The true university these days is a collection of books.
-Thomas Carlyle

Saturday, 10 March 2012

We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Dear Eva,

my friend lent me your book about 2 years ago and I have to admit I was unwilling to read such a dark story, especially when she herself had given up on it. I did however hang on to it with a view to reading it when I felt ready to, having heard great things about it.

It was the film that gave me the push (covered in the next post), and also a colleague at work reading it. It was finally time. I needn't have worried to be honest. I was sucked in from the start, and your story and your voice did not let me go until the last page.

Don't get me wrong, a lot of it was agony to read, horrific, a 'Thank God it is not me' kind of ride. A lot of your circumstances were not of your own doing. Did your son really turn out that way simply because you were not ready for a child? So many other mothers could say the same thing, but their children did not go on the rampage of murder.

I could feel your guilt, your despair seeping into the pages and through my fingertips. I heard your questions - 'Was it me?', 'Could I have caused this?' and, quite simply 'Why?' At least you tried to make an effort with a son who deliberately and systematically refused to co operate in any form. None at all.

Your husband, my goodness me, now there is a conundrum, chose to turn a blind eye. And what about his rejection, of your feelings, or any kind of understanding. What about his steady disregard, his slow annhilation of you and your personality, his lack of support, his obsession with his son representing the stereotype of American youth. He failed to comprehend who he was, a child who showed signs of cruelty in his rejection of others. I wanted to scream at him.

I did want to scream at you too.

Why did you put up with it all? You must have felt so alone, before and after. Your stoicism, your rigidity, your bloody mindedness, to take it all on yourself. Why stay in that town? You say it was for your son, who made it impossible to love him and then blamed you for not loving him. Your stubbornness let you down, like picking at a wound so it continues to hurt. Not many would have stayed, couldn't have. I know I would not have had the strength like you, blind strength of will and character. Only time will tell if your strength was your weakness.

I admire your honesty in all of this. I wish you well, you deserve some form of a small break, although I don't see one. I see the years of more of the same stretching before you, but not as clearly as you see it yourself. You have come this far which can be seen as a miracle, and you still haven't lost a sense of humour.

I thought this book was hailed because it tackled such a difficult subject, a woman whose son turns into a serial killer. This is only partly right. I am now sure it is hailed equally because it is written so brilliantly. Truly. I found your story moving and mesmerising, and I couldn't put it down.

Stop blaming yourself, the debt is not all yours to pay. I do not hope for your son, but I do hope for you.



Jessica (The Bluestocking Society) said...

I loved this book too. And felt many of the same things you did. So clever to write this review in the form of a letter.

I haven't seen the movie yet, but I look forward to your review.

Leah said...

Thank you for dropping by Jessica, its a stunning book isn't it. The movie is very well done too.

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