Monday, July 18, 2005

That book about the hell child

I'd temporarily stopped reading Lionel Shriver’s We have to talk about Kevin, because I was finding parts of it really disturbing i.e when the narrator, Eva, tells about her incredibly difficult time with her son during his infant and toddler years. Not only do mother and child not bond, but they seem to be active enemies right from the start, and the father doesn't help because he trivialises all her fears about Kevin's terrorism. I thought perhaps it mightn't be the best thing to read at this time of my life.

But in the end I just had to finish it because it was such a compelling story. Halfway through Ian McEwan's Atonement and several chapters into Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel, I decided I had to continue with the saga of the psychopath's mother.

It's easy to hate smirking Kevin and despise his father, but then Eva herself doesn't quite come across as a sympathetic character either. The story poses questions such as: is it possible to make your own child hate you without even trying; can you truly blame a teenager's murderous actions on bad parenting, or are some people just born bad; are there some people who, otherwise perfectly sane, intelligent and decent, should never have kids?

And quite apart from the fact that you know from the very beginning that Kevin will end up killing several of his schoolmates, Shriver still manages an unexpectedly tragic ending.

I finished it last night, I'm relieved to say. I was afraid it would give me bad dreams, but I think the Buffy-fest which followed (we watched most of the first half of Season 5) prevented that (I had Buffy-themed dreams instead).


flying kiwi said...

Buffy-themed dreams - cute.

I've been dreaming computer code lately - sigh.

EB said...

Interesting questions, complicated answers if any. Put simply, in my opinion, to prevent another Kevin from happening the mother would have to be eating porridge and have painted Winnie the Pooh and Tigger.

Violet said...

flying kiwi: you're obviously working too hard...

eb: a comment both clever and sweet :-)