Sunday, 21 December 2008

Should I Continue?


I made a small pile of books from the tbr pile to read over Christmas, before I had to start on reading for next term - first among them was Lionel Shriver's We Need To Talk About Kevin. I bought the novel not long after it appeared in paperback, my book group at home having read it and thought it very good - since then I've known various people proclaim the best or, alternatively, the worst novel they've read in a long time. I'm up to page 40 and so far I'm in the latter camp...

It's not the horrific nature of Kevin's deeds - which have yet to be particularly elaborated - it's the utterly awful writing. I'm all for fancy words in prose, but, when discussing the amount of water in the hot water tank, 'the awareness that there is no reserve permeates my ablutions with disquiet' - Really? The main character is that irritating I-don't-care-what-people-think-but-really-I-do type, all introspection and independence and sock-it-to-'em honesty mixed with psychobabble... I almost never give up on books, but...

...that is my question, really. For those who've read We Need To Talk About Kevin. Should I bother continuing?

14 comments:

  1. Peter the Flautist22 December 2008 08:06

    If it isn't working for you, why bother? I've given up on hundreds books in my life, many of them "classics", and the fact that thousands/millions of other readers loved them didn't help me one little bit! I believe you may have one or two unread books that you could pick up at any moment.

    Dark Puss

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  2. I wouldn't bother, unless you particularly like badly-written descriptions of horrific deeds. I wish I hadn't - there were things in that book I would rather had never entered my head.

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  3. I thought I was the only one! Don't bother with it Simon - life is too short. She is really quite overrated.

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  4. Much better abandon it now - read something good, instead!

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  5. If this were the only book in the world, I wouldn't be a reader. :<) I wouldn't even pick it up in my hands.

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  6. Simon - this is NOT your kind of book and I would abandon it. The narrator is a pain, her husband is a pain and Kevin is vile and you know he is going to do something ghastly and horrific. I skipped a huge chunk in the middle and read the ending which was just as horrid as I thought it would be, but the points made at the end of the book which reviewers have described as a discussion on 'nature v nurture' are ones that made me think, just a pity they couldnot have been made more pithily. If I were you bin it and go off and read something else. I just know this is not for you!

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  7. Something happens in Lionel Shriver's mind that makes her overwrite the first 60-100 pages of every novel. The writing does get a lot better (I do sympathise; I found it hard going at first). That being said, I'm not sure the subject matter is really going to grab you. I think it has more resonance if you have children.

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  8. I really couldn't stand this book or its characters and abandoned it. Life is WAY too short.

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  9. Yikes, there's someone else called Rosie! I haven't read the book, but just thought I'd comment to say that when I saw the title of your post on my RSS feeder I dashed over to your blog, afraid that you were about to stop blogging!! Don't leave us, Simon...

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  10. As a mother, and having brought up two sons, I have always been bewildered by why my two sons where so different in every way. Looks, emotions, behaviour and attitudes. Nature versus nurture really fascinates me, and I love really quirky books, but I agree with Elaine. This is NOT your sort of book, Simon. While I'm on can I recommend - another adored read from the past -The Fancy by Monica Dickens.

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  11. I thought it was an intriguing story with a good ending but, as you say, it can be irritating at times. On the plus side, it's saved me a fortune by putting me off having kids for life.
    It doesn't matter what anyone else thought of it, life is far too short, and libraries too big, to be reading stuff you're not enjoying. And that goes for any book.

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  12. I didn't bother with it because my husband read it, was gripped, then cast it aside at the end, disgusted. "She cheated!" he exclaimed. He explained the nature of the cheat and I thought it fair comment.

    Life's too short and there are so many books. If a book hasn't impressed me after 50pp I give up. (And sadly I give up on *far* more books than I finish.)

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  13. I abandoned this one, too...the narrator was just too irritating!
    Life is short so read what you enjoy.

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  14. I actually liked the book. Sure, the subject is, as several commentators note, "horrific." But, I think Shriver did a good job of relating her anguish about what her son did, and her guilt about her possible role in that.

    Commentators write that the writing is "irritating" and "overwritten," but I'm not clear exactly why they didn't like it except that the writing was "bad" in some way (that obviously escapes me).

    I see I'm in the minority here, but my book club will be reading it next month at, gulp, my recommendation. I hope they like it better than the commentators! (or I may be looking for another bookclub).

    Linda

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