Lacuna is loosely translated as a missing piece, a gap, something not revealed. This lacuna plays a significant role, permeating every layer of Barbara Kingsolver’s story, in every sense of the word – physically and metaphorically.
I read The Poisonwood Bible last year and loved it and was delighted to see a brand new copy of The Lacuna at the library last weekend. I have not been feeling the reading love lately, probably obvious by my lack of posts! I think one reason for this is I have been choosing chunky books and great as they have been, they have just seemed a bit long. I seem to have a mental block after about page 400 and really have to push on to finish.
I felt that again with this book, at 507 hardback pages, there were parts that dragged a bit. However, having made the effort and finished it now, I think it was an incredible book and I know I want to eventually read everything Barbara Kingsolver has written. I feel I would be missing out not to. I also feel the same about J.M Coetzee, even though the two books of his I’ve read haven’t been real page turners, what he says just resonates with me in some way – I’m intrigued to learn more.. Actually parts of The Lacuna reminded me of Summertime by Coetzee.
The Lacuna is told mostly in unconventional diary format, written by and chronicling the life of Harrison Shepherd, the son of a Mexican mother and American father. From 1920’s Mexico where the unwanted young Harrison survived by making use of his considerable artistic talents, as painter and cook and secretary to the artists Diego Rivera, his wife Frida Kahlo and later as secretary and driver to Leon Trotsky. I have to admit this part of the story fascinated me, accepting it is fiction but still imagining that this is how it may have been like. This part of the story is especially sensual with wonderful descriptions of the household, of bread being kneaded, the smell and flavour of lime and coriander, the vivid personality and paintings and mood swings of Frida Kahlo.
The latter part of the story finds Harrison in the US, struggling with issues of identity, finding a success of sorts and also facing the biggest threat of his life.
The Lacuna is a study of history,politics, culture, language, identity, art and much more. The power of words spoken and unspoken, both good and evil. Harrison Shephard is a character I cared about, I felt a mixture of emotions reading his story but throughout it all there was a sense of his personal dignity.
Not the quickest read but worth it and the ending is amazing!
Longlisted for the Orange Prize 2010
2009, 507 pages