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The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel (P.S.) by…

The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel (P.S.) (1998)

by Barbara Kingsolver

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
19,29537483 (4.2)799
Recently added byPastorClint, ezper, kitbraddick, aine.fin, MParsche, PoisonPine, INorris, Susiebaker, Ka_te, private library
  1. 203
    The Help by Kathryn Stockett (paulkid)
    paulkid: Race relations on different continents, told from multiple female perspectives.
  2. 152
    The Red Tent by Anita Diamant (derelicious)
  3. 131
    Prodigal Summer: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver (Booksloth)
  4. 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".
  5. 111
    Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (momofthreewi)
    momofthreewi: Both are rich in character development and centered around unique families.
  6. 112
    The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver (kraaivrouw)
  7. 80
    Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton (allenmichie)
  8. 80
    Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (WSB7)
    WSB7: Both about "colonialisms" abuses in the Congo, among other themes.
  9. 82
    Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen (allenmichie)
  10. 50
    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)
  11. 72
    The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver (GreenVelvet)
  12. 61
    King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild (baobab)
  13. 83
    The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux (whirled)
  14. 40
    Jesus Land: A Memoir by Julia Scheeres (literarysarah)
  15. 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)
  16. 63
    The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (kiwiflowa)
  17. 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.
  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
    My Notorious Life by Kate Manning (wandergirl881)
    wandergirl881: Well researched historical fiction
  20. 10
    Gordimer: Selected Stories by Nadine Gordimer (allenmichie)

(see all 27 recommendations)

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» See also 799 mentions

English (369)  Dutch (2)  French (1)  All languages (372)
Showing 1-5 of 369 (next | show all)
The story of this family will most likely change the reader's opinion of the world, which isn't at all a bad thing. As I was reading I found myself thinking, "I wish more people realized this." There is so much life in this story, so much struggle, so much evolution, and so much pain that there is really no way to properly put into words my experience of reading. There were times I smiled, there were times I worried, there were times I was sad, but what hung over all of this was my enjoyment of the read.

The characters are so well thought out that you feel as if you know them. This isn't just about one period of time in the book, I mean when the children grow, as children do, you can still see the child you came to know within the adult character, even when that child has evolved into said adult. It makes the reading experience real in the mind, which makes it so that you can not put down the book. Don't be afraid of the size, chances are you will go through it with ease because you won't want to stop reading. Touching and poignant, I would recommend this book to just about everyone who is looking for a real story to enjoy. ( )
  mirrani | Apr 19, 2015 |
I learned that I can read a very long book and appreciate it. I'm still not interested in epics in general, or most trilogies, or most series - but this was important. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Apr 14, 2015 |
I recently read an essay by Barbara Kingsolver in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014 and I immediately bumped this book up on my to-read list, because her descriptions of nature were so moving. On a few occasions, when describing the natural setting, the writing in The Poisonwood Bible reminded me of that essay. Most of the time, it wasn’t quite the same, but it was still very good. In particular, I enjoyed the wordplay that the author often used to make profound observations about human nature. The setting of this book was another high point. I loved learning about a time and place I knew very little about, from several very different perspectives across the lifetimes of the characters in this story. My only problem with this book is also the writing, because as much as I enjoyed the wordplay, I felt as though it kept me focused on the words themselves instead of the story they were conveying. As a result, I felt distanced from the characters and didn’t emotionally connect with the story as much as I would have liked to.

This review first published at Doing Dewey. ( )
  DoingDewey | Mar 26, 2015 |
Amazing book. Powerful, poignant, poetic, historical, humorous with a plethora of moral messages interwoven in the narrative. One of those books that you'll always remember and one that should have won an array of awards. ( )
  PaddySheridan | Mar 8, 2015 |
The Poisonwood Bible is for everyone who's ever wished the whole planet were white-skinned and Christian and holding democratic elections, and sincerely believed that this would solve all of everybody's problems. For everyone who's ever thought that we rich nations have everything to teach developing nations and nothing to learn from them. For everyone who doesn't know why women can't "just leave" the Nathan Prices of this world. For every woman who's tried to save her children from a Nathan, but can't, because they're also his children--or must make the horrific choice of which child to save. For everyone who takes three square meals a day for granted. For everyone who's ever hidden behind Jesus's reassurance that the poor will always be with us, and continued to eat, drink, and be merry.

Many will not read Kingsolver's magnum opus, or understand it. They won't laugh, they won't cry, and they'll toss it aside as "too heavy" and "too political." They won't tolerate anything but a happily ever after. But I hope they read at least some of it anyway, and that it gets under their skin like a malaria vaccine, and spreads. Because those who understand Kingsolver best are those like me, who have converted from being her closed-minded targets to being her consciousness-raising allies. Besides being an excellent novel by every measure, The Poisonwood Bible is a cultural fusillade, it runs deep enough to drown a lot of ignorance, and it will stand the test of time. ( )
  JMlibrarian | Mar 3, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 369 (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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Imagine a ruin so strange it must never have happened.
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.
While my husband's intentions crystallized as rock salt, and while I preoccupied myself with private survival, the Congo breathed behind the curtain of forest, preparing to roll over us like a river.
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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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