US author Lionel Shriver has won the Orange Prize for Fiction for We Need to Talk About Kevin. But what did the critics make of it?
NEW YORK TIMES, 3 AUGUST 2003
We Need to Talk About Kevin mixes an extreme version of the domestic novel with pop sociology and hard news (real-life school shootings and the Florida 2000 election fiasco figure in the background).
A little less, however, might have done a lot more for this book. It can seem glib and affected along the way.
Shriver overwrites in every direction, but particularly in portraying Kevin as a monster from birth. That she eventually humanizes both him and her narrator makes the book memorable as well as frustrating.
THE OBSERVER, 27 FEBRUARY 2005
We Need to Talk About Kevin takes the form of a series of letters [from Eva] to Franklin after the murders and asks: were they such bad parents? Is the way that Kevin turned out their fault? Could things have been different?
The novel is an elegant psychological and philosophical investigation of culpability with a brilliant denouement.
Eva's voice carries this novel, which is as much a psychological study of her as it is of Kevin and, although her reliability as a narrator becomes increasingly questionable as she oscillates between anger, self-pity and regret, her search for answers becomes just as compulsive for the reader.
DAILY MAIL, 11 MARCH 2005
A career woman who loathes motherhood ("a son was born, and I felt nothing") and a wilful child full of disdain for his parents. These are the forces that collide at the heart of this controversial novel, which has created a storm of debate in America.
Can a mother really despise her offspring - and what effect does that have on the child?
Harrowing, tense and thought provoking, this is a challenge to every accepted parenting manual you've ever read.
THE IRISH TIMES, 2 APRIL 2005
This book, certainly the most repellent and easily one of the least convincing I have ever read, could be seen as a cautionary tale about parents and children, and most specifically the ambivalence of motherhood, if it wasn't so crassly and aggressively presented.
Its sensationalism, as well as its theme, that of the high-school massacre phenomenon across the US, may grip some readers, but far more seriously, it will also exploit them.
That such a book is on the longlist for this year's Orange Prize, the aim of which is to celebrate excellence, originality and accessibility in women's writing, galls.