Book Review

Book Review: We Need to Talk About Kevin

Title: We Need to Talk About Kevin

Author: Lionel Shriver

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Quick Takeaway: This is a fascinating read that explores the issues of nature vs. nurture using the subject matter of a mother who never wanted children and her deeply troubled child.

Who Should Read This? I would absolutely recommend this book to lovers of psychology because of the “nature vs. nurture” theme. It is also very dark, so I would also recommend it to anyone looking for character-driven horror.

Review: This is a brilliant book about the nature of evil. Are people born evil? Is evil a learned behavior? I don’t want to go into the details about the plot of the book because I don’t want to give anything away, but this is the type of book that is character-driven while still including a lot of plot and suspense elements. Eva is an absolutely fascinating character. I found that I could relate a lot to her, but it would not at all surprise me if others find her to be very unlikable. I have never been particularly interested in having children, and this is a major theme in the book. Are there some people who should never be parents? Are some children just born bad?  As a character study, I found the character of the mother Eva to be far more interesting than the character study of the son Kevin, but the bits that focused on him were also very well-written and intriguing.

Final Thoughts: This is a great book about human nature and the nature of darkness. This book is not for the faint of heart, but it is sure to be a great conversation starter for a book club.

 

 

Book Review

Book Review: Veronika Decides to Die

Title: Veronika Decides to Die

Author: Paulo Coelho

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Quick Takeaway: The book’s subtitle sums this book up brilliantly: “A Novel of Redemption.” Don’t be dissuaded by the dark title. This is ultimately a very uplifting book.

Who Should Read this Book? People interested in human nature, psychology, and sociology

Review: Veronika, a young woman who thinks she has nothing to live for, attempts but fails at suicide. As she recovers in a mental hospital, she learns that her suicide attempt has done damage to her heart and she has very little time to live. But her time in the hospital helps her to regain the joy of living and the freedom of being herself.

This book has many very sad moments, but it has a very triumphant feel. The life lessons that Veronika learns during her stay in the mental hospital are very universally valuable. There are some very profound moments here. I’ve actually read this book several times. Whenever I’m feeling like I’m in a rut, or when I feel like I’m not experiencing all the joys that life has to offer, I reread this book in order to be reminded of the importance of being myself and never giving up on the beauty that can be found in the most unlikely places.

Final Thoughts: This is a very powerful book. I think that it has many timeless qualities, and it expertly delves into many aspects of the human condition.

Book Review

Book Review: The Vegetarian

Title: The Vegetarian

Author: Han Kang 

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Quick Takeaway: The Vegetarian by Korean author Han Kang tells the story of Yeong-Hye, a woman who swears off meat after experiencing recurring, blood-soaked nightmares. The novel tracks her swift mental decline and describes how she is treated by South Korean society and her family.

Who Should Read This?  Anyone interested in mental illness, South Korean culture, or dark/absurdist scenarios.

Review: I picked up this book after reading a really interesting review about it in the New York Times Book Review. I must say that this is one of the most original books that I have read in quite a while. Despite the name and the description, this book is not preachy or actually trying to convince readers not to eat meat. Rather, it is a really interesting character study about a woman’s decline into madness. This begins when she has horrifying bloody dreams and becomes obsessed with avoiding meat because she thinks this will cause the nightmares to stop. Her family has no idea how to handle her. Society has no idea how to handle her. This book is very much allegorical about South Korean society, but I found the mental illness aspects to be the most interesting.

If I had to try to classify this novel, I think I would describe it as literary horror. There are many horrific elements and descriptions, but the focus is definitely the characters rather than the events surrounding the book. I found Yeong-Hye’s relationships with her sister and brother-in-law to be the most interesting. The moments with her sister were very realistic and intriguing. The moments with her brother-in-law, a photograper, were incredibly absurd in a strangely artistic way. I don’t want to give too much away, so I think I’ll just leave that there.

Final Thoughts: Not everyone will like this book. It is pretty experimental and sort of falls between genres, but I was impressed by it and I think that there’s a good chance that literary horror lovers will enjoy this one.