Lionel Shriver's books include Orange prize-winning novel We Need To Talk About Kevin — now adapted as a film starring Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, and Ezra Miller.
From Shriver's Q & A with Jessica Wakeman:
What was the reaction after the book was published — which we’ll probably see after the movie comes out — about an ambitious, careerwoman who is a parent but dispassionate about motherhood?Read about two of Lionel Shriver's six favorite books.
This portrait of motherhood is what made the book sell so many copies — certainly not because it’s about a school mass murder! It’s more that its grabbed people’s imagination with a fuller and more ambivalent portrayal of motherhood than you usually get in books and films. It’s a book that expresses the downside of motherhood and the way it can challenge who you are to yourself. It challenges the more tedious aspects of being a parent. It’s anti-romantic, in relation to parenthood.
Have you gotten criticism for writing about a parent/child relationship because you are not a mother — despite the fact lots of people write fiction about experiences they themselves have not had?
Like a lot of things, I’ve only gotten sticked for writing this book and not being a mother by people who haven’t read it. That kind of expert. (laughs) I actually have been rather amazed by people who were astonished to discover I didn’t have children, who perhaps had children themselves and were surprised that I was able to encapsulate so much of the experience without having it firsthand. Fiction is fakery and I got away with it.
I read another one of your other novels, The Female Of The Species, about an academic who carries has a relationship with a much-older anthropological subject early in her career. Then, later in her career, she has an affair with a much younger research assistant. Both that book and We Need To Talk About Kevin feature a strong, female character who makes really unconventional choices for her life. Is writing these iconoclastic female characters intentional?
It’s what...[read on]