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Friday, December 21, 2007 

We need to talk.

I realise I'm very late to the party on this one, but in the last couple of weeks I finally got round to reading We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. I have a terrible habit of starting books, especially novels, and not finishing them: I must have at least 4 or 5 that I've recently began and either lost enthusiasm for or simply find myself picking up another when I go to grab one. It doesn't help that Age Concern have recently opened up a second hand charity bookshop in town, which proves too much of a temptation, especially when I find gems like Bakunin on Anarchy for less than a pound. (Even more rewarding was that inside was a cutting from the Guardian on the 100th anniversary of his death from 1976!)

I found Kevin though completely impossible to put down. Whilst I have read Shriver's articles in the Guardian, they don't in anyway prepare you for the sheer virtuosity of the prose: flowing, vivid and thrilling. The questions it asks which are never answered in the pages are put into a perspective which you never previously would have seen them from. The only real flaw is that if anything Kevin is just too benevolently vile, so much so that it justifies Eva's cruel unwillingness to really attempt to like him, yet alone love him, even from when he was first placed on her breast. While not wishing to give anything away for those who haven't read it, I didn't quite foresee the final explanation for why Eva is writing to her ex-husband, although I came very close to doing so. By most accounts Shriver's follow-up seems to have simply tried drawing her narrative out too far: Kevin is by contrast just the right length. Shriver's opus is the diametric opposite to Vernon God Little, also a fine recent novel on school shootings, although nowhere near as satisfying.

Next up, apart from the Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright and Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran for my non-fiction fix, I've got The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

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