Monthly Archives: January 2010

The Lacuna – Barbara Kingsolver

thelacuna

I received this novel as a Christmas gift. I’m a keen Kingsolver fan so I did suggest it as a present idea.

From the publisher …

In her most accomplished novel, Barbara Kingsolver takes us on an epic journey from the Mexico City of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to the America of Pearl Harbor, FDR, and J. Edgar Hoover. The Lacuna is a poignant story of a man pulled between two nations as they invent their modern identities.

Born in the United States, reared in a series of provisional households in Mexico—from a coastal island jungle to 1930s Mexico City—Harrison Shepherd finds precarious shelter but no sense of home on his thrilling odyssey. Life is whatever he learns from housekeepers who put him to work in the kitchen, errands he runs in the streets, and one fateful day, by mixing plaster for famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. He discovers a passion for Aztec history and meets the exotic, imperious artist Frida Kahlo, who will become his lifelong friend. When he goes to work for Lev Trotsky, an exiled political leader fighting for his life, Shepherd inadvertently casts his lot with art and revolution, newspaper headlines and howling gossip, and a risk of terrible violence.

Meanwhile, to the north, the United States will soon be caught up in the internationalist goodwill of World War II. There in the land of his birth, Shepherd believes he might remake himself in America’s hopeful image and claim a voice of his own. He finds support from an unlikely kindred soul, his stenographer, Mrs. Brown, who will be far more valuable to her employer than he could ever know. Through darkening years, political winds continue to toss him between north and south in a plot that turns many times on the unspeakable breach—the lacuna—between truth and public presumption.

With deeply compelling characters, a vivid sense of place, and a clear grasp of how history and public opinion can shape a life, Barbara Kingsolver has created an unforgettable portrait of the artist—and of art itself. The Lacuna is a rich and daring work of literature, establishing its author as one of the most provocative and important of her time.

I found this novel slow going at first and I stopped reading it a couple of times and moved onto something else. However, by the end I was captured. This novel contains an abundance of information about Mexico, Communism and America during the ‘reds under the beds’ debacle. This book is beautifully written and contains an enormous amount of research. I found the characters compelling, in particular Violet Brown. Not being at all familiar with American history (or Mexican) I enjoyed the social history aspects of this novel.

Here are some other reviews …

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/08/books/review/Schillinger-t.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/the-lacuna-by-barbara-kingsolver-1811038.html

http://mylifeasseenthroughbooks.blogspot.com/2010/01/redux-12-lacuna-by-barbara-kingsolver.html

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Reading Resolutions

This year I plan to consume less. I’m not going to buy any new books this year (except for the book club books). I’m going to read the books in my pile, the books hidden in my book shelves plus make more use of the library.

Currently in my pile I have:

The Lacuna Barbara Kingsolver

Surfacing Margaret Atwood

Magic IslandElizabeth Waterston

The Six Wives of Henry the V111 Antonia Fraser

The Longest Journey E M Forster

Brideshead Revisited Evelyn Waugh

Ballet ShoesNoel Streatfeild

The BrontesPatricia Ingham

The Tennant of Wildfell Hall Anne Bronte

Of those hidden in my shelves I want to read

Daniel Deronda George Eliot

Our Mutual Friend Charles Dickens

Bleak House Charles Dickens

The Forsyte Saga John Galsworthy

Wings of the Dove Henry James

Anna Karenina Tolstoy

Words and Rules Steven Pinker

Women who run with the WolvesClarissa Pinkola Estes

I’m sure I’ll find others throughout the year…

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