I knew before starting that this book is about a disturbed child who commits multiple high-school murders. So much is explained in the blurb and a discussion with a certain American friend of mine assured me of such. I will admit, my interest in the book was mostly born from a sick fascination behind the act itself – the type of car crash gore which causes further collisions between onlookers. I wanted to be shocked and appalled and delighted almost by scenes of horror. I rarely read anything with such modern violence. Whether it is because I am feeling a little lack lustre of late or some other intrinsic evil within me, desperate for a little quenching, but I was almost desperate to read something which shocks me to my core; something which makes me feel alive. For surely this is the whole point of despairing novels; situations so bleak that you cannot help but have some extreme reaction, to remind you how alive you can feel and how lucky with your lot.
But I am yet to feel this. I find Kevin odd, obviously, creepy and bizarre but so far, understandable. This doesn’t make me extraordinarily concerned about the plight of the modern teen or the difficulties of motherhood. No. It all feels rather mundane. At the moment. But I am more than irritated by the story’s narrator. Eva Katchadourian, mother of the ill fated mass murderer, retells her life in a series of letters to her estranged husband. This, I like. First person accounts are often my favourite for I like to imagine the other side, to read between the lines to see the real picture for are there not always more than two sides to a story? I find more and more often that opinions of real events vary wildly from person to person and I wonder why this is. Do people tell tales in ways to make me sway my allegiance? To convince me of their affection or indifference? Or just because they cannot help but lie? These realities for me seep into fiction – why does this narrator feel the need to tell me their side? What is it, exactly, that they wish to skew or conceal?
With the case of Eva K in, We Need To Talk About Kevin, I find that she is trying to be honest, but is pretentiously clutching at straws in some vain, self-pitying purge. I appreciate that the past is necessary, however, I am getting bored of her increasingly narcissistic, over-wordy prattle. Shriver, a little like myself at times, uses a ridiculous number of words to repeat Eva’s failings. Likewise, her segues into pointless side-plots and metaphor just reaffirm the fact that I JUST DON’T LIKE HER. By this, I suppose I really mean the character rather than the author, because the author’s use of language has me slightly intimidated, which is surely something to commend? Or is it? You see I am struggling to separate the two. Essentially, I find it a little hard going. I stumble over the language and, in admitting my own short-comings, have had to look up more than a few of the chosen words. Perhaps Shriver is cleverly instilling disgust in Eva K this way, so as to create sympathy and that afore mentioned ‘understanding’ for Kevin. Or perhaps Shriver is just too clever for her own good and showing off the extended vocabulary she is clearly so proud of. I’m not sure which annoys me most.
I have been getting so caught up in the words that the whole picture is getting lost. I want to know more of the truth, more of the heart of the matter rather than a weak mother’s misgivings. What I would prefer, I think, is a series of letters going back and forth perhaps between the parents, as I think the father’s voice may be a refreshing change – anyone else’s voice would be a welcome interlude. I wonder if this is why I’ve chosen to give a half way review/rant of the book.
But I shall persevere. I have invested enough to be interested in what happens and I do wish to know. Like the parents of many a murdered child, I need to know WHY. Not that I am likely to be satisfied in this, who ever is? I am hoping however that some form of redemption awaits this book, not for the characters, but for the sense of disgust and horror which I am waiting for. I want to be able to dismiss my current annoyance as hormonal or ignorance or chocolate-hungry, I want this book to deliver on my preconceived ideas. And herein lies the problem. Doesn’t it. Damn.
I’ll let you know how I get on!