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The Lacuna: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver

The Lacuna: A Novel (edition 2009)

by Barbara Kingsolver

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,8982241,317 (3.87)1 / 583
Title:The Lacuna: A Novel
Authors:Barbara Kingsolver
Info:Harper (2009), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 528 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

  1. 110
    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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Showing 1-5 of 222 (next | show all)
I should disclose here that I’m not a fan of Barbara Kingsolver — I hated The Poisonwood Bible and forced myself to finish it over the span of six months. I picked up The Lacuna after a I read a few reviews on it and decided to give it a go. It sat in my to-read pile for months and months and it finally made it to my summer reading list, if only so it could move from the pile on top of my bookshelf to an actual shelf. I was very skeptical of it; I wouldn’t force myself to read it if it wasn’t good, I can’t bare to read something I dislike anymore.

The fact that I finished it should tell you that I liked it. Love would be too strong a word to use, but like fits it perfectly. I’m not a fan of historical fiction because I often find myself thinking things like “Frida Kahlo would never say that.” She probably wouldn’t but I suppose that is the point of historical fiction; it isn’t meant to be accurate. I’ve never been good at making that distinction. Maybe I’m getting lazy because I can accept that now, or I don’t care about it now.

The Lacuna is a novel about Harrison Shepherd who spent most of his adolescence in Mexico. His mother was Mexican and his father was American. He happens to befriend Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Trotsky. He happens to move to America after Trotsky’s assassination and becomes a famous author until the Cold War begins and the government chooses to label him as a Communist.

We follow Harrison’s life through a series of journal entries, “historical” documents, newspaper articles, and infrequent interruptions from Harrison’s stenographer, Violet Brown. All of these are pieced together chronologically to give us an almost fairly accurate account of Harrison’s life, from boyhood forward. I wanted to stop after reading the first 30 pages or so, not because of the format, but because it was bad. Knowing that most of the books I read have “humps,” I trudged on and eventually started liking The Lacuna.

The one thing I honestly disliked about it was that we go from being “inside the novel, life of Harrison” to being outside, but we’re always kept at an arm’s length distance. It makes it hard to connect with the characters — it is possible about halfway through. Other than this, I liked The Lacuna. I wouldn’t consider it a great book or a great read, but it was enjoyable and something that I could get into. ( )
  joshanastasia | Oct 20, 2016 |
I just really didn't like the writing style of this book. I guess I just like a straight on narrative. The journal entry style of this book threw me off and made it very hard for me to stay interested. ( )
  Maureen_McCombs | Aug 19, 2016 |
I hate saying this but I was disappointed. The narrator was too detached for my taste and though I loved the sections with Frida Kahlo, I missed her once the story moved to the U.S. It was a little too preachy too (she's preaching to the choir on most of these issues). I love B.K. but this was not my favorite. ( )
  ltfitch1 | Jun 5, 2016 |
Review: The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver. It was a well written novel on political motives. I enjoyed the great effective political viewpoint….The story is told in a poise kind of elegance flowing throughout the book.

Barbara Kingsolver had a question that provoked her to research and write this novel. “Why is the relationship between art and politics such an uneasy one in the United States?” So she used Mexico and compared it to the US. I feel she made it clear through the story of this young boy and Mexican revolutionary muralist and other artist of the 1930’s and end it with the anti-communist censorship of the 1950’s. She wanted to show the contrast of Mexico’s aptitudes about political art diverge from those of the US.

An absorbing portrayal of a young American/Mexican boy’s life at a time when the country moved fast from depression, to world war, to consumerism woven through with political paranoia. The young boy was torn between two countries and a career of becoming a writer. He kept a daily journal of everything and anything that about the people and environment around him. He was proud no matter what job he rendered. He took on so many minimal jobs as well as becoming a cook and servant for famous artists.

His story goes on after he is sent to the US to deliver an Artist painting’s to a museum in New York for a show. His father lived in the US so he decided to stay in America. He did little writing at that time then one day decided to write a historic novel using Mexico as the setting. One novel lead to another and he became famous for his books.

In the aftermath of his writing his third book the United States government got involved. They tore his work and character apart. He was now known as a communist. They were going to take him to court and make a mockery out of his life between his time in US and Mexico. He became very depressed and wanted to be allowed to make a short visit back to Mexico before trial which in the end the writer, Mr. Harrison, prevailed…..A wide range and comprehensive story of political reality…..
( )
  Juan-banjo | May 31, 2016 |
This was well written in spanning time, places and attitudes and in keeping a small mysteries interesting and not frustrating. Not an easy book. ( )
  BridgitDavis | Apr 21, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 222 (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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