Lionel Shriver's seventh novel, We Need to Talk About Kevin, won the 2005 Orange Prize. Her other novels are: A Perfectly Good Family, Game Control, Ordinary Decent Criminals, Checker and the Derailleurs and The Female of the Species. She has also written for the Guardian, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Economist. She lives in London.
The timely topic of Shriver's (Double Fault) eighth novel is sure to guarantee lots of attention, but the compelling writing is what will keep readers engaged. This is the story, narrated in the form of letters to her estranged husband, of Eva Katchadourian, whose son has committed the most talked-about crime of the decade-a school shooting reminiscent of Columbine. From the very beginning, the reader knows that Kevin has been found guilty and is in a juvenile detention center, yet the plot is never stale. Shriver delivers new twists and turns as her narrator tells her story. Through Eva's voice, Shriver offers a complex look at the factors that go into a parent-child relationship and at what point, if any, a parent can decide if a child is a hopeless case. This novel will appeal to fans of Rosellen Brown's Before and After. Recommended for all public libraries.-Karen Fauls-Traynor, Sullivan Free Lib., Chittenango, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
In fact everybody needs to talk about Kevin. Once in a while, a stunningly powerful novel comes along, knocks you sideways and takes your breath away: this is it... a horrifying, original, witty, brave and deliberately provocative investigation into all the casual assumptions we make about family life, and motherhood in particular * Daily Mail * This superb, many-layered novel intelligently weighs the culpability of parental nurture against the nightmarish possibilities of an innately evil child * Daily Telegraph * Urgent, unblinking and articulate fiction * Sunday Times * Cleverly balances the grand guignol and the mundane * Guardian * Shriver keeps up an almost unbearable suspense It's hard to imagine a more striking demolition job on the American myth of the perfect suburban family * The Sunday Telegraph * A study of despair, a book of ideas and a deconstruction of modern American morality -- David Baddiel * The Times * One of my favourite novels... the best thing I've read in years -- Jeremy Vine * London Magazine *
A number of fictional attempts have been made to portray what might lead a teenager to kill a number of schoolmates or teachers, Columbine style, but Shriver's is the most triumphantly accomplished by far. A gifted journalist as well as the author of seven novels, she brings to her story a keen understanding of the intricacies of marital and parental relationships as well as a narrative pace that is both compelling and thoughtful. Eva Khatchadourian is a smart, skeptical New Yorker whose impulsive marriage to Franklin, a much more conventional person, bears fruit, to her surprise and confessed disquiet, in baby Kevin. From the start Eva is ambivalent about him, never sure if she really wanted a child, and he is balefully hostile toward her; only good-old-boy Franklin, hoping for the best, manages to overlook his son's faults as he grows older, a largely silent, cynical, often malevolent child. The later birth of a sister who is his opposite in every way, deeply affectionate and fragile, does nothing to help, and Eva always suspects his role in an accident that befalls little Celia. The narrative, which leads with quickening and horrifying inevitability to the moment when Kevin massacres seven of his schoolmates and a teacher at his upstate New York high school, is told as a series of letters from Eva to an apparently estranged Franklin, after Kevin has been put in a prison for juvenile offenders. This seems a gimmicky way to tell the story, but is in fact surprisingly effective in its picture of an affectionate couple who are poles apart, and enables Shriver to pull off a huge and crushing shock far into her tale. It's a harrowing, psychologically astute, sometimes even darkly humorous novel, with a clear-eyed, hard-won ending and a tough-minded sense of the difficult, often painful human enterprise. 4-city author tour. (May) Forecast: The subject, unfortunately, is nearly always timely, and this by no means sensationalist account can be confidently sold as the best novel of its kind; in fact, the extent of the author's insights should make her very promotable. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.