The Lacuna – Barbara Kingsolver

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

Read for the Chunkster, Support Your Local Library, Global 2010, 2010 Bibliophilic challenges

13 responses to “The Lacuna – Barbara Kingsolver

  1. The only Kingsolver I’ve read is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which I loved, and I’ve been meaning to pick up one of her fiction books. I’ll keep my eye out for this at the library; it definitely sounds intriguing.

  2. This sounds like a wonderful story and yours is the first review I have read. Thanks for the thoughtful review.

  3. You read books that I inspired to read, which is great, it means your post give me a preview of what I want to read next.

    Do enjoy Book thief and The Girl who played go, of which I had enjoyed them very much and the latter I had reviewed.

    • JoV – I always enjoy reading reviews of books that I want to read too. I have just started the Book Thief and am pleased you enjoyed them both.

  4. I really cannot, cannot wait to read this one. It’s right up there with Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood.

  5. Aimee – Oh I hope you enjoy it! Year of the Flood is on my radar as well. I haven’t read anything by Margaret Atwood before but have heard great things about her. Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Pingback: The Lacuna by Barbara Kingslover « Page247

  7. Thank you for your great review. My book club is reading this for January. Based on your review, I think I will like it.

    And, it will count for one of my Chunksters!

    • Rose City Reader – You’re welcome and that must mean your are reading it now or soon? I’ll pop by and see how you get on – hope you enjoy it and always good to be able to tick it off for a challenge list as well! I failed miserably with challenges last year so am being restrained – we’ll see how long that lasts…. 0:)

  8. I want to read this one soon, but it may have to wait until 2011. I have the ARC and audio and everyone who has read it has seemed to enjoy it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts,

    • Bibliophile By the Sea – If you haven’t read it yet, hope you enjoy it when you do. I think its a good idea to leave it until the time is right – it doesn’t turn the pages for you but the overall experience makes it worth it. Thank you for commenting 0:)

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