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.

3 comments:

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.