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The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

The Lacuna (edition 2010)

by Barbara Kingsolver

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,4551981,553 (3.87)1 / 530
Title:The Lacuna
Authors:Barbara Kingsolver
Info:Faber and Faber (2010), Paperback, 688 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Orange Prize longlist, Orange Prize for Fiction, Orange Prize, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Leon Trotsky, communism, McCarthyism

Work details

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

  1. 90
    The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (GreenVelvet)
  2. 71
    The Bean Trees, Animal Dreams, Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver (readerbabe1984)
  3. 40
    Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: It is set in Mexico and deals, obliquely and amusingly, with women's rights.
  4. 10
    Any Human Heart by William Boyd (lizchris)
    lizchris: A fictional character who encounters real people from history across their lifetime.
  5. 11
    Sonntagsträumerei in der Alameda by Bodo Uhse (edwinbcn)

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English (197)  French (1)  All languages (198)
Showing 1-5 of 197 (next | show all)
It was a very interesting reading but not so fast-paced I'm used to. It's a kind of a diary about the live of an American-Mexican citizen which describes his life with Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and Lev Trotsky with all the busy and turbulent time during communism and how the USA was thinking about it. Also it's a fiction the historical part of thoses events are true. It took me in the maelstrom of the historical facts and therefore I loved the reading also at some times I had the feeling that it was too protacted. ( )
  Ameise1 | Oct 6, 2014 |

I very much got into this story of a young American in Mexico who ends up working for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, is present at the murder of Trotsky, moves to the USA (where in fact he has not previously lived) and gets caught in the web of McCarthyism. Lots of good description and acute personal observation. Not quite as gripping as The Poisonwood Bible, but perhaps a bit more circumstantially convincing. ( )
  nwhyte | Jul 29, 2014 |
Maybe I'm just tired of Frida worship, or not a fan of fact-meeting-fiction stories, but I was disappointed by this book. It started out strong enough but as soon as the narrator met Diego Rivera it started going downhill for me and the real people in the book distracted from the more compelling fictional characters. ( )
  emilyingreen | May 28, 2014 |
I acquired Kingsolver’s latest novel to serve as “vacation reading” on a recent trip to Milwaukee to attend my cousin’s funeral. I wanted a well-written yet straightforward novel that would engage my interest without overtaxing my brain with formal experimentation. The Lacuna did not disappoint. I’d rate it on a par with The Poisonwood Bible, heretofore my favorite Kingsolver book. My only criticism is that there are sections of the novel that, in my opinion, suffer from redundancy. For instance, there are just too many examples of fan letters included as evidence of the main protagonist Harrison Shepard’s iconic status as a best-selling novelist prior to his fall from grace during the McCarthy era. I realize that showing the extent of Shepard’s pop-star fame (one that the man himself hides from) underscores just how far he falls when he is later condemned as a Communist through a campaign of lies, distortions and insinuations. Even so, a few choice examples would suffice. The novel as a whole is structured like a biography: an assembled archive of letters, news clippings, and notebook entries. The historical sweep of the novel takes us from a remote island estate in Mexico to a boys' boarding school & the labor strikes and protests of the 1930s in Washington D.C., then on to the San Angel and Coyoacan households of Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and Leon Trotsky in Mexico(the Troksy segment constituting, in my opinion, the most interesting part of the novel), through WWII in Ashville, North Carolina to finally what appears to be a dead end: the irrationality and plain ugliness and mean-spiritedness of the Cold War and the nefarious actions of the House Un-Amercian Activities Committee. I do admire Kingsolver’s ability to be a “political” novelist without sacrificing any of her artistry nor her mastery of a good story. ( )
  Paulagraph | May 25, 2014 |
completed 4/19/14 ( )
  bookmagic | Apr 23, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 197 (next | show all)
Kingsolver, at the top of her craft, builds pyramids of language and scenic highways through mountains of facts, while plotting a mostly tight course through the fictional premises that convey her writing’s social conscience. In this book, pacifism, social justice, and free expression are the standards she shoulders.
added by Shortride | editBookforum, Celia McGee (Dec 1, 2009)
“The Lacuna” can be enjoyed sheerly for the music of its passages on nature, archaeology, food and friendship; or for its portraits of real and invented people; or for its harmonious choir of voices. But the fuller value of Kingsolver’s novel lies in its call to conscience and connection.
Barbara Kingsolver's new novel, "The Lacuna," is the most mature and ambitious one she's written during her celebrated 20-year career, but it's also her most demanding. Spanning three decades, the story comes to us as a collection of diary entries and memoir, punctuated by archivist's notes, newspaper articles, letters, book reviews and congressional transcripts involving some of the 20th century's most radical figures. The sweetness that leavened "The Bean Trees" and "Animal Dreams" has been burned away, and the lurid melodrama that enlivened "The Poisonwood Bible" has been replaced by the cool realism of a narrator who feels permanently alienated from the world.
A serious problem with The Lacuna is telegraphed in its striking title. "Lacuna" refers to a gap or something that's absent. The motif of the crucial missing piece runs throughout the novel, but the thing unintentionally missing here is an engaging main character. Our hero, Harrison Shepherd, is an accidental onlooker to history buffeted by other people's plans and passions.
Narrated in the form of letters, diary entries and newspaper clippings, the novel takes a while to get going, but once it does, it achieves a rare dramatic power that reaches its emotional peak when Harrison wittily and eloquently defends himself before the House Un-American Activities Committee (on the panel is a young Dick Nixon). Employed by the American imagination, is how one character describes Harrison, a term that could apply equally to Kingsolver as she masterfully resurrects a dark period in American history with the assured hand of a true literary artist.
added by khuggard | editPublishers Weekly
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In the beginning were the howlers.
A novel! Why do you say this won't liberate anyone? Where does any man go to be free, whether he is poor or rich or even in prison? To Dostoyevsky! To Gogol!
The most important thing about a person is always the thing you don't know.
Does a man become a revolutionary out of the belief he’s entitled to joy rather than submission?
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
In her most accomplished novel, Barbara Kingsolver takes us on an epic journey from the Mexico City of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to the America of Pearl Harbor, FDR, and J. Edgar Hoover. The Lacuna is a poignant story of a man pulled between two nations as they invent their modern identities.

Born in the United States, reared in a series of provisional households in Mexico—from a coastal island jungle to 1930s Mexico City—Harrison Shepherd finds precarious shelter but no sense of home on his thrilling odyssey. Life is whatever he learns from housekeepers who put him to work in the kitchen, errands he runs in the streets, and one fateful day, by mixing plaster for famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. He discovers a passion for Aztec history and meets the exotic, imperious artist Frida Kahlo, who will become his lifelong friend. When he goes to work for Lev Trotsky, an exiled political leader fighting for his life, Shepherd inadvertently casts his lot with art and revolution, newspaper headlines and howling gossip, and a risk of terrible violence.

Meanwhile, to the north, the United States will soon be caught up in the internationalist goodwill of World War II. There in the land of his birth, Shepherd believes he might remake himself in America's hopeful image and claim a voice of his own. He finds support from an unlikely kindred soul, his stenographer, Mrs. Brown, who will be far more valuable to her employer than he could ever know. Through darkening years, political winds continue to toss him between north and south in a plot that turns many times on the unspeakable breach—the lacuna—between truth and public presumption.

With deeply compelling characters, a vivid sense of place, and a clear grasp of how history and public opinion can shape a life, Barbara Kingsolver has created an unforgettable portrait of the artist—and of art itself. The Lacuna is a rich and daring work of literature, establishing its author as one of the most provocative and important of her time.
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"The story of Harrison William Shepherd, a man caught between two worlds -- Mexico and the United States in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s -- and whose search for identity takes readers to the heart of the twentieth century's most tumultuous events"--Provided by publisher.… (more)

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