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The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
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The Poisonwood Bible (1998)

by Barbara Kingsolver

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
18,86135988 (4.21)755
Recently added byHUILL, KellyAndris, plabebob, kitzyl, jtodd1973, LisbethE, KPretzer, kbullfrog, private library, thyrsis
  1. 183
    The Help by Kathryn Stockett (paulkid)
    paulkid: Race relations on different continents, told from multiple female perspectives.
  2. 110
    Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (jlelliott)
    jlelliott: Each tells the story of Christian missionaries in Africa, one from the perspective of the missionaries, one from the perspective of the local people targeted for "salvation".
  3. 132
    The Red Tent by Anita Diamant (derelicious)
  4. 121
    Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver (Booksloth)
  5. 101
    Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (momofthreewi)
    momofthreewi: Both are rich in character development and centered around unique families.
  6. 80
    Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton (allenmichie)
  7. 102
    The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver (kraaivrouw)
  8. 70
    Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (WSB7)
    WSB7: Both about "colonialisms" abuses in the Congo, among other themes.
  9. 83
    The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux (whirled)
  10. 72
    Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen (allenmichie)
  11. 61
    King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild (baobab)
  12. 62
    The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver (GreenVelvet)
  13. 40
    Jesus Land: A Memoir by Julia Scheeres (literarysarah)
  14. 40
    Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill (Bcteagirl)
    Bcteagirl: The book has a similar familial tone and is also told from the point of view of young girls growing up in a difficult situation. I had been looking for a book with a similar writing style and was happy to find this one. If you liked The Book of Negroes I recommend The Poisonwood Bible and vice versa.… (more)
  15. 41
    A Passage to India by E. M. Forster (lucyknows)
    lucyknows: You could use the theme of colonialism to pair The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver with Passage to India by E. M. Forster.
  16. 63
    The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (kiwiflowa)
  17. 30
    Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart by Tim Butcher (CatherineRM)
    CatherineRM: I love both these books and they nicely juxtapose each other with their Congo total immersion albeit one fictional and one factual. Tim Butcher traces the Congo River from its source through the dense equatorial land that the protagonist of the Kingsolver book occupied with his suffering family. Both books made a lasting impression on me and I have great time for Africa as I lived in Tanzania - close to Congo geographically for most of the time - and it has a big place in my heart. Read both books and be enriched!… (more)
  18. 20
    The Civilized World by Susi Wyss (ShortStoryLover)
    ShortStoryLover: Although it's much shorter than Poisonwood, The Civilized World also has multiple points of view from female perspectives and the chapters are almost all set in various parts of present-day Africa.
  19. 20
    The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich (charl08)
  20. 20
    My Notorious Life by Kate Manning (wandergirl881)
    wandergirl881: Well researched historical fiction

(see all 27 recommendations)

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» See also 755 mentions

English (352)  Dutch (2)  French (1)  All languages (355)
Showing 1-5 of 352 (next | show all)
Rich with captivating narrations and characters, Kingsolver injects a sense of mystery and awe in the otherwise realistic storytelling. ( )
  Birdo82 | Jul 26, 2014 |
This is a family epic set in the Congo in Africa. It weaves a history of the Congo and a story of it's people with the lives of an America family whose missionary father brings them there. The four daughters in the family tell the story, each with their own voice. I found many of the mother's musings (found at the beginning of each section) very poignant and loved the way each sister was developed and characterized by Kingsolver. I even liked Rachel, the oldest sister who is most closed to the possibilities of growth through her experiences and stays very much like the American teenager she was at the beginning all the way into old age. I won't get into details about the plot, but I will say that you would kind of expect the lesson to be that in trying circumstances a family can grow together, rely on each other, and through this shared experience be tightly bonded to each other. Instead each member of the family experiences Africa in wildly different ways. They grow apart and come to very different lives after this experience. I found the whole book to be beautifully written and captivating to read. Highly recommended! ( )
1 vote japaul22 | Jul 23, 2014 |
This was a hard book for me. I didn't enjoy reading it for the most part, but some of the stories were good. ( )
  GrannyNanny | May 16, 2014 |
After enjoying Flight Behavior so much, I went back to Barbara Kingsolver's earlier and probably most popular work, about the experiences of a missionary family in the Congo on the eve of its independce from Belgium. The family patriarch, Nathan, is an embodiment of the worst side of colonialism: smug, strident, entirely blind to the real needs of the people he is supposedly serving. His wife and four daughters carry the narrative, and the reader sees Africa through these very distinct lenses and is able to perceive - hopefully - a little truth.

This book is much darker than Flight Behavior; at turns sad, frightening and infuriating. Despite that darkness, the language is lush and beautiful, and the characterization is spot on. As always, Kingsolver is adept at weaving the political realities into her story. I learned a lot about the tragedy of colonialism and of U.S. intervention in Africa. ( )
  CasualFriday | Apr 26, 2014 |
I wasn't sure if I was going to like this book or not, but it was fascinating, funny, sad, sarcastic, & touching all at the same time. The Poisonwood Bible follows the Price family, Nathan the preacher, Orleanna, his wife, & their 4 daughters: Rachel, Leah & Adah the twins, & Ruth May, the baby, as they leave America in the late part of 1959-60 to go to Africa on a one year mission. This is a story of their lives, each chapter narrated by a different character in turn, except, strangely for Nathan himself. There they deal with the culture shock that is life in the African jungle of the Congo/Zaire, & butt heads with the natives on matters of the spirit. They all learn certain lessons that will follow them throughout their lives.

Eye opening & thought provoking, set in a backdrop of political unrest, hardships & love, it's a book I would recommend to anyone! ( )
  Lisa.Johnson.James | Apr 11, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 352 (next | show all)
Kingsolver once wrote that ""The point [of portraying other cultures] is not to emulate other lives, or usurp their wardrobes. The point is to find sense.'' Her effort to make sense of the Congo's tragic struggle for independence is fully realized, richly embroidered, triumphant.
added by Shortride | editNewsweek (Nov 9, 1998)
 
A writer who casts a preacher as a fool and a villain had best not be preachy. Kingsolver manages not to be, in part because she is a gifted magician of words--her sleight-of-phrase easily distracting a reader who might be on the point of rebellion. Her novel is both powerful and quite simple. It is also angrier and more direct than her earlier books.
added by Shortride | editTime, John Skow (Nov 9, 1998)
 
The Congo permeates ''The Poisonwood Bible,'' and yet this is a novel that is just as much about America, a portrait, in absentia, of the nation that sent the Prices to save the souls of a people for whom it felt only contempt, people who already, in the words of a more experienced missionary, ''have a world of God's grace in their lives, along with a dose of hardship that can kill a person entirely.''
 
Although ''The Poisonwood Bible'' takes place in the former Belgian Congo and begins in 1959 and ends in the 1990's, Barbara Kingsolver's powerful new book is actually an old-fashioned 19th-century novel, a Hawthornian tale of sin and redemption and the ''dark necessity'' of history.
 

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barbara Kingsolverprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Beard, ElliottDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Metz, JulieCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Meyer, HanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mulder, ArjenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Post, MaaikeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Spear, GeoffCover photosecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Frances
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Imagine a ruin so strange it must never have happened.
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I could never work out whether we were to view religion as a life-insurance policy or a life sentence. I can understand a wrathful God who'd just as soon dangle us all from a hook. And I can understand a tender, unprejudiced Jesus. But I could never quite figure the two of them living in the same house.
It is true that I do not speak as well as I can think. But that is true of most people, as nearly as I can tell.
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Synopsis for the Dutch version:
"Eind jaren vijftig trekt Nathan Price met zijn vrouw Orleanna en hun vier dochters naar een dorp in Kongo om de bevolking tot het Christendom te bekeren. De onderneming is van begin af aan gedoemd te mislukken. Het gezin is niet ingesteld op de harde, primitieve levensomstandigheden, en Nathans fanatisme en onbegrip voor zijn omgeving roepen gevaarlijke reacties over hen af. Als de kerk zijn handen van Nathan af trekt en de onrust in Kongo toeneemt, vlucht Orleanna met haar dochters door het oerwoud naar de bewoonde wereld. De gifhouten bijbel is een meeslepende familiegeschiedenis en een ontnuchterend verslag van de gruwelen van religieus fundamentalisme in een uitgebuit land tussen kolonialisme en onafhankelijkheid."

The year is 1959 and the place is the Belgian Congo. Nathan, a Baptist preacher, has come to spread the word in a remote village reachable only by airplane. To say that he and his family are woefully unprepared would be an understatement.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060786507, Paperback)

Oprah Book Club® Selection, June 2000: As any reader of The Mosquito Coast knows, men who drag their families to far-off climes in pursuit of an Idea seldom come to any good, while those familiar with At Play in the Fields of the Lord or Kalimantaan understand that the minute a missionary sets foot on the fictional stage, all hell is about to break loose. So when Barbara Kingsolver sends missionary Nathan Price along with his wife and four daughters off to Africa in The Poisonwood Bible, you can be sure that salvation is the one thing they're not likely to find. The year is 1959 and the place is the Belgian Congo. Nathan, a Baptist preacher, has come to spread the Word in a remote village reachable only by airplane. To say that he and his family are woefully unprepared would be an understatement: "We came from Bethlehem, Georgia, bearing Betty Crocker cake mixes into the jungle," says Leah, one of Nathan's daughters. But of course it isn't long before they discover that the tremendous humidity has rendered the mixes unusable, their clothes are unsuitable, and they've arrived in the middle of political upheaval as the Congolese seek to wrest independence from Belgium. In addition to poisonous snakes, dangerous animals, and the hostility of the villagers to Nathan's fiery take-no-prisoners brand of Christianity, there are also rebels in the jungle and the threat of war in the air. Could things get any worse?

In fact they can and they do. The first part of The Poisonwood Bible revolves around Nathan's intransigent, bullying personality and his effect on both his family and the village they have come to. As political instability grows in the Congo, so does the local witch doctor's animus toward the Prices, and both seem to converge with tragic consequences about halfway through the novel. From that point on, the family is dispersed and the novel follows each member's fortune across a span of more than 30 years.

The Poisonwood Bible is arguably Barbara Kingsolver's most ambitious work, and it reveals both her great strengths and her weaknesses. As Nathan Price's wife and daughters tell their stories in alternating chapters, Kingsolver does a good job of differentiating the voices. But at times they can grate--teenage Rachel's tendency towards precious malapropisms is particularly annoying (students practice their "French congregations"; Nathan's refusal to take his family home is a "tapestry of justice"). More problematic is Kingsolver's tendency to wear her politics on her sleeve; this is particularly evident in the second half of the novel, in which she uses her characters as mouthpieces to explicate the complicated and tragic history of the Belgian Congo.

Despite these weaknesses, Kingsolver's fully realized, three-dimensional characters make The Poisonwood Bible compelling, especially in the first half, when Nathan Price is still at the center of the action. And in her treatment of Africa and the Africans she is at her best, exhibiting the acute perception, moral engagement, and lyrical prose that have made her previous novels so successful. --Alix Wilber

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:37:30 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

The tale of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in post-colonial Africa. An evangelical minister discovers that everything--from garden seeds to Scripture--is transformed on African soil.

» see all 13 descriptions

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