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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:
It's been a diverse career. Not many people have written for Allure and (the late-lamented...) Gourmet mag.
I've been a magazine editor, an op ed columnist on a broadsheet newspaper, and for years covered the fashion shows in Paris, Milan etc.
But while I shifted between the worlds of food, fashion and current affairs, there was one overriding passion: books.
Now I write them - five novels published, with another due out this year, and several books of journalism.
Here I write about them.