Once, when I was waxing lyrical about how great it’s going to be when we have a real life baby to put into plant pots/colanders to make us laugh, my friend Steven- who does not want children- sniffed:
“I don’t understand you people. You think having children is going to be so great, but what if they turn out like Kevin?”
Now if any of you have read We Need To Talk About Kevin (and at this point, anyone who has spoken to me over the weekend is going “oh not bloody Kevin again” and clicking away wearily), you will know what Steven was talking about. But at this point I had not read that book (hissss) so was innocent, unsullied and optimistic, not the quivering, traumatised wreck I am today.
“Oh but I’ll parent them so well, they won’t turn out evil!”, I chirped back, as visions of babies sitting hilariously in fruitbowls danced in my head.
“But Kevin was born evil”, Steven shot back, eyes narrowed.
“Oh, piffle”, or similar, I said.
And then I read that book. Now I am traumatised, harrowed and chilled to the bone. I have a fear of people wearing too-small clothes, and yell at G if he so much as looks in my direction with anything close to a cold, blank stare. I am suspicious of small babies on the street if they are crying (in which case they are torturing their mothers), and if they are not crying (in which case they are fixing the world with a cold, blank stare).
Having devoured the book greedily over the space of two days, I now almost wish I’d never picked it up, much in the same way as one feels after an ill-advised Big Mac. On some vague English-Lit-graduate level, I’m aware that We Need To Talk About Kevin raises some valid arguments about motherhood, childhood, national identity even. But on the level on which I operate 99% of the time (neurotic and irrational), I feel cross with Lionel Shriver for terrifying me so. All I can think about his weird baby Kevin with his cold blank stare and rage-filled scream; creepy toddler Kevin and the nyeh-nyeh-nyehing; horror child kevin with the bleach and the ink; and the ENDING, THE ENDING! Oh god.
I’ve been scared before, oh so many times, by books and films. And nothing can dislodge Jean-Baptiste Grenouille from his special place of terror in my heart. But whilst I don’t feel afraid of Kevin himself- I don’t think he’s hiding in our house with his (shudder) crossbow or anything- this book has disturbed me. I’ve always had a vague fear that when I do have a baby and it is laid on my chest for the first time, what if I don’t feel that rush of overwhelming love that everyone talks about? And if I don’t, does it mean I’ve spawned myself a Kevin?
Has anyone else read this book? Were you equally traumatised? Let’s have a support book group!