Today I am giving my review for the February prompt for #Diverseathon2021: A main character with a mental illness. The book I am reviewing is We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver and I am also giving a movie comparison. This month the host is Lee over at DarkestwingsRead. She is at YouTube, Tumblr and Instagram.
Her announcement post over on YouTube, and she is also hosting a GIVEAWAY!!!! Be sure to click on that link for the giveaway information.
We Need to Talk About Kevin
Author: Lionel Shriver
Narrator: Barbara Rosenblat
Published: April 14, 2003
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: January 28-February 19, 2021
Jessica’s Rating: 4 stars
Eva never really wanted to be a mother. And certainly not the mother of a boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker, and a much–adored teacher in a school shooting two days before his sixteenth birthday.
Neither nature nor nurture exclusively shapes a child’s character. But Eva was always uneasy with the sacrifices and social demotion of motherhood. Did her internalized dislike for her own son shape him into the killer he’s become? How much is her fault?
Now, two years later, it is time for her to come to terms with Kevin’s horrific rampage, all in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her estranged husband, Franklin.
A piercing, unforgettable, and penetrating exploration of violence and responsibility, a book that the Boston Globe describes as “impossible to put down,” is a stunning examination of how tragedy affects a town, a marriage, and a family.
I had heard of We Need to Talk about Kevin years ago and its shocking ending. I can say I finally read it as a part of #Diverseathon2021: February’s prompt was a character with a mental illness. Well, I listened to the audiobook, and it was quite a challenge for several reasons. It was 15 discs and the final disc was an author interview. I have been listening to books through the Libby app on my phone, but this was only available as a cd, so I listened to it whenever I was in the car and it took a while to finish.
In addition to the length I had issues with the audiobook narrator’s voice. It was almost like nails on a chalk board for me. Also, Eva, our narrator and mother of Kevin is not likeable at all. But I persevered and it ended up being worth it!
Eva speaks to the reader via letters to her husband Franklin. Eva is very detailed, candid, graphic, and everything out there in her nearly daily letters written to Franklin. Eva never wanted to be a mother, but Franklin longed to be a father, so Eva gave him the gift he wanted, and the result was Kevin. Kevin was an issue with Eva from the second he was born. His birth was not an easy one and Eva felt nothing towards Kevin. Some people should not become parents and Eva is one of them! In some ways Eva is an unreliable narrator with her one-sidedness towards Kevin.
The novel is hard to digest and you can’t really read too much at one time, and it does tend to drag at least halfway through. There are some shocking decisions that Eva makes that I could not believe as I read. And the Eva vs. Kevin relationship is just so messed up on so many levels.
We Need to Talk About Kevin leaves you thinking about so many things long after you have read it. Is it nature versus nurture? Was Eva the cause of Kevin’s behavior with her lack of love for him? Or was Kevin born to be a sadistic murderer?
We Need to Talk About Kevin is NOT for everyone. It takes place just 12 days before Columbine, and the Columbine shooters and other school shooters are referenced as well as the 2000 election. Kevin is a very difficult read, but if you can persevere then the ending makes it worth it Kevin is a very difficult read, but if you can preserve then the ending makes it worth it. And again, that ending I just did not see coming. Knowing the ending now, I should have seen the red herrings that were shown throughout!
I don’t think I will ever read this novel again, given the extreme difficulty I had with it, but I am glad I accomplished it. Many thanks to #Diverseathon2021 for ‘causing’ me to finally read this one.
Movie Comparison:Movie Trailer:
We Need to Talk about Kevin the film is very close to the novel. It is not the format of letters, but the movie comes strictly from Eva’s perspective. I did like how we got to see more of the aftermath of the shooting and how the town treated (or mistreated given your opinion) Eva. We get that more than we did in the novel.
Eva does visit Kevin in prison more in the novel than the film, and there was one shocking part from the novel that did not make the film. I would have liked to have seen that particular scene.
Eva is perfectly played by Tilda Swinton who matches the description of Eva to a ‘T’ for me: Tilda Swinton has those angular features which Eva has described in the novel. Ezra Miller plays 15 year old Kevin and he does a fabulous job. Even ‘young Kevin’ who was played by Jasper Newell did a very good job portraying Kevin.
This will most likely be a film I will never watch again, as it is a one time watch film due to the nature of the film. It is one that also leaves you thinking.
I would say read the book first, as you get more of Eva’s personality/ experiences in the novel and then of course that ending is so much more effective than the movie. The movie handles it well, but again the book is much better. It’s hard to say more about the book and film with out giving spoilers, but I would love to discuss this book and movie with someone who has read and seen both!
Author: Weston Ochse
Published: December 1, 2020
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 3 stars
There were giants on the earth in those days—at least that’s what the Bible says. But, where are they? Did they ever really exist at all?
When out-of-work math teacher Ethan McCloud is sent a mysterious box, he and his ex-girlfriend begin to unravel a mystery 10,000 years in the making—and he is the last hope to discovering the world’s greatest conspiracy. Chased by both the Six-Fingered Man and the Council of David, Ethan must survive the chase—and find the truth.
I love a good adventure story, especially the ones based in history. Biblical history is even better. But this adventure stories have to make sense, they have to be based on logic and evidence, even if that evidence doesn’t necessarily exist in real life. Nothing kills historical adventure like assumption and fallacy. Unfortunately, Bone Chase is rife with both. Maybe if religion had been left out of it, I’d feel differently. But the idea that the existence of giants would somehow bring religion to its knees; it did nothing but make the entire plot seem inconsequential and anticlimactic.
Thankfully, there was enough action and mystery to keep me going through the book, so it wasn’t a total loss. But throwing in complicated math concepts that have really nothing to do with the story and then not explain them clearly so laypeople can understand … This was just a disappointing read. Although it’s fiction, The DaVinci Code didn’t feel inconsequential because Langdon was dealing with things of true theological significance. The existence of giants, even talked about in the Bible is a big deal historically and even scientifically, but theologically? I was just disappointed.
Today Kim is bringing you a video review of the coffee table book Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals with photography by Christopher J.Payne and an essay by Oliver Sacks.
Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals
Photographer: Christopher J. Payne
Published: September 4, 2009
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 5 stars
For more than half the nation’s history, vast mental hospitals were a prominent feature of the American landscape. From the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth, over 250 institutions for the insane were built throughout the United States; by 1948, they housed more than a half million patients.
The blueprint for these hospitals was set by Pennsylvania hospital superintendent Thomas Story Kirkbride: a central administration building flanked symmetrically by pavilions and surrounded by lavish grounds with pastoral vistas.
Kirkbride and others believed that well-designed buildings and grounds, a peaceful environment, a regimen of fresh air, and places for work, exercise, and cultural activities would heal mental illness. But in the second half of the twentieth century, after the introduction of psychotropic drugs and policy shifts toward community-based care, patient populations declined dramatically, leaving many of these beautiful, massive buildings–and the patients who lived in them–neglected and abandoned.
Architect and photographer Christopher Payne spent six years documenting the decay of state mental hospitals like these, visiting seventy institutions in thirty states. Through his lens we see splendid, palatial exteriors (some designed by such prominent architects as H. H. Richardson and Samuel Sloan) and crumbling interiors–chairs stacked against walls with peeling paint in a grand hallway; brightly colored toothbrushes still hanging on a rack; stacks of suitcases, never packed for the trip home.
Accompanying Payne’s striking and powerful photographs is an essay by Oliver Sacks (who described his own experience working at a state mental hospital in his book Awakenings). Sacks pays tribute to Payne’s photographs and to the lives once lived in these places, “where one could be both mad and safe.”
Kim’s Video Review: