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Rosie H

I read it for a book group. I hated it. It squicked me out, and IMHO it wasn't well written enough for me to get over the squickiness. Plus I found the mother very hard to believe in. I was told at the book group that this was because I was (and am) not a parent, so couldn't possibly understand the book. My comment that the author was not a parent either and had IIRC written the book partly to explore her antipathy to the idea was not well received. (Can you tell I also hated the book group?)


I heard some of it when it was serialised on Radio 4. I didn't warm to it, but I don't know whether the full book is better.

adele geras

I literally couldn't put this book down when I read was a "Hold in one hand while you fry onions" affair. Not altogether sure I LIKED it but I was enthralled by every page and 'squicked out' describes a lot of the effect. Parts of it are indeed horrifying. I'm sure it has a lot wrong with it but by heck it's gripping! And I do like Shriver's acerbic, very idiosyncratic life view! If anyone out there hasn't read her latest "So much for that" I do recommend it most strongly. Tells you everything you need to know about the USA medical scene. It's terrific!


It is ages since I read this but I do remember finding it very compelling and wanting to read and read to find out what, why, how. I also really, really liked Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre, a book with a similar theme. I found both of these books engrossing and memorable and the characters intriguing. I can however understand why these books would gross some people out. I am looking forward to the film as I think Tilda Swinton would be perfect in the role of the mother and I am interested to see how such a difficult subject will translate to the screen.
Can't wait to find out what are "the reasons which will become clear soon".


I found it incredibly hard to read, very bleak and upsetting. I have a suspicion that I skipped some of the horror just to get to the end. I love Tilda Swinton, but think I won't see this (she's in this month's Vogue btw, but I've yet to get time to read it)
For this sort of thing I'd much rather read Siri Hustvedt's What I Loved, a similarly difficult but for me much more compelling and subtle exploration of how some people seem incapable of the human responses we expect of them.

Dark Puss

I love Tilda! Thank you for alerting me to her apperance in Vogue.

B R Wombat

I agree with oxslip that the Siri Hustvedt is a much better read. I can remember little of the Shriver except that I didn't like it. I always like her as a person, though, whenever I hear her on the radio or tv.


It's certainly a gripping read, but a bit like being punched. I'm glad I read it, but never want to revisit the book!


I'm with Oxslip in that I found it very hard to read and definitely did skip bits to get to the end because I felt that I ought to finish it!
The mother's character completely alienated me I'm afraid as she seemed to be a typical example of those people who have children because it's the next thing on their life's 'to do' list, not because they want them, and end up causing untold damage - although in this case the damage is very easy to see!
I avoided Lionel Shriver's work after this until I saw her interviewed and liked her enough to read So Much For That which I really did enjoy.


I read it when it was first published, but stopped reading about a third of the way through, tho' skipped to the end to read that. I was in a very bleak place emotionally at the time, so found the emotional bleakness of the book too difficult to cope with.


Yes to all the above really. It is not a book to "like" but it does pull you in. There were times when I wanted to abandon it altogether. The "mother" is infuriating, the climax brutal and gory and the outlook bleak. A book to "experience" maybe, but as several have commented, I have no wish to re-read it or any more Shriver. I'm not certain that even Tilda could tempt me to see the film.

Susie Vereker

I found it very good in a terrifying, alienating kind of way. Point is, the mother loved and bonded with her daughter, she just didn't bond with Kevin who appears to have been born a psychopath. Seemed to me the author was exploring, among other things, the idea that not all children are unremittingly cute. (I speak as a family woman so was taken aback by the narrator's emotions at first, but obviously I became less hostile to her as the book progressed) Can't say more about Kevin without spoiling bk for Cornflower. Won't go to film as surely it will be horrific.
I thought Lionel Shriver brilliant and almost painfully honest when I heard her speak. A serious person.

Julie Fredericksen

I determined not to read it when I found out the subject. (I was told it was about school shootings.) Now, reading some reviews, I learn it also covers Lionel's early life, along with his mother's as he was growing up. Still, I find it a subject I just cannot touch. As an American, I find it too raw and emotional. The Littleton shootings occurred when my daughter was a junior in high school. On its first anniversary (April 20, 2000) when she was a senior, she forced herself to go to school that morning but went home "sick" before lunch. I had no idea how it had affected her. Even now, the subject affects me too much for me to be untouched or objective. (I also could not read Jodi Picoult's book on the subject and cannot even summon up its name.)

Simon T

I gave up around p.50 because the writing was so very, very bad. The sentence which made me eventually throw it to one side came when the character was worried, during her bath, about the hot-water tank breaking: "It permeated my ablutions with disquiet." Eugh.

Linda C.

My bookclub read this a year or so ago. The consensus (with which I agree) is that the book is a compelling story. I think many readers find it abhorrent because it looks at one of the last taboos: a woman who does not want to be a mother. Even in 2011 this is still not an "acceptable" choice. Not to herself, not to her husband. I don't want to write too much because Cornflower (and others) have not read it, but it was a book we discussed with great passion. I would recommend reading it; if you start it, and simply don't "like" it, then put it down, but if you carry on, I think you will be haunted by it forever.

Marianne Wheelaghan

I read it a while ago and wasdisappointed. I admire what Lionel Shriver wanted to do
(or at least what I think she wanted to do) but I didn't find the mother character credible and became frustrated (btw I am a mother of two). I won't include spoilers if some of you have not read it yet, but for me I think there was too much reliance on the sensational nature of the "story". For me novels are all about revealing the truth behind the lie of the story and for me there was no truth here. Sorry.

Dark Puss

Linda, I'm interested in your comment Even in 2011 this is still not an "acceptable" choice.. As I know many women who do not wish to be mothers and have never considered that in any way unacceptable (and I certainly don't consider it thus) I wonder if I have misunderstood you. Do you mean a woman who has given birth but has no wish to be a mother?

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