We need to talk about Kevin

Although I recently finished a book which I quite enjoyed, it’s not really worth writing home about, so I thought I’d write instead about We need to talk about Kevin, despite having read it ages ago.

Warning! Spoiler alert.

I really liked this book – I thought it was incredibly intelligent and posed an uncomfortable question to its many readers. But apart from the concept, I really liked the main character, Eva. She is a very interesting character, who is made more realistic by the fact that she is so nasty. She is a mother who is very far from perfect, but not a monster of abuse, which appear to be the only two models of motherhood we are offered in fiction. She is not loving towards her son, but it’s not because there is anything inherently wrong with her. She is simply, humanly flawed, and I love the way you can see aspects of her personality coming through in Kevin. Out of the whole family, they are the most alike, though Eva would not like to believe it. To do so would be to accept she is capable of a similar mentality.

My absolutely favourite part of the book (or the film for that matter) is when Kevin is sick, and Eva finally finally feels like a real mother, able to offer him comfort and protection. At this point, he drops the act and shuns the father who cannot see beyond his innocent facade and reaches out to the one person who understands him, even if he knows she does not love him in the same way.

But then you could argue that true love is the kind that knows exactly who you are and continues to love, sometimes grudgingly, sometimes in fear, but in an underlying, fundamental sort of way.

It is more like the mother and son are equals rather than a traditional parent-child relationship.

And I think it is her husband’s incapacity to see the truth which makes me like Eva so much more, even though she is so very unlikeable. Shriver writes so that we understand her perspective perfectly, and can appreciate why she acts in such an unpleasant manner. She feels driven to it.

I also really like the fact that it is this narration through the eyes of Eva which suggests we are not getting the whole picture. If Franklin sees things so differently, it cannot be as simple as she is right and he is wrong. The truth must lie somewhere between her biased view of events, and his, in which Kevin is just a boy.