Thursday, April 06, 2006

We need to talk about Kevin

Ordinarily, I don't read Booker or Orange Prize winners. For one, the writing is often pretentiously inaccessible. For another, I want to write Orange Prize winners, not read them. And finally, I have a bone to pick with the woman who recommended this book (she runs a bookshop and she refused to put my murder mystery on her shelf because “murder mysteries don’t sell”.)

Nevertheless, I made an exception for this book, and I both glad and incredibly sad that I did.

To begin with, I admit the title’s catchy. "We need to talk about Kevin"... and even before you know that the book is about a teenage mass-murderer, you are burning to know why, why we need to talk about this Kevin chap.

The why is peppered throughout the book: why did he do it? But the sense of mystery and helplessness is not why the book is such a success. Neither is the beautiful prose. For me, the book’s value lies in its astute philosophies and acute observations. The author is merciless on the American way of life, which I admire (the fact, not the way of life); and she exposes the mind of a mother so well that I needed to stop reading a few times just to catch my breath.

Being a mother is, of course, why I’m also so incredibly sad that I’ve read the book. Some emotions are not meant to be experienced, not even through the narrative of a fictional character.


lee pletzers said...

Why don't they sell?
Agatha christi (?) sells well.

Yvonne Eve Walus said...

Mystery novels do sell. But that particular bookshop owner is into Literature with a capital L, so she wouldn't want a mere murder mystery book polluting her shop. Either that or she a xenophobe.

Yvonne Eve Walus said...

... And yes, Agatha Christie, Shakespeare and the Bible are the top sellers world-wide (I forget in which order)... not bad for a mere muder mystery novel writer.