Anatomy of a Book: We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver (Part2)

we-need-to-talk-about-kevin-movie-poster1“It is hard going for the first third.” – Reader 1’s feedback.

That might be until page 280, from where it is possible to read this book without having missed anything.

“It makes more sense when you discover the twist at the end.” – Reader 2’s feedback.

Any story that does not make sense until the end is lazy for not making sense entirely.

“Okay, I’ll finish reading it.” – My response.

This edition of Anatomy of a Book follows my initial review, Part 1, which was based on having read 14 pages and can be seen here:

How well did I do in identifying the presence or absence of key book elements? Well, let’s find out if I’ve been vindicated or corrected.

Changing Status: Vindicated.

Changing character status is about taking the emotions of characters and putting them through experiences so that their personality is revealed. Aside from one page there is no change in any character until page 280, and then there is nothing until page 378 (when the bleeding obvious, repeatedly stated, evil of the Kevin character is drawn in a light that allows for some acceptance that the mass murder he committed was non-preventable) and even then it not until page 462 that an actual change in character status occurs. This is not good enough. This book would have been better if told from Kevin’s point of view as he is the only one that changes at the very, very end, and exploring why would have been interesting.

High Stakes: Vindicated.

Why are the characters vested in their trails? There needs to be some stakes at hand. But in this book nothing changes. This is a recount of events. Despite long and insipid detail there is no prize to keep the reader reading. No goal to the reward. There’s a twist at the end, but that’s dull, and doesn’t actually augment events.

Page Turner: Vindicated.

What pressure is there to keep reading? The only reason to read this is if the reader is interested in the voyeurism of reading the events of this family. Even then this is so contrived and repetitive it is mostly comical. The unchanging nature of the characters removes the impact of the horrors and makes them near slap-stick.

Believable Characters: Vindicated.

Eva does not write like someone who has ever written a travel diary, much less one who has sold millions of copies. Kevin leaves two targets of his supposedly well-planned massacre alive because for two hours he couldn’t be bothered checking to see if they were alive. Celia is so trusting of her mother that she lies to her about a serious wound. Franklin loves his family so much he hates his wife and never believes her. These characters practically do not change from their one-dimensional view-points until page 462.

Educate: Corrected.

I was wrong. I believed this book was destined to raise questions about nature verses nurture, and from there prey on women and their worried mother sensibilities. As this book actually repeatedly highlights the evil nature of the murdering Kevin from the very second of his birth, and then adds a polarised daughter character to accentuate the nature element, there is no education benefit to that debate. There is, in the last third, some education in the events and probable mind-set of teenage mass murderers. This is why the book can be read from page 280 (in this edition) for any benefit of it to be gained.

Trust me. I’ve done the hard yards this time and read the whole darn thing.


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