30 day book challenge – day 25 – THIS ONE CONTAINS SPOILERS!!

Today’s topic is about the most surprising plot twist or ending.  I’m going to be talking about two books by Lionel Shriver  – The Post Birthday World and We Need to Talk About Kevin.  If anyone hasn’t read these books and doesn’t want to read any spoilers then stop reading now…

Lionel Shriver is truly one of my favourite authors.  Her writing is powerful, frank and so full of honesty.  There is not a single wasted word in a Lionel Shriver novel.  One of my favourite aspects of Lionel Shriver’s novels is her endings, because they always leave me thinking for ages afterwards.

The Post Birthday World is the first book that I read by Lionel Shriver.  I think it was a freebie, because I had never heard of her before and probably wouldn’t have picked it out myself.  It has a similar premise to the film Sliding Doors, as it tells two versions of the story of the main character Irina – one where she stays in a safe, loving but dull relationship with her long term partner Lawrence, and the other where she embarks on a passionate affair with a married friend, eventually leaving Lawrence for her much more volatile relationship with Ramsey.

It is cleverly written throughout, as many aspects of the two stories mirror each other.  In one story, she has the affair and leaves.  In the other, Lawrence has an affair and leaves.  There are ups and downs with both sides of the story as well.  But my favourite part of the whole book was the ending.  Ramsey (in one story just a friend, in the other her lover) dies of cancer and the final chapter is his funeral.  But we are not told whether Irina is attending the funeral of her friend or of her partner.

It leaves the reader with the question – was it better for her to have stayed safe and never had an affair with Ramsey, or was it better to have experienced this hugely passionate love but then lost him?

We Need to Talk About Kevin

Wow.  What a book.  This is a story about the mother of a child (Kevin) who commits mass murder in his school.  The story is told through a series of letters written by Eva to her husband, Franklin.  The letters range over the early parts of their relationship, their decision to have a child, her difficulties with Kevin as a child, the birth of their daughter Celia and the eventual build up to the shooting.

Some of it is very tough to read.  Eva is a classic unreliable narrator who portrays Kevin as some kind of abnormal child from birth and cannot see her own failings as a mother.  There is one scene when she throws him across the room as young child and he breaks his arm.  Even this she twists into being Kevin’s fault, and describes him looking at her with triumph as he knows that he now has one over on her.

The ending totally took me by surprise and I did not see it coming at all.  We knew all of the way through the book that his attack in the school was going to take place, but what Lionel Shriver kept so cleverly concealed was the attack that happened at home first of all.  The whole way through I believed that Eva was writing to her estranged husband.  We find out at the end that he is actually her dead husband, having been killed by Kevin before he went on his rampage.

Maybe I’m just slow and perhaps other readers of the book will have picked up on this much sooner than I do.  It is not often that a book takes me by surprise in this way, but I had genuinely not seen it coming and that just reinforces to me what a clever writer Lionel Shriver is to keep her secrets so well concealed.

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Posted on September 22, 2013, in Reading and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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