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Q and A with author Lionel Shriver

(42 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 28-Apr-10 17:05:22

We're delighted that author Lionel Shriver will be joining us on Mumsnet to answer your questions. Lionel's controversial book about motherhood, We Need to Talk About Kevin was an Orange Prize winner in 2005 and has sold over a million copies. Filming has just started on a movie version starring Tilda Swinton. Send your questions to this thread. Last day for sending questions is Wednesday 5th May and we'll publish Lionel's answers the following week.

Arcadie Wed 28-Apr-10 20:36:47

Just finished reading it 2 weeks after my son was born. All hospital MWs telling me to step away from the book but I LOVED it. Thank you.

Was there really supposed to be a sexual/ incestuous undertone to Eva's relationship with Kevin? Or was my esteemed colleague reading waaaay too much into it?

Clearly we're not supposed to fully trust Eva's view on events. ( the rock throwingon the overpass etc) How much of her perspective is skewed? I know you've said that there are hints all the way through the novel but what's the earliest tip off that we can't believe her side of the story?


SmellsLikeTeenSweat Wed 28-Apr-10 20:39:54

OK first question:

You're female. Lionel - why???

Lulumaam Wed 28-Apr-10 20:45:47

WOW ! I bought 'we need to talk about kevin' and found it so compelling, repulsive and engaging in pretty much equal measure...

I did not think there was an incestous overtone, but there was definitely a love/hate thing going on !

For me, I found myself feeling really disturbed by my sympathy towards Kevin, as the only truly honest, consistent character, who was true to himself all the way through

everyone else was either a victim/deluded/liar etc etc

My question - Was Kevin's character designed to elicit sympathy, almost as a hero , rather than the villain of the piece, or as there is so much ambiguity, are we ,the readers, 'allowed' to draw our own conclusions?

I am so looking forward to this Q&A!!!

i have read and re-read the book and it still chills me.

it is a masterpiece. so richly and vividly constructed and so deep on so many different levels.

duffpancake Thu 29-Apr-10 02:16:12

Do questions have to be about Kevin? I am a Number 1 Fan of Lionel Shriver and would love to ask about some of her other books.

tortoiseonthehalfshell Thu 29-Apr-10 02:18:42

I was going to ask the same thing. Double Fault is one of my favourite books ever.

As is Kevin, but there are several worth talking about.

duffpancake Thu 29-Apr-10 02:26:24

Oh Double Fault, me too! I've never run into anyone else who's read it. Despite trying to push it on people all the time.

elliemental Thu 29-Apr-10 11:27:13

do you deliberately set out to make your chief protagonists so unlikeable?

choccyp1g Thu 29-Apr-10 13:46:35

Or do you just model them on your own character? Joking honestly. grin

DuelingFanjo Thu 29-Apr-10 14:13:49

[GRIN] AT CHOCCYP1G! you said it before I could!

ChildOfThe70s Thu 29-Apr-10 14:56:16

I am so excited I can't think of any good questions at the moment, except like SLTS said - if you're going to give yourself a male nom de plume why Lionel? I love Ms Shriver's books, have just finished "A perfectly good family" which was fantastic (although I did think it all wrapped up a bit too neatly in the end) and am gripped by "So much for that" at the moment. Can't wait. Will try to think of some good questions!

minipie Thu 29-Apr-10 16:13:51

I've read Double Fault as well as Kevin. Are you deliberately seeking to portray woman who display lots of stereotypically "male" characteristics? And vice versa?

(if so, please keep it up, but would be nice if some of them were likeable too...)

withorwithoutyou Thu 29-Apr-10 17:15:31

Ooh, I just wondered what inspired you to write Kevin?

scrappydappydoo Thu 29-Apr-10 17:15:59

Sorry its been awhile since I read 'kevin' - I found it a great (and disturbing) book but I do remember feeling frustrated with the fact (as I recall) that the mother never sought some kind of psychiatric help for kevin (or herself) and that he got to that age without anyone else flagging up his behaviour.
or have I missed the point of the book? grin

lucysnowe Thu 29-Apr-10 17:20:04

Ooh, didn't know there was a movie version, will check it out.

I read Kevin before I had DD and then I found it hard to know who to blame most, the mother or Kevin. But after having DD I found the husband the worst! My question: is he the real villain of the piece?

ninah Thu 29-Apr-10 17:36:43

I would like to know if LS plans out her novels in detail in advance and writes chronologically through the plot or whether they develop organically to any degree
am big admirer btw

mumblechum Thu 29-Apr-10 19:30:47

Double Fault one of the worst books I've ever read. It's so bad it's hard to believe it was written by the same writer as Kevin.

Leedsmumof1 Thu 29-Apr-10 20:46:21

Just finished 'So much for that' and loved it. 'The Post Birthday World' is my favourite - so clever and well written. Also thoroughly enjoyed 'Double Fault'. My question on 'We need to talk...' is, did you plan to make it as funny as it is? While chilling, shocking, and horrifying, it is also very, very funny, not least through Eva's super-dry sense of humour. The fellow-students are so very annoying, and the attitudes of the school management are so ludicrous. Do you think the humour adds to or undercuts the bleakness?

LovelyDear Thu 29-Apr-10 21:38:39

I've recently read The Post Birthday World. Generally it was really enjoyable and well written, i loved the fact that each character had good and less good traits, and no situation was either ideal or dreadful. However. I'd like to know why on earth no one nudged you about Ramsey's accent! Very odd, impossible to read as a South East accent, possibly a hint of Yorkshire or maybe Leeds there? Either way, it was a real fly in the ointment for me.

ceeb Fri 30-Apr-10 12:43:32

Kevin was one of the best books I have ever read (and I am a very critical reader). I'm just interested to hear the author's genuine voice as the voice in the books was very compelling & real.

newpup Fri 30-Apr-10 13:10:34

This is a bit personal really but after reading Kevin I discovered that you do not have children. How much of Eva and Kevin's relationship is a part of your own fears or ideas about having children?

mrsbean78 Fri 30-Apr-10 13:19:15

Re: newpup's question above, I think I'd read elsewhere that this was one of the reasons that you wrote Kevin. I read Kevin before I got pregnant and used to talk a lot about it with another friend who was making the decision to have kids/not have kids.. it highlighted a lot of our concerns about procreating given that we both had worked with students who had emotional and behavioural issues. It fascinated and repulsed me at the same time.

However, when I came back to 'Kevin' having had my son, I found it had changed the experience for me. I could suddenly only understand Eva's reaction to Kevin if I saw it as disordered on her part. I had much more empathy for Kevin than previously. He was no longer the 'bogeyman' to me. I saw his behaviour as a reflection of Eva's failure to attach and bond with Kevin vs an attachment issue mediated by personality traits intrinsic to him.

How much of what you wrote was informed by theories of attachment issues/disorders? Do you ever wonder if you would write Kevin differently if you had children of your own?

newpup Fri 30-Apr-10 13:29:50

Mrs Bean, you have rephrased my question far more eloquently! Serves me right for bashing it out in between phone calls. blush

janx Fri 30-Apr-10 14:26:02

Have just finished reading this - couldn't put it down....any suggestions on what to read next?

numomma Fri 30-Apr-10 16:00:21

Hi Lionel, thank you for Kevin... chilling and unforgettable.

One of the first books to put motherhood under the microscope and to state honestly that motherhood isn't always a walk in the park and involves lots of sacrifices.

Did you write Kevin from a feminist perspective, ie with a conscious political message about motherhood or was it more personal ?

Also wondering - with the election coming up, how do you think women should vote and why?

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