Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Lacuna

I was looking forward to reading The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver, my book club's selection a few months ago.

The book tells the story of Harrison Shepherd, opening with him as a boy living in Mexico with his mother and following his life. It's a very ambitious book. It explores lots of themes--sexuality, politics, art--just to name a few.

I love Kingsolver's writing and her vivid metaphors in this book lived up to that expectation. And her love of history, recounting major events through Harrison Shepherd's life, was very interesting and informative.

However, several things really bothered me. First, most of the book is told through journal entries, letters and the recollections of friend of Harrison, which I found made it hard to really get to know the main character. It was an interesting way of storytelling, but I didn't feel any connection to Harrison because of it.

The other thing that bothered me was the dropping of a fictional character into major events in history. For a while he lives with real Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo and is present during Trotsky's assassination. And he becomes an important figure in the Hoover's Red Scare hearings. Then Kingsolver intersperses real newspaper articles with fake ones. Separating fact from fiction was difficult and felt too much like Forrest Gump to me in that sense.

Kingsolver also seems to make several comments reflecting past political situations and relating to our present day ones. She goes on about how the American public doesn't understand the nuances of socialism, complains about how the media stirs things up. The comparisons seem very obvious and I found them distracting.

Still, Kingsolver is an amazing writer and in spite of these flaws, it's a very interesting read, covering parts of history that I was unfamiliar with. I just wish I could have connected with the main character more.

This one's on my Kindle.


  1. Hmmm. I've read two of Barbara Kingsolver's books (The Poisonwood Bible and The Bean Trees) and loved them both. This sounds like quite a departure though; I've had it on my to-read list but not so sure now.

  2. I just finished The Poisonwood Bible for this month's book club. I'll get a review up eventually, I'm like 20 book behind, LOL.