Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Lionel Shriver: We Need to Talk About Kevin

I know there's a movie out there that I am yet to see. To be honest, I am planning to as soon as my book club meeting is over and I am done discussing the book itself. Why am I writing about it before I see the movie when I could actually have the opportunity to compare? Because I can't not. I finished the book in the middle of the night and slept a disturbing sleep, woke up with a disturbed brain and I haven't been able to finish a thought, let alone a sentence ever since. So I figured it's best to get it out now because getting it out later might just be twice the agony.
They really should have talked about Kevin. Seriously. Because Kevin is angry, enraged, disturbed and disturbing. Why is he like that? Is it truly Eva's fault? Eva is his mother, who was more than happily married to Franklin, when the idea occurred to the two of them to have a child. Well, actually Franklin wanted a baby but Eva wanted Franklin. Fearing she would lose him if she didn't give him this one gift he so craved and overcome with an idea of how wonderful it would be to have a mini Franklin running around, she gave in. All it took was a half an hour slip with the thought that YES she does want a baby. And their life was over. In oh so many ways.
Eva never really wanted to be a mother. Sentence that you can find *anywhere* you read about this story. Sums it up the most perfectly. But I had a feeling that despite hating the process of childbirth (and, of course, pregnancy) Eva did crave a connection to the little screaming monster who wouldn't drink her milk nor play with her as innocently as she'd seen other children do. When Kevin proved to be more than hard work, she just hated him more. Yes, hated. I don't think she disliked him, she couldn't stand the kid. Which, as the story progresses, is really less and less surprising. The book might as well be called "best contraceptive ever".

"Kev," you said. "Don't take anything you might have overheard to heart. It's easy to misunderstand when you hear something out of context."
"Why would I not know the context?" He took a single swallow from his glass. "I am the context."

Kevin is brilliant, a genius, insightful and bright. He sees right through his own father and mother, observes and doesn't comment to the point where when he finally opens his mouth to share his opinion, you find yourself reeling to hear it. And his smart-ass comments are always dead on. He never misses, he pinpoints every single thing. He gets it. He figures out his mother and he figures out his father. Who does he hate more, the mother who doesn't fall for his bullshit excuses for "accidents" that keep happening around him, or the father who is so intent on having a perfect family that he will pretend to be cheerfully interested in every single thing his children do? I guess to some extent Kevin inherited his father's disinterested persona, too, not just his mother's coolness. His first word isn't mama, it is not papa, nor yes, not even no. It's an entire sentence. And that sentence tells us more about Kevin than any other development of character could. Everything about him is a plan. Everything has an agenda. Everything holds a purpose.
Was Eva's fault that her son was a sociopathic psychopath? Could she have loved, sorry lured him out of that shithole of a life that he hated so much and shown him that it isn't all so pointless? While Franklin loved Kevin and buddy-ed all the way through his childhood and adolescence for him, Kevin didn't care for his father's love. It seems Eva disinterest was more appealing to him, at least she was a challenge. Not sure if she realizes that as she writes letters to her estranged husband - that's how the story unravels itself, really. Through letters of a mother who was not only blamed but prosecuted for what Kevin did three days before turning 16. Yes, even the date was a plan.
I don't remember when I was last so disturbed after reading a book, so torn and so devastated. Because of the ending that hit me like a sledgehammer? Or because of the consistency with which Kevin was presented and shown? Not sure. The cast of the film (Eva is Tilda Swinton, Kevin is Ezra Miller, who looks exactly like I had pictured Kevin) seems to be perfect aside from Franklin (John C. Reilly). And for once I can surely say that no matter what this movie does, if it's fantastic or not as good as the book, it will not spoil anything for me. Because what this book has done to me cannot be undone, changed, bettered or worsened. It is what it is. Just like Kevin.

Review by Cate. I might not agree with the lengths she goes to and the details she uncovers even before reminding people who haven't read the book to NOT read ahead, but it's a good read. AFTER you've read the book.

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