I won’t bore you with more of the banality already permeating the blogosphere’s attempts at gun control discussions in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre, neither will I bother with some empty words about my heart going out to the bereaved families. Words like “sympathy” and “empathy” get misused all over the place when stuff like this happens, but frankly I’ve always felt what the English language actually needs is a word where you acknowledge your complete inability to imagine or fathom what a suddenly bereaved family is going through, because you simply haven’t experienced anything even remotely analogous. I think it’s more respectful.
But anyway, the reason I mentioned this at all was just to highly recommend We Need To Talk About Kevin (Lionel Shriver) to anyone who hasn’t already read it. I don’t think I managed to write about it here at the time I read it – strange that I did write about Vernon God Little since I don’t think that’s anywhere as good on the same topic – but it was one of the best books I read last year. Call me a philistine but good prose alone is never quite enough to secure my allegiance to a book if its plot or ideas don’t impress me. This one has everything – good writing and characterization (you might feel a bit irritated by the snottiness of the narrator at the start, but press on), ideas about motherhood that I’d never read much about before, and as for plot let me just ask you to do yourself a favour, trust me that this book is worth reading, and don’t read the Amazon reviews in case they’ve got spoilers.
Is it ridiculous of me to suggest you read a work of fiction at a time when more than enough horrifying details about a real crime are flooding the newswires? Perhaps, but if the topic does interest you, this book allows you a more contemplative take on things than finding yourself riveted, despite yourself and more out of rubbernecking curiosity than any higher motive, to online videos of Cho’s demented ramblings. Which is why I have closed those Firefox tabs and decided to reread the book instead. Your mileage may vary.