Friday, September 21, 2007

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

This is my 2nd book for the Reading Awards Challenge. It was also highly recommended by a friend and coworker, who has read it at least four times. I was even able to borrow her treasured copy. That's special.

The story is told by the four daughters of the Price family and their mother and details their life in the Congo as missionaries. It spans from the time the daughters are young until the oldest turns fifty. It is also told in alternate voices. So the chapters are told by each woman using her point of view.

Strengths of The Poisonwood Bible:
There are many strengths in this book. The writing is exquisite - detailed and nuanced. The author also does an excellent job of creating five very different voices throughout the book. Each character's sections are written differently - not just in vocabulary, but the author creates separate tones and images for each one. I also loved the interchange between the chapters where I got the whole story but told through many different voices. Kingsolver also did a fabulous job of writing the father's character who is truly unlikable yet making him seem somewhat more likable through Leah's eyes, at one point in the story. I was also very taken with the chapters told by Ruth May, the youngest daughter. Kingsolver truly communicated the thoughts and feeling of a young girl. Some of Rachel's chapters were laugh out loud funny with her malapropisms. My favorite one was her condemnation of her first husband's cheating ways which didn't coincide with her view of Christian marriage, and it's "monotony." Great stuff!

I also adored the setting of the novel. The details about the physical life in the Congo as well as its political life were fascinating. There is even a bibliography at the end which I found quite fascinating in a fiction book.

As you can probably tell, I really loved the book so this review is coming off as a pure rave. It's hard to find weaknesses in this one, but I'll try for the sake of balance.

Weaknesses of The Poisonwood Bible: SPOILER ALERT - SKIP TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE BOOK. The only weakness in the book for me was an entirely personal one. I don't deal well when young girls die in books, and I was quite shaken (almost to tears) when Ruth May died. I identified with the mother and her grief. Even though I'm calling this a weakness, it was one of the most well-written grief sequences I've ever read. Her silent purposeful actions as she washed her daughter's body were exquisite.

Overall, I loved this book. It was epic and personal at the same time. It was also extremely well-written. I'd highly recommend this one! If you've read it, I'd love to know what you thought of it.

6 comments:

Lizzy Siddal said...

Great review of a great book. I can confirm your friend's view also - it's a book which improves with each reading!

Trish said...

I'm glad you liked it! I read this a few years ago and have put it on my "want to re-read someday" list (which is pretty short...). Great review.

BookGal said...

Trish and Lizzy - I'm kinda sad my copy was borrowed. I don't keep many books but I may have to buy my own of this one.

alisonwonderland said...

i read The Poisonwood Bible almost nine years ago while on vacation. i absolutely loved it! i almost never re-read a book, so i don't know how i'd respond the second time around - but maybe i ought to give it a try. have you read others of Kingsolver's books? i have enjoyed them all - but this one is exceptional!

aloimeansyummy said...

thanks for great review ... will be sure to hunt for it next time around ...

Kristy said...

I loved it too - on the second try. I tried to read it years ago and couldn't get into it. I loved it this year. LOL.