Very very disappointed in reading this book. I have absolutely loved Barbara Kingsolver, especially her earlier books. Found this very boring to read. Persevered through half the book and then just gave up. Does not hold your interest at all and the way it is written as a diary does not do it for me.
Would give this one a pass
This was my first foray into Kingsolver's writing. Friends raved about the Poisonwood Bible, so we selected this for our fairly new book club. Only 3 of 7 members persevered through it. The leading chapters, in which Harrison Shephard is a young boy, seem endless. His youth in the household of Kahlo and Rivera, and later Trotsky, was interesting, but one starts to grasp that his role is that of (dull) observer to troubled times. Conversations in cars, by streams, on trips, contain lovely insights into the nature of art, but they just go on and on and on. She writes good dialogue and provides fascinating historical glimpses into the mindset of the McCarthy era, but a novel should be more than a walk down the lanes of yesteryear. Yawn. If this was edited down by 1/3, maybe I would recommend it.
Barbara Kingsolver has written possibly the most thought provoking novels I have read. I purchased this book when it first came out and to this day I find myself contemplating the meaning of The Lacuna, "the void between the truth and public perception." A wonderful read that I highly recommend.
I'll admit I'm not a huge Kingsolver fan. I found "The Poisonwood Bible" a painful work to trudge through. However I decided to give her another try because I found the topic of this book sounded interesting. I'm glad I did. It beautifully descriptive, the characters were well developed and the plot intriguing. Despite it being a work of fiction, I found out about a period of history that was interesting and heartbreaking in the same breath. I could relate to Harrison's solitary existence and desire to live his life in peace. Kingsolver did a good job of connecting the relationships and how others - despite being only bit players - can greatly influence our lives. I would
Sometimes I think Kingsolver is too political, or at least strongly socially opinionated, and doesn't give the opposite point of view enough respect. I happen to agree with her, more or less, politically, but I have felt that some of her characters were straw men. This book seems to address all my feelings head-on.
The red scare of 1950 and thereabouts is real. Except for her protagonist, the characters are real. Some of the included newspaper articles, which sound like they were written to illustrate how bad and mustache-twirly the reactionaries were, are real. I looked them up.
And the way the media engaged in character assassination against her protagonist - there are also real examples of that. For instance, Stalin's people attempted to assassinate Leon Trotsky in May of 1940, and the world newspapers decided Trostky had plotted the attack on himself, only because of the newspapers' sloppy reporting jobs contradicting each other. I've also known of similar lazy reporting that reinforced lies - my wife was part of a teachers' strike at Chicago City Colleges in 2004, when the newspapers dutifully reported the administration's party line that 80% of classes were still going on - as fact. I walked through Harold Washington's building mid-day and saw for myself that no classes whatsoever were going on - but that was too much for a reporter to do.
So yes, I know that can happen too. And it happens in the book. Twisting of facts, both innocently and not innocently, become incontrovertible and undeniable. So, Ms. Kingsolver, you win this round. As paper-thin as the villains seem to be, they are based on real life examples.
It's also a good study of the point in American history when we turned from a nation of questioners to a nation where questioning made people suspect you were "un-American."
Also, I love the title - a Lacuna, apparently, refers to a missing piece that is - what? - almost drawn or seen by the negative space around it. It's not seen at all itself. That was neat - there's a missing piece of the protagonist's life for us, and a different missing piece of the protagonist's life for the next main character, and I got to the end of the book and realized our hero's very face was a lacuna - we never get a physical description of it, and throughout the book he eschews photographs. Lots of patterns in the book, is what I'm saying. I'm sure there are plenty I missed.
Very good book.