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: Alexis Schaitkin
Published: February 18, 2020
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: November 24- December 9, 2020
Jessica’s Rating: 3 stars
Claire is only seven years old when her college-age sister, Alison, disappears on the last night of their family vacation at a resort on the Caribbean island of Saint X. Several days later, Alison’s body is found in a remote spot on a nearby cay, and two local men – employees at the resort – are arrested. But the evidence is slim, the timeline against it, and the men are soon released. The story turns into national tabloid news, a lurid mystery that will go unsolved. For Claire and her parents, there is only the return home to broken lives.
Years later, Claire is living and working in New York City when a brief but fateful encounter brings her together with Clive Richardson, one of the men originally suspected of murdering her sister. It is a moment that sets Claire on an obsessive pursuit of the truth – not only to find out what happened the night of Alison’s death but also to answer the elusive question: Who exactly was her sister? At seven, Claire had been barely old enough to know her: a beautiful, changeable, provocative girl of eighteen at a turbulent moment of identity formation.
As Claire doggedly shadows Clive, hoping to gain his trust, waiting for the slip that will reveal the truth, an unlikely attachment develops between them, two people whose lives were forever marked by the same tragedy.
I am not really sure what to think of this one. It was not really good, but also not really bad, so I put it in the middle and give it three stars. Though taking place before Natalie Holloway’s disappearance in Aruba, it was reminiscent of that story even though we don’t and most likely never will have answers to that case.
Saint X deals with the disappearance/murder of Alison Thomas at 18 years of age on the last night of her family’s Caribbean vacation which includes her younger sister Claire at age seven. Two native islanders are accused of Alison’s murder, but things eventually amount to nothing.
We then come to present day and Claire is all grown up. She still deals with her sister’s death even to this day and encounters one of the men who was accused of killing her sister. Then this leads to a story of obsession on Claire’s part and reflecting on who she is and who her sister might have been.
Saint X focuses on three people telling their story: Alison, Claire and Clive Richardson. The three stories are blended together to get a whole picture. We also have interviews, audio diaries (yes, Claire gets to hear her own sister’s voice) and autopsy reports.
I think why I have some issues with this one is that I was not connected to the characters, but was involved enough in the story to keep listening. It did help me that there was a cast narration. There are many themes dealt with throughout the novel including class, race, and privilege. Saint X gives you enough to keep you thinking.
This one seems to be an average novel that may or may not be for you.[Top]
The Illustrated Animal Farm
Author: George Orwell
Novel was originally published August 17, 1945
Illustrated Edition published January 1, 2015
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 5 stars
A farm is taken over by its overworked, mistreated animals. With flaming idealism and stirring slogans, they set out to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality. Thus the stage is set for one of the most telling satiric fables ever penned –a razor-edged fairy tale for grown-ups that records the evolution from revolution against tyranny to a totalitarianism just as terrible.
Halas & Batchelor studio’s classic and controversial 1954 animation of Animal Farm, George Orwell’s chilling fable of idealism betrayed, was the first ever British animated feature film. This landmark illustrated edition of Orwell’s novel was first published alongside it, and features the original line drawings by the film’s animators, Joy Batchelor and John Halas.
This is easily one of my all-time favorite books. I was a senior in high school when I first read it. I was taking Economics and it was assigned reading. I was a little skeptical, but once I started reading, I was hooked. I remember that I was at a basketball game, but I tuned it all out and finished Animal Farm before the game ended. It blew my mind! We also had to do a project along with the reading and I chose to draw a picture of Boxer dragging rocks up to the windmill . . . and I drew it! Ok I traced Boxer, but I drew everything else and made an A! I was devastated to learn that it was not required reading in my Economics class that I taught during my first year in Hawaii. Why is Orwell not require reading anywhere?
Part of why I decided to re-read it is because of the current political climate here in America. I know that we’re adamant about keeping politics out of Jessica’s Reading Room, so obviously I won’t go into anything specific. But I will make the statement that I believe everyone, every single person, should be required to read Animal Farm and 1984 in high school and in college. The story is simple and reminds me more of a fairy tale than anything else. The metaphors are relatively clear, at least they should be if the reader paid attention in history class. The lessons are also easily understood. I find it amazing that Orwell was able to create such a story with these characters and get his message across so well. It’s a great book and if you haven’t read it, then you should!