2011 was a big year for film adaptations of books, and We Need To Talk About Kevin is a great film version of a fantastic book. This is one of the first books I always recommend to people, as I absolutely love it! Whether you love it or hate it, there's always plenty to talk about, and I love speaking to people after they've read it to get their point of view on the issues that it raises.
The story is told in letters, written by Kevin's mother Eva, to his father Franklin. As the story begins, we already know that Kevin has carried out a school shooting (its in the blurb on the back of the book). Eva is writing to Franklin, discussing their life together, from when they met, to when they had Kevin and everything that led up to the school shooting.
Eva runs her own travel book company, and has always had a wanderlust. She loves to travel, and revels in taking off to far-flung destinations at the drop of a hat. Her business grows and grows, and she ends up with a more settled lifestyle running the company that she has founded. Once she has become reluctantly settled, she falls pregnant with Kevin, which is when the trouble begins.
Eva is a reluctant mother, as she's not really sure she wants to be a mother at all. Franklin is thrilled by the idea, and cannot wait for her to have the baby, so she cannot be open about her misgivings. After Kevin is born, the problems increase. Eva cannot bond with Kevin, and feels like he's an awkward, fractious baby on purpose. Franklin bonds instantly and doesn't understand Eva's issues with him. This continues throughout all the stages of Kevin growing up, with Eva never bonding with him at all, and Franklin not understanding.
The main theme of the book is nature versus nurture. Would Kevin have been so bad, and instigated a school shooting, if Eva had been able to bond with him? Did he know, subliminally or otherwise, that Eva didn't want him, and was all his bad behaviour a result of feeling unloved or neglected? Franklin did think that he had a great relationship with Kevin, but Eva feels that Kevin sees his dad as an idiot, and fakes the bond with him, while all the while looking down on him. I always wonder whether or not Franklin realised what Kevin was really like, but just glossed over it.
One of the main points of the book is that its all from Eva's point of view, so the issue of bias runs through the story. Was Eva selfish to have a baby that she didn't really want? A few years after Kevin was born, Eva decides to have another baby, and does so, without really involving Franklin in making the decision. She has Celia, who is the polar opposite to Kevin. An interesting point in the story is that Franklin doesn't really take to Celia - I think partly because Eva tricked him with the pregnancy, but in my opinion, I think that Celia is very like Franklin, whereas Kevin takes after Eva.
I'm reluctant to say too much more about the book, as I always want people to read it and talk about it! I recently saw the film, with Tilda Swinton, and I'm happy to say it more than lived up to the book. Slightly uncomfortable viewing (as it should be), it encapsulates the eerie build up to the school shooting and how the relationship between Kevin and Eva imploded and rippled out to impact on the lives of everyone that they knew.
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