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Sunday, August 22, 2010

THE LACUNA by Barbara Kingsolver

This book is the reason there was a bit of a long lull between posts recently. I was trying to see if I could finish it, but I can’t.

I should have known it was going to be a fail when I was about one third of the way through and deliberately left it at home when I went on holiday. I picked it up when I came back, but still it failed to excite me.

I’m bewildered about that.

I love Barbara Kingsolver. The Poisonwood Bible is one of my favourite ever reads and while none of the other novels I’ve read were as grand in their sweep as that, I found them all immensely enjoyable.

This one bored me from the get go. Right there on the fourth page of text is a flowery description of fishes on a coral reef which had me rolling my eyes. I’ve always loved the strong presence of nature in Kingsolver’s other books, but in this one it seemed forced and overly description-y.

I soldiered on and started to find her main character as likeable as they always are, but the narrative remained uncompelling to me. It plods along in a straight timeline, with very little entwined around it. Then he did this and then this happened so he did that…

And perhaps because I always enjoy Kingsolver’s characters so much, I found the presence of Frieda Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Leon Trotsky in the book clunky. Rather than adding richness to the scenario they seemed to make it cartoon like.

It certainly doesn’t add tension having real people in fiction, as you already know how it ends with them. In Trotsky’s case that only requires a passing familiarity with the lyrics of The Stranglers.

I’m gutted that I could I be so unenchanted by a book by one of my favourite authors, which has garnered rapturous reviews and won awards (the Orange Prize, no less) and fear the failing is all mine.

So, any of you who have read it tell me this: I’m three quarters of the way through. If I keep on to the end, will it all become clear to me?

(No scores as I haven't finished it - yet.)

PS In a sweet moment of synchronicity, the day after I posted the above my lovely Twitter pal @randallwrites (Lee Randall - who writes brainy stuff for The Scotsman newspaper) posted a link to her new interview with Barbara Kingsolver about this book.

It explains the genesis of the book very interestingly, although I'm still not sure it's going to enable me to be gripped by it. Take a look:


  1. Oh you are making me feel a lot better. BK one of my very favourite authors, and yet I too am struggling with this. I also left The Lacuna behind when I went on holiday, and have so far not been as driven as I should be to pick it up now that I'm home.
    I'll wait with interest for the verdict on the final stretch of the book.

  2. Yes, the ending is one of the best parts of the book. Keep going!

  3. I struggled with this one too. I was soooo excited when I bought it. But I was just mystified after the first few pages - and couldn't summon the energy to finish it. Perhaps when it is warmer here in Melbourne, and I have a bit more patience - I may try again...

  4. I have this on my shopping list for reading on my holiday in a month's time. I have been tossing up whether it would be too heavy for holiday reading and it sounds like it may be.
    I'm really interested to see other responses to this post.

  5. Kiaora, I came here by way of MyVIllaLife... I have just started The Lacuna after getting it for Christmas last year. I too have tried to read it but struggled to get past the first few pages. I cast it aside for the Dragon Tatoo series then forgot about it. Now I'm at page 90 and still I'm feeling ho-hum about it, but faced with meeting the "gift giver" in the new year I have to truck through it! *yawnnnnnnnnnnnn*

  6. Awh I've finished it, I loved it personally but it does continue on in the same sort of fashion.

    There are a couple of plot twists nearing the end, his stay in America is more "novel" than "blog posts" but only slightly.

    my review if anyone is interested

  7. I have to read a lot due to working in a bookstore and needing to keep up with reccomendations - because of this I have a ninety page limit to start enjoying a novel. If I don't it doesn't get finished. I didn't enjoy this novel at the ninetieth page for all the reasons you thought yourself. I love beautiful prose but ridiculously flowery prose that is unnescisary irritates me. I only continues because my proof edition had an amazing letter from the editor inside saying only one other book had ever moved her like this - the kite runner! I hated it yet eagerly read on. It gets better, but I wouldn't go as far to say it was a good read. I don't think reading past page ninety was needed. Being October the issue is past, but in case you did put it down and later feel guilty for not finishing a book by a great author, I certainly wouldn't bother finishing. There are many beautiful books to read by authors who would be lucky to write one book as wonderful as the Poisonwood Bible.

  8. Hi Essie
    It's interesting that someone who loved this loved The Kite Runner - a book I loathed so much I threw it across the room!

    Thanks also for your comment on The Fairy Caravan. Sadly the book got less thrilling half way through and my daughter lost interest.

    She STILL hasn't read a 'chapter' book all the way through, so I don't think she quite understands what she is missing.

    I can only keep hoping. On the up side - she ADORES poetry and happily reads it to herself...