, maybe it's interesting that she has? It was sensationalist and played mercilessly on a mother's fear of #$%^&* ng up her kids, but just because that's what she wrote doesn't mean that's necessarily exactly what she THINKS. Maybe she's just pointing out that there's more than one way of looking at these things when they happen.

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Cathy

Old 10th February 2006, 11:47 AM

 

Part Two:[Cathy] 5:15 pm: Well maybe that shows that it is nurture too and any of us could be driven to murder. Or at least some of us have the potential in us and most of us don't turn into murderers. But we're not secretly plotting from birth to murder anyone. Or we're born with clear signs of something wrong because babies aren't that good at concealing things. I mean, research is scientific and worth listening to because of that, someone just fantasizing worst-case scenarios isn't!

 

[seraphina] 5:15 pm: I think it IS nurture too, but i think it is mostly genetic. a person with the 'murder gene' if there is one could grow up to be a murderer or not, depending on whether his/her environment nurtured that gene.

 

[Cathy] 5:15 pm: i do think most of us could be driven to murder by very extreme circumstances, i don't think its as fine a balance as Shriver says, there are people who do not love their children and abuse them and the kids still come out not being murderers. And if you were in mortal danger, do you not think you might kill?

[Cathy] 5:15 pm: I'm not saying there isn't a gene that makes people more likely to murder purely out of hate or whatever.

 

[seraphina] 5:15 pm: i have thought about this many times! i don't even think i could poke my fingers in someone's eye if they were attacking me! although saying that, in the moment i probably could

 

[Cathy] 5:15 pm: Exactly, if it came to it, if someone was trying to drown or strangle you and you got hold of a knife, would you not stick it in?

 

[seraphina] 5:15 pm: i don't know if i could. I guess so....that's not the point though, that's a completely different circumstance

_________________________________________________________________

Cathy

10th February 2006, 11:49 AM

 

So that's it...I don't know why we trailed off there it looks a bit weird now!

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Hazel

10th February 2006, 12:42 PM

 

Cathy

[Cathy] 5:15 pm: i wish people would write about how things really are you know' date=' people have bad things happen to them and don't murder anyone, its just so middle class angst! I didn't know it was such a controversy. What gene is he looking for? the murder gene?

 

[Cathy'] 5:15 pm: And the whole mother-bashing element really pissed me off too, all those poor women who have trouble connecting with their babies, if i was one of them i'd be near suicidal after reading this and i guess i just think that's unhelpful. Mental health problems are treated hysterically in so much of the media!

 

 

 

I agree that it is both nature and nurture. Your point about people having bad things happen to them and don't go out and repeat that behaviour proves that. Some deal with trauma in early life well, and productvely, yet some react badly amd maybe do go out and commit crimes. That's down to nature. Would those latter people still behave that way if their nurturing had been different? I don't think they would - so their nature reacted to their experience of nurturing.

 

The second point about the mother bashing presupposes that every mother is destined to want, desire, and be a good mother - if not then there must be some mental health issue. That is not the case. A lot of mothers don't want children, aren't maternal and don't do a necessarily good job of caring for their children and don't much question that. I for one, know of one woman who was tricked into having 2 children by her husband and is pretty much indifferent to them - that is not a mental health issue - that's just a woman who didn't want children. There are plenty of men who abscond on the kids and have no further contact and it is about time we realise that woman are capable of the same thing. Being pregnant and having a child is not always a wanted choice by a woman - and I think Eva illustrates that beautifully. Her story was about as far away from the Post Natal Depression theme as possible - she didn't want the child from the initial discussion of having a baby.

 

Great discussion though and thanks for posting it!

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Hazel

10th February 2006, 12:46 PM

 

[Cathy] 5:15 pm: i do think most of us could be driven to murder by very extreme circumstances,And if you were in mortal danger, do you not think you might kill?

 

 

Premeditated murder or even chance murder is entirely different than killing in self defence. The latter is fed by our inbuilt human survival mechanism and a completely different part of the brain, psyche, whatever, takes over. I know I would be capable of it and the mechanism would extend to fighting for my husband and my boys. That doesn't by any stretch make me capable of murder.

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megustaleer

10th February 2006, 02:37 PM

 

cathy and Seraphina,

I'm not sure that I read the same book as you two!

 

I didn't see it as primarily a nature v nurture debate. I didn't see that there was a 'reason' for Kevin doing what he did, or at least not a single, definable reason such as nature or nurture.

 

As far as I remember it, (and it is fading, somewhat) the book consisted of a series of letters, giving a view of events from one single standpoint, that of a mother feeling guilty because of the way her child has behaved (which mothers do, with or without justification).

 

Apart from the pre-pregnancy/pregnancy chapters, which I remember least well, but possibly including them, the book as I see it is Eva's attempt to shift the blame onto Kevin himself, because of his cold and manipulative personality, or onto Franklin for denying Kevin's evil character and so leaving her to cope with the problem unsupported.

 

However much she tries to spread the blame, inside she still agrees with the universal judgement: 'It must be the mother's fault!'

 

Does anyone else see the preparation of the room, and plans for welcoming Kevin home at the end of his sentence as an attempt to make amends (subconsciously) for the lack of preparation and welcome when he was born?

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Seraphina

10th February 2006, 03:28 PM

 

cathy and Seraphina,

I'm not sure that I read the same book as you two!

 

I didn't see it as primarily a nature v nurture debate. I didn't see that there was a 'reason' for Kevin doing what he did, or at least not a single, definable reason such as nature or nurture.

 

 

I don't think we were suggesting that it was ONLY a nature/nurture debate, as far as I'm aware we were only discussing this as ONE theme of the novel. I don't think we were trying to pin the 'blame' on one thing either, as this is clearly impossible in such a complex series of events.

 

However much she tries to spread the blame, inside she still agrees with the universal judgement: 'It must be the mother's fault!'

 

Does anyone else see the preparation of the room, and plans for welcoming Kevin home at the end of his sentence as an attempt to make amends (subconsciously) for the lack of preparation and welcome when he was born?

 

 

I agree with the reasoning that Eva is trying to spread the blame, whilst still feeling deep down as if it must be her fault. She's writing out her version of events both to try and make herself feel better and also to try and sway the judgement of others, although my latter point is debatable as she doesn't appear to be writing for anyone except herself. So I guess we have to question what is her purpose in writing these letters?

 

About the room thing. I guess it is Eva trying to make amends, she is obviously trying to rid herself of the guilt, but how much of it is inspired by love and how much by the sheer guilt she is feeling? The whole ending with Kevin coming home sits quite uncomfortably with me. If my child did that sort of thing I'm not sure I could welcome them back. Not being a mother I can't say for definite. I thought the preparation of the room might be Schriver's way of suggesting that it is Eva and Kevin's new start, they will live happily ever after, and if only Eva had welcomed Kevin in the first place, this might never have happened, something I completely disagree with.

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Hazel

10th February 2006, 03:55 PM

 

Does anyone else see the preparation of the room, and plans for welcoming Kevin home at the end of his sentence as an attempt to make amends (subconsciously) for the lack of preparation and welcome when he was born?

 

 

Yes it provides a nice framework for the tale as she ends up preparing to give birth to her son once again.

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megustaleer

10th February 2006, 04:00 PM

 

If my child did that sort of thing I'm not sure I could welcome them back.

Maybe not, but if, deep down, you thought it was all your fault...?

 

I thought the preparation of the room might be Schriver's way of suggesting that it is Eva and Kevin's new start, they will live happily ever after, and if only Eva had welcomed Kevin in the first place, this might never have happened, something I completely disagree with.

I don't think Shriver is suggesting that, but maybe it is what Eva is feeling, or kidding herself it could be

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Hazel

10th February 2006, 04:02 PM

 

So I guess we have to question what is her purpose in writing these letters?

 

and if only Eva had welcomed Kevin in the first place, this might never have happened, something I completely disagree with.

 

Well, the title of the book is "We Need To Talk About Kevin" yet throughout the whole book Eva doesn't really get the chance to speak to Franklin about Kevin - the whole interaction between them avoids it. So I think the letters to Franklin in part are a catharsis - but mostly her getting the opportunity to address the issue so long missing from her relationship with Franklin. It's a response to that need.

 

I think the point is we will never know (if things would ahve been different had Eva welcomed Kevin), the events unfolded and they can't be relived. I don't think Shriver intended to come up with a argument on one side or the other - she just presented a tale and left us to discuss it. I also think she was pretty successful in that.

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minxminnie

10th February 2006, 04:58 PM

 

I thought the preparation of the room might be Schriver's way of suggesting that it is Eva and Kevin's new start, they will live happily ever after, and if only Eva had welcomed Kevin in the first place, this might never have happened, something I completely disagree with.

 

I don't think Shriver is suggesting that, but maybe it is what Eva is feeling, or kidding herself it could be

 

I read it as Kevin manipulating Eva so that he could torture her a bit more. I didn't think for a minute that Shriver believed in his redemption.

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Page 4

 

Cathy

10th February 2006, 05:01 PM

 

I agree that it is both nature and nurture. Your point about people having bad things happen to them and don't go out and repeat that behaviour proves that. Some deal with trauma in early life well, and productvely, yet some react badly amd maybe do go out and commit crimes. That's down to nature. Would those latter people still behave that way if their nurturing had been different? I don't think they would - so their nature reacted to their experience of nurturing.

 

The second point about the mother bashing presupposes that every mother is destined to want, desire, and be a good mother - if not then there must be some mental health issue. That is not the case. A lot of mothers don't want children, aren't maternal and don't do a necessarily good job of caring for their children and don't much question that. I for one, know of one woman who was tricked into having 2 children by her husband and is pretty much indifferent to them - that is not a mental health issue - that's just a woman who didn't want children. There are plenty of men who abscond on the kids and have no further contact and it is about time we realise that woman are capable of the same thing. Being pregnant and having a child is not always a wanted choice by a woman - and I think Eva illustrates that beautifully. Her story was about as far away from the Post Natal Depression theme as possible - she didn't want the child from the initial discussion of having a baby.

 

Great discussion though and thanks for posting it!

 

 

But Eva did choose to have Kevin, it was her motives that were at fault. I agree, there isn't always a mental health issue but I disagree that this book had nothing to do with that, I don't think Shriver means to represent this phenomenon but I think that is the territory she is in and I suppose I'm taking issue with the fact that she isn't writing about real people (and I know you are probably screaming at your screen 'but it fiction!!!'!! But if her story has nothing to do with real people then what's the point? what is she trying to say? It just doesn't speak to me, I honestly feel its insulting to women.).

 

Also, on issues people have had, bad experiences and childhoods etc. what really gets me annoyed is that if you have had these experiences in the media you are either a murderer or some kind of angel-matyr, and never somewhere in the middle, flawed but getting on with life.

 

I'm going to have to leave it at that for now because I have to go because its time to leave the office! I hope we can still have a debate without it getting too you know, 'heavy' because these are all such emotional and evocative and personal issues and I hope i've treaded carefully enough and if I haven't i'm sorry and i'm trying to articulate what this book made me feel and probably not doing it very well!

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megustaleer

10th February 2006, 06:17 PM

 

I read it as Kevin manipulating Eva so that he could torture her a bit more. I didn't think for a minute that Shriver believed in his redemption.

 

Remember we are seing the whole of this story, first to last, through Eva's eyes. Whether or not Shriver, as the author, believes in Kevin's redemption, is not really relevant. She is not putting forward her point of view, she is telling it as Eva sees it.

Does Eva believe in his redemption? I guess she has to, if she can't believe in that, there is no redemption for herself.

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Cathy

10th February 2006, 09:36 PM

 

cathy and Seraphina,

I'm not sure that I read the same book as you two!

 

 

It is amazing that the same book gives rise to such different reactions!

 

PS I don't know if we're thinking along the same lines on one tiny thing, as although I did see Nature/Nurture as a theme, I didn't think there was much debate!

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Hazel

11th February 2006, 01:19 PM

 

But Eva did choose to have Kevin, it was her motives that were at fault. I agree, there isn't always a mental health issue but I disagree that this book had nothing to do with that,

 

Also, on issues people have had, bad experiences and childhoods etc. what really gets me annoyed is that if you have had these experiences in the media you are either a murderer or some kind of angel-matyr, and never somewhere in the middle, flawed but getting on with life.

 

 

Don't be silly Cathy, it is good to discuss these issues and I think it is phenomenal that we seem able to discuss this book so deeply.

 

Do you really think Eva chose to have Kevin, of her own free, independent will? I don't, I think it was something she felt obligated to do for Franklin, to keep Franklin and because of societies expectations.

 

I really don't think there is a mental health issue on Eva's part at all - out rationale mind wants there to be because we have to have a explanation for the lack of maternal bond. She regretted her decision to try for a baby the day after, she dreaded being told she was pregnant, and she was so unemotional about the pregnancy and the birth. She began to resent Franklin's interventions during the pregnancy which paralleled why she got pregnant in the first place. I don't think there is anything 'wrong' about not being maternal but society tries to find an explaination because it goes against 'God's greater plan'.

 

Unfortunately, people who live normal, semi-dysfunctional lives after abuse don't make the headlines or even a blip in the media - it is only the two extremes of angel and devil.

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Cathy

11th February 2006, 01:54 PM

 

I wonder if its one of those books where our opinions on the subjects it brings up are already set at the start and that decides how we react to the book? I reckoned of course Eva had a choice, at many points she could have gone back on her decision, she could have not tried to get pregnant, even had an early abortion, and once Kevin was born she could have talked to Franklin, she could have tried ultimatums and sent Kevin off to a correctional school or moved out herself. It was too frustrating seeing her let things happen to her.

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Hazel

12th February 2006, 09:43 AM

 

I wonder if its one of those books where our opinions on the subjects it brings up are already set at the start and that decides how we react to the book? I reckoned of course Eva had a choice, at many points she could have gone back on her decision, she could have not tried to get pregnant, even had an early abortion, and once Kevin was born she could have talked to Franklin, she could have tried ultimatums and sent Kevin off to a correctional school or moved out herself. It was too frustrating seeing her let things happen to her.

 

I think you are right - I began thinking that she was all consumed by her love for Franklin that to have Kevin was a 'gift' for him.

 

Could have, should have...I think that is the whole point of this book - what Eva could have or should have done and with the benefit of hindsight the book ends with her having a fresh start with Kevin. Almost as if we get a trial run with parenthood.

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minxminnie

16th February 2006, 05:10 PM

 

Remember we are seing the whole of this story, first to last, through Eva's eyes. Whether or not Shriver, as the author, believes in Kevin's redemption, is not really relevant. She is not putting forward her point of view, she is telling it as Eva sees it.

Does Eva believe in his redemption? I guess she has to, if she can't believe in that, there is no redemption for herself.

 

 

Yes, of course - that was my point. I didn't read the ending as suggesting that redemption was possible for Kevin or that things could work out - I was haunted by it, as Eva seemed too willing to believe in a happy ending. Her role as the unreliable narrator was key to the ending: Shriver was, to me, exploring the parental gene that took Eva back to that destructive situation.

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supersexy007

18th February 2006, 05:12 PM

 

I gave up on this book, but having read the passionate and thought provoking comments on here may go back and try again. I started it when my son was quite young, didn't get time to read it at length and found it a bit tedious and hard going in the beginning. I don't usuall stop a book half way through and am starting to wish I hadn't now! I'll posta agin when I've read it all!!

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Hazel

18th February 2006, 07:49 PM

 

I must admit that I didn't really get into to it until at least a third of it passed - I found Franklin and Eva's relationship initially tedious. Persevere!

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megustaleer

18th February 2006, 11:17 PM

 

I must admit that I didn't really get into to it until at least a third of it passed - I found Franklin and Eva's relationship initially tedious. Persevere!

 

Ditto!

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Page 4 continued

 

 

megustaleer

22nd February 2006, 10:07 AM

 

My RL Bookgroup finally got round to talking about Kevin last night. Unfortunately I forgot about the meeting until I got a phone call asking where I was, so by the time I arrived most of the discussion of this book was over.

I was in time to hear the question they finished with, though, and I don't think it has been addressed here:

What significance might there be to Kevin keeping a photograph of Eva, and to the memento he kept of his sister?

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Hazel

22nd February 2006, 10:50 AM

 

What significance might there be to Kevin keeping a photograph of Eva, and to the memento he kept of his sister?

 

Well, I think we have previously discussed the salience of Eva in Kevin's life, so it's not so surprising that he has a photo of her. As for the memento of Celia - I can't remember that - refresh my memory?

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megustaleer

22nd February 2006, 11:12 AM

 

You don't remember?!!

 

There was an 'accident' earlier in the book, and she lost an eye...memory jogged now?

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Hazel

22nd February 2006, 01:37 PM

 

You don't remember?!!

 

There was an 'accident' earlier in the book, and she lost an eye...memory jogged now?

 

 

Aah...I am having the worst week of my life; me and the boys have stinking colds, my monthly visitor came, I am in the middle of an email argument with my father and I have an essay due in for Friday. In other words, my head is in complete upheaval. I remember now and dependent on your view of Kevin at the end the trophy is either a macabre reminder of his worst act or a reminder of his darkest moment which he is coming out of. I think it began as a badge of honour and ended up as a symbol of his penance.

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megustaleer

22nd February 2006, 08:45 PM

That is the most positive view that anyone so far has had about Kevin.

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Page 5 of the original thread

 

Hazel

23rd February 2006 08:59 AM

 

Originally Posted by megustaleer

That is the most positive view that anyone so far has had about Kevin.

What was your view?

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megustaleer

23rd February 2006 07:29 PM

 

I like to think that there is the possibility of redemption for even the worst of us, so I want to think that Kevin is developing a conscience, and can face up to what he has done.

 

I suppose that I saw keeping the photograph, in the context of when he reveals it, as a hopeful sign for the future of his relationship with Eva. But the other...I found that a bit of a shock, and didn't actually think about what it signified. Nothing Kevin did was random, so he must have had a reason.

 

I am ambivalent about all three main characters, depending on whether or not I am remembering that this is a biased account, and the longer I spend on this post, the more I think that Kevin is manipulating Eva again.

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Mungus

27th February 2006 02:32 PM

 

I see that this month's Book Club on Radio 4 is about We Need To Talk About Kevin. Lionel Shriver will be taking part, the format is usually an informal Q&A so hopefully some of our Q's will be A'd. Sunday 5th March 4pm, or Listen Again online any time in the following week.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/arts/bookclub/

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Flingo

3rd March 2006 02:07 PM

 

Just received the newsletter about the show. It looks like it will be a fascinating show - they went well over time, and had to cut out a lot of interesting material too.

 

I'm just sorry I won't have time to read the book before Sunday!

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megustaleer

5th March 2006 04:38 PM

 

Very interesting interview, but much too short. For those that missed it, there is a repeat on Thursday at 4.00pm, or, of course, you can listen to it during the coming week on Listen Again.

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Mungus

5th March 2006 07:50 PM

 

It was interesting wasn't it. I took her point that if she were a mother with a son, she probably wouldn't have been able to write the book for fear of upsetting her son terribly! I think the newsletter said that they recorded 80 mins of Q&A and had to edit heavily, shame, I'd have like to hear a lot more. She's certainly a strong character, old Lionel, brings to mind Lillith, Frasier's wife in the US comedy.

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megustaleer

5th March 2006 08:54 PM

 

Lionel Shriver is to be one of the writers attending The Cambridge Wordfest in April. I guess it will sell out pretty quickly.

 

ETA: just booked my seat on the front row!

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Mr.InBetween

21st March 2006 12:48 PM

 

It’s absurd that ‘Kevin’ is only listed as a Crime book, but vote for it anyway.

 

http://www.britishbookawards.co.uk/bba/pnbb_vote.asp

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megustaleer

21st March 2006 05:07 PM

 

Thanks for the link, Mr InBetween.

Welcome to BGO. We'll try not to mess with you, 'cos we do like to accentuate the positive.

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Mr.InBetween

22nd March 2006 03:16 PM

 

Originally Posted by megustaleer

Thanks for the link, Mr InBetween.

Welcome to BGO. We'll try not to mess with you, 'cos we do like to accentuate the positive.

Thanks. Nice ref-catch. I’m sure the ghost of Johnny Mercer is smilin’ down on you.

 

And here's a recent Shriver article about this-here book:

 

'It pains me that I can no longer feel sorry for myself'

http://books.guardian.co.uk/orange2...1729668,00.html

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katrina

21st May 2006 02:52 PM

 

Hey

This is a book I never even thought to pick up till I join BGO, I managed not to read the thread till I had finished the book.

 

This actually took over 2 weeks to read, which is a really long time for me, although I can't put my finger on why it took so long as I really enjoyed it.

 

 

I was shocked at the ending I thought his father had heard the news and guessed it was him, so come and took Celia away as he blamed Eva.

 

 

Nobody commented really on the earlier things that Kevin did, I actually thoroughly enjoyed the fact that he destroyed those maps, I thought Eva was just highlighting her self sacrifice by creating that room, he was just showing her that she had to make that sacrifice completely. I wasn't surprised that she didn't take the maps down after they were ruined, she saw this as even more of a sign of her sacrifice.

 

I don't have kids but found the young version of Kevin and Celia as completely unbelievable, surely no kid is that bad (I'm sure it must feel like that sometime but not all the time) or that good. She didn't really seem to like the daughter either, she was just a posession to protect her after she had lost Franklin to Kevin.

 

Franklin was just TOO American Dream family for me, if he really thought about this dream family he would have worked closer to home and came home earlier to be with them.

 

I personally know I won't be even planning having kids for years but even now I worry about whether I will like them. There has been kids at school that just bug me by being there, and there bad behaviour is escalated in my mind by this dislike, what if you were constantly irritated by your own kids?

 

 

I thought Eva lapped up Kevin's every rejection of his father, she could see Franklin was being played and it seemed like she loved it. She was particuarly smug on that last day when Kevin shouted at his father and told him his true feelings about him -- it was always a competition between them. She had all of Kevin's attention, through his misbehaviour and all his actions were aimed at her, the father strived and forced his son to spend time with him.

I thought Kevin kept his mothers picture as a way to remind himself why he was now suffering, he did what he did to get at her. I also thought that he admired that his mother didn't try to disguise her feelings. She loved Franklin too much at the beginning, she was too eager to please him, and too afraid he would leave. Her travelling reminded him that she could escape, but also allowed her to test him in her welcome when she arrived back.

I thought that by keeping a room for Kevin, she was confirming her loneliness, she will accecpt him back because he is the one thing left to qualify that she is still alive and living.

 

 

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Hazel

21st May 2006 07:14 PM

Originally Posted by katrina

I personally know I won't be even planning having kids for years but even now I worry about whether I will like them. There has been kids at school that just bug me by being there, and there bad behaviour is escalated in my mind by this dislike, what if you were constantly irritated by your own kids?

I think women do worry about that, especially those of us that aren't particularly maternal, didnt do the 'looking after the neighbourhood kids' thing, and put off having kids longer than our friends around us. But it doesnt make the slightest bit of difference, cause when my boys came along I knew from the moment I found out I was pregnant that this would be different. Sure they both irritate the hell out of me on some days, but thats part of the fun. I know I irritate the hell out of them too and believe me, that is damned good fun.

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ange

5th June 2006 10:06 PM

 

I had heard about this book, and saw a review in the press. It took me two weeks to actually get past chapter 4. The print was so small it was making my eyes hurt, but I wanted to read it. I'm glad I stuck with it. Eva though sometimes got on my nerves, it didn't seem as though she liked the children, just tolerated them. Franklin too was a very difficult character to get into, whether it is because he didn't want to hear the truth.

Having two boys, it is easy to relate to how frustrating sometimes to get through to them. How difficult must it be when you are the parent of Kevin to have to live with what he did, and try to find a reason for it.

It could have been a bit of a depressing book, especially with the crime Kevin committed, after all, we have had news of several school shootings, so we know it isn't fiction. This can really happen. But it gives you an overall view of what can happen to the family of the student who did this. However hard it was to like Eva and Franklin, you had to feel some kind of sympathy for them. I can't say I enjoyed it, but it certainly gave me a lot to think about.

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Flingo's last two posts from page 5

 

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Flingo

10th August 2006 11:31 PM

 

We discussed this at our book club last night, so I finally got around to reading it.

 

What a powerful novel. Like Katrina, I had avoided most of this thread before, so have just spent a very intriguing 30 minutes or so reading through it. I'm amazed at Cathy's passionate dislike! While I agree that it wasn't a comfortable read, I thought it was well-written - too well written in places and maybe that seemed out of character?

 

I listened to the Radio 4 Bookclub interview this evening, and found that really interesting. I particularly responded well to the comments about the reading group questions printed at the end!!! They were rather twee, forced and predictable weren't they?

 

I think I will spoiler the rest as I talk about the plot, as I want to talk freely, and I fear I may forget myself and say something!

 

 

I, too, wasn't entirely surprised by the ending. I knew that Franklin was dead, although I hadn't worked out quite how or when! I think I figured it out by about 2/3rds of the way through - so throughout the incident with Celia's eye, my heart was in my mouth, waiting to hear that she hadn't made it through the surgery! When she did, you can imagine my confusion!

 

I thought the fact that Kevin used a cross bow was an inspired choice, as it has been said it releases this novel from being a potential tool for the American Anti-gun Lobby. Although you know Kevin is going to commit the school shooting, it didn't occur to me throughout reading that he would use anything other than a gun! Even though he has expressed no real interest in them (apart from the water pistol) throughout his life.

 

What was the whole nappy thing about? Shriver said to James Naughtie that she has a nephew who was in nappies until he was 6. Surely in America, though, this would be picked up as out of the norm, and Kevin would have been shipped off to the Child Psychiatrist?

 

 

To repeat some of the earlier comments on this thread, this was an incredibly thought provoking book (even if you hate it, there is still a lot of scope for debate!). It is certainly one I will be recommending to various people, and will be up there with my top reads.

 

Amazingly, I don't think it has changed my opinion on having children though. I still don't want them now, but think there is a possibility that I will in a few years time. We shall see! I don't think I will be re-reading Kev around decision time of will I or won't I though!!!!

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Flingo

10th August 2006 11:42 PM

 

I knew I had a lot to say about this!

 

The other thing that I wanted to mention was my surprise at where this sits on the literary scale. I think I was expecting something Jodi Picoult-ish - controversial, news worthy subject matter, looked at in a new way, from the point of view of what is potentially a minor character in the main plot (if you think of a school shooting, you immediately think of the shooter, class mates and teachers before the parents).

 

This is so much more than Jodi Picoult - much grittier and evaluative. While Picoult is relatively easy to read, Shriver forces you to read and weigh every word. Her sentences have been structured with a lot of though, there was nothing that could have been cut from Kevin without losing something essential to the plot and the logic.

 

I'll leave it at that for tonight!

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Harriet

11th August 2006 06:47 AM

 

This took me a long to read as well, I plodded on with it for a good 2 weeks - which was odd as I usually finish a book that i enjoy that much in a day or two. I initially found it quite difficult to get into, I mostly dislike novels comprised of letters or diary entries, I don't find them very easy to identify with. But I'm glad I stuck with it.

 

The character of Kevin once he hit his mid-teens completely fascinated me, he wasn't just the annoying little kid anymore, he turned into such an interesting person - though not in the best way of course. But his views, opinions and actions really fascinated me in a sort of morbid way, especially the incident when he and Eva sit down to have dinner together. He did actually make a lot of sense to me, though obviously not completely, as I'm not currently planning on killing a group of my classmates. But in some ways I agreed with a few of his views and the way that he was so sure of himself was kind of admirable.

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Hazel

11th August 2006 08:00 AM

 

Originally Posted by Harriet

But in some ways I agreed with a few of his views and the way that he was so sure of himself was kind of admirable.

I agree Harriet, but at the end do you think he was quite so sure of himself? Or do you think he had reached the end of his 'teenage rebellion/attitude' phase?

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Harriet

11th August 2006 08:24 AM

 

That's a good point actually, and I probably neglected the whole point of the book by not noticing that.. But most people don't enter their teenage rebellion phase from the word go? It seemed like he was constantly in rebellion - surely there's some point in your childhood where you just accept whatever your told?

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Hazel

11th August 2006 11:02 AM

 

Originally Posted by Harriet

That's a good point actually, and I probably neglected the whole point of the book by not noticing that.. But most people don't enter their teenage rebellion phase from the word go? It seemed like he was constantly in rebellion - surely there's some point in your childhood where you just accept whatever your told?

Yes. I agree, I think Kevin was already on a steep gradient of rebellion. But his crime against his classmates could be construed as an exaggerated version of what most teenagers go through - but just a logical next step for his personality. I liked to see the end as him finally growing up and shedding all that attitude and angst.

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Flingo

12th August 2006 12:17 AM

 

Originally Posted by Hazel

I liked to see the end as him finally growing up and shedding all that attitude and angst.

I think I'd agree with that. He seemed to show genuine remorse - by not caring about the names of the other school shooters any more, and his fear of going to "big prison" shows a lot about Kevin that we hadn't previously seen. There was almost a dejected air about the way that Eva portrayed those final sentences he had spoken at the visit.

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Hazel

12th August 2006 07:56 AM

 

Originally Posted by Flingo

There was almost a dejected air about the way that Eva portrayed those final sentences he had spoken at the visit.

He seemed quite despondent and as if he didn't know where to go from there. I like to think he was thinking about the future and how he could have a life with this huge thing weighing him down. He just wasn't that boy anymore.

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minxminnie

12th August 2006 11:27 AM

 

It's a few months since I finished this book, but at the end, I thought he was being manipulative by seeming to have matured a bit. I just thought he was reeling his mother in to support him when he got out. But I seem to be alone in that reading of the end!

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Hazel

12th August 2006 12:00 PM

 

I suppose you could read it either way Minxminnie, but I felt he was genuinely at a loss to explain what went wrong and where he went from there. Of course, the master manipulator that he was, his desolation could be just a way of getting support from his mother as he faces 'proper' jail - where he is all too aware his big man attitude would get him nowhere. A little fish in a big pond. But then, what could Eva do to help him? Maybe he just didn't want to be alone.

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katrina

12th August 2006 12:15 PM

 

Kevin had always been the main point of attention throughout his life he had all his parents attention and in the Young Persons Prison he was 'the main man' the person everfyone feared, whilst in real prison he'd just be some little screwed up kid fading into the background. He would lose all the respect he always had - his mother was amazed by the way he could scream for hours, manipulate har and his father and destroys nannies, in Youth Prison the other kids respected his actions. Yet grown men, with a life of crime aren't likely to respect an overly priviledged kid who screwed up in an act of teenage rebellion.

 

 

I love this book I currently have my Mum and my sister both reading it

 

megustaleer

12th August 2006 01:19 PM

 

Originally Posted by Flingo

I think I'd agree with that. He seemed to show genuine remorse - by not caring about the names of the other school shooters any more, and his fear of going to "big prison" shows a lot about Kevin that we hadn't previously seen. There was almost a dejected air about the way that Eva portrayed those final sentences he had spoken at the visit.

But it was the way Eva portrayed them, and we mustn't forget that she had an agenda of her own.

 

Hazel

12th August 2006 02:19 PM

 

Originally Posted by megustaleerBut it was the way Eva portrayed them, and we mustn't forget that she had an agenda of her own.

Very true, we must consider how reliable Eva was as our Narrator - she would want Kevin to be remorseful and in need of her - especially after

 

losing the other members of her family.

 

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minxminnie

12th August 2006 03:02 PM

 

Originally Posted by megustaleer

But it was the way Eva portrayed them, and we mustn't forget that she had an agenda of her own.

Yes, that was what I found quite chilling about the ending.

I thought Shriver was aiming to make Eva present Kevin as more mature, because she was desperate to redeem herself as a mother, or in his eyes, and if he needed her at last, then all would be well.

But I thought there was a touch of irony going on here - that he knew that was what she wanted and was playing with her feelings. I thought Shriver was giving us more insight than Eva. Does that make sense?

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Mungus

12th August 2006 04:00 PM

 

It does make sense Minxminnie. I think one of the most impressive things about this book is how it first of all makes you think about the story and they makes you step back and re-assess once you realise that you're only being told one version of the story. Plenty to chew over.

 

I like to think that Kevin does feel some remorse at the end. Maybe that says something about me too - I can't handle the thought that he is just pure evil.

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minxminnie

12th August 2006 04:53 PM

 

Originally Posted by Mungus

I think one of the most impressive things about this book is how it first of all makes you think about the story and they makes you step back and re-assess once you realise that you're only being told one version of the story. Plenty to chew over.

Absolutely - it's months since I finished the book, but here I am still talking about it. In fact, it was this book which led me to this site, because I had to find out what other people thought about it!

 

Which makes the title very appropriate, really ...

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crayon

17th August 2006 05:24 PM

 

I found that I read this very very quickly because it was so hard to read, I didn't want it to go on any longer than it had to! The more I think about the story being told, the more I'm inclined to say that Keving truly was his mother's son. I simply can't imagine a baby so young that it can't hold its head up by itself trying to drive a vindictive wedge between his parents! Eva attributes so many malicious thoughts and deeds to him - which she herself admits were proven to be wrong on occasion - that I wonder if Kevin was ultimately influenced by his mother's view of him. I don't particularly want to get drawn into a debate on nature/nurture (;)); but I will say that I'm not even a little convinced that he was born as a being of pure evil! Having said that, I did learn yesterday that Ted Bundy allegedly "appeared at his aunt Julia's bedside, smiling as he brandished several knives and laid them beside her on the bed", so the evil-from-birth idea may not be out of the realms of possiblity!

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