Skip to main content

Review: The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver


The Lacuna is an extremely difficult novel to explain. It covers a lot of territory, and a lot of topics. It’s difficult to know where to start. It’s a novel about a young man named Harrison Shepherd, a Mexican-American who grows up in Mexico and later lives in North Carolina. From the age of thirteen, when Harrison finds himself mixing plaster and cooking food for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, up through his thirties, when he is a famous author and suspected Communist, this novel is, as the back of the book states, a coming of age story. But it’s much more than that as well.

As I’ve said, this is a tough novel to describe. In high school (about 10 years ago), I read everything Kingsolver had written up to that point, and I can say that this book is very much unlike any of her other novels, both in subject matter and style. But just the same, I loved this novel. Lacunae are voids, pieces that are missing; and it’s hard for me to grasp exactly what this means. It’s because of this that The Lacuna is a thought-provoking novel, one that had me thinking about it and its characters long after I’d put it down. It’s definitely bleak in parts, but Kingsolver’s writing is magical, contrasting the warmth of the Mexican climate with the coldness of the United States during the 1950s. There’s also, sort of, an anti-American bias in this book; the United States certainly doesn’t come across very well.

The characters are also amazing and well-drawn, though Shepherd seems to be more of an observer in this novel as opposed to an active participant (much, as he says early on, like viewing the world through a camera lens). But there are other, interesting characters in this book, including the prickly Frida Kahlo, with her morbid sense of humor; and Violet Brown, Shepherd’s middle-aged stenographer, with her archaic grammar. I though the newspaper clippings and reviews to be a little bit too much, but I really, really loved the rest of this novel.

Comments

Kathleen said…
Based on your review I look forward to reading The Lacuna soon. I thoroughly enjoyed The Poisonwood Bible though I have found that many in the book blogging world are not nearly as enthusiastic about it as I was.
Teddy Rose said…
Boy, I must have been asleep at the computer when this book was announced! I love Kingsolver.

I just added it to my TBR. Thanks for the review.
S. Krishna said…
I'm not sure I want to read this one, but your review has made me move in the "to read" direction. Thanks!
Thanks for posting this. I looked at The Lacuna at the bookstore and wasn't overly excited by it in spite of being a huge Kingsolver fan (and I agree with your assessment of The Poisonwood Bible). Your review has piqued my interest.

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972 Originally published: 1944 My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press) How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy: 2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, April 2013
This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death.
To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; Austen’s news is all about pe…

2015 Reading

January
1. The Vanishing Witch, by Karen Maitland
2. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
3. Texts From Jane Eyre, by Mallory Ortberg
4. Brighton Rock, by Graham Green
5. Brat Farrar, by Josephine Tey
6. Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
7. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
8. A Movable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway
9. A Room of One's Own, by Virginia Woolf
10. Other Voices, Other Rooms, by Truman Capote
11. Maggie-Now, by Betty Smith

February
1. Middlemarch, by George Eliot
2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
3. Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate, by Cynthia Lee
4. Music For Chameleons, by Truman Capote
5. Peyton Place, by Grace Metalious
6. Unrequited, by Lisa Phillips
7. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
8. A Lost Lady, by Willa Cather

March
1. Persuasion, by Jane Austen
2. Love With a Chance of Drowning, by Torre DeRoche
3. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
4. Miss Buncle's Book, by DE Stevenson
5. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garc…