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The Lacuna: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver
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The Lacuna: A Novel (edition 2009)

by Barbara Kingsolver

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3,3991961,588 (3.87)1 / 523
Member:corgiiman
Title:The Lacuna: A Novel
Authors:Barbara Kingsolver
Info:Harper (2009), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 528 pages
Collections:Your library
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The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

1930s (21) 2010 (37) 20th century (25) American (38) art (44) book club (19) communism (103) Diego Rivera (93) fiction (484) Frida Kahlo (137) historical (20) historical fiction (171) history (28) Kindle (31) Kingsolver (21) literature (24) McCarthyism (49) Mexico (280) North Carolina (29) novel (70) Orange Prize (53) own (20) politics (23) read (28) read in 2010 (25) to-read (90) Trotsky (109) unread (27) USA (34) WWII (36)
  1. 80
    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 (195)  French (1)  All languages (196)
Showing 1-5 of 195 (next | show all)
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 |
I had to get through one book by Kingsolver before I died. I know she's a modern literary icon.

I just don't think I can name an author who is a better writer that I enjoy less.

She's talented, to be sure; and this book, at least, was creative and colorful. Her books simply don't grab me. It took me almost three weeks to read this, and I wasn't on a bender or anything. It was just slow going.

I might recommend this to people smarter than me. ( )
  dysmonia | Apr 15, 2014 |
This is, I think, the only Kingsolver novel I’ve ever read (can’t remember whether or not I’ve read The Bean Trees) tho I’ve read both her essay collections (Small Wonder, and High Tide in Tucson) and one of her non-fiction works (Animal, Vegetable, Mineral) and it’s likely to stay that way.

I will say right up-front that I enjoyed reading The Lacuna because Kingsolver is an excellent writer, but as much as I enjoyed her technical skills I found her storytelling . . . annoying. It’s hard to pin down why, exactly; there just seemed something forced and false about it, esp the dialog.

Briefly, the story is about the life of a man named Harrison Shepherd from his tumultuous childhood in Mexico with his unstable mother to his work as a servant of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to his return to the U.S. (where he’d been born and his father was a citizen) where he becomes a popular author and the eventual upending of his life by the House of UnAmerican Activities Committee. That past history with the communist Riveras, don’t you know. There’s some interesting stuff near the end of the book about the misinformation distributed by the media in their efforts to churn up stories, without fact checking or any real concern for reporting the truth as opposed to just spreading malicious gossip, but little else that makes any kind of real point. The story just sort of meanders around and around, occasionally waxing philosophical.

There was this sentence I really liked, taken from Shepherd’s reminiscences about Leon Trotsky, who hid out for awhile in Mexico with the help of the Riveras: “Memories do not always soften with time; some grow edges like knives.” Definitely been my experience of memories.

I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not, tho I definitely recommend all her non-fiction work. If you’ve already read and liked one of her novels (and many do), go for it with this one, otherwise I think it’s a bit of a crap shoot. ( )
  BooksCatsEtc | Feb 19, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 195 (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.
Quotations
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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