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The Lacuna: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver

The Lacuna: A Novel (edition 2009)

by Barbara Kingsolver

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3,6422061,450 (3.87)1 / 578
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. 100
    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 (205)  French (1)  All languages (206)
Showing 1-5 of 205 (next | show all)
Kingsolver tells the story of a young boy growing up in Mexico in the households of Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and Leon Trotsky. The story focuses on the personal more than the political, though the overall themes are certainly commentary on the suppression of dissent and the forced orthodoxy of political expression in the last decade in America. ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | Nov 22, 2015 |
After the failure of his parents' marriage, Harrison Shepard's mother takes him to her native Mexico. Harrison is mostly left to his own devices while his mother spends her time dancing, smoking, drinking, and chasing men. The acquisition of a notebook leads to a life-long habit of journaling. A young cook becomes a father figure for Harrison, who becomes his assistant in the kitchen. When Harrison and his mother move to Mexico City, he becomes the cook for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. When their household grows to include the Russian Trotsky and his entourage, Harrison adds translating and secretarial duties to his cooking duties. After Trotsky's assassination, Harrison eventually lands in Asheville, North Carolina, where he becomes a successful novelist. However, his past association with communists make him a target for Joseph McCarthy's House Un-American Activities Committee.

I loved the first ¾ of the book, especially the parts set in Mexico. The last quarter of the book fell flat. I was fascinated by the structure. The combination of journal entries, copies of letters, and newspaper clippings gives it a feel similar to reading through a box of loose family papers. The structure was problematic in the ebook version I read. I kept wanting to refer back to earlier parts of the book, but because there are no chapters, the only reference points in the table of contents are the part headings, with each part consisting of more than 100 pages. Many readers will prefer reading a print copy for this reason.

I read this despite my general aversion to reading fictionalized accounts of real people and events. I don't want my knowledge of history clouded by fiction. I don't know a whole lot about Trotsky, and I feel like I need to read a biography to put him in proper perspective. Kingsolver portrays him in this book as a kind of grandfatherly, professorial, genteel man. I'm sure there were more facets to his character, including some darker traits. ( )
  cbl_tn | Nov 15, 2015 |
"The Lacuna" is the story of a young man who is searching for himself, seeking his identity which is lost amid divorce and dislocation. Shuffled back and forth between his mother in Mexico and his father in the U.S., young Shepherd isn't sure if he is Mexican or American or both. He finds his true home and family with the artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo and Soviet Leon Trotsky. When he finally relocates permanently to America and settles down as a writer his identity is again called into question. At the height of McCarthyism, he is branded a Communist. The story is told through letters and journal entries with commentary inserted from his secretary. Consequently, for me, it read a bit slowly, dragging in places. It was a fascinating read and a wonderful character study - well worth reading, but the use of the journal/letters as the storytelling device was a bit tedious for me. The book picks up steam as it moves into the latter part of Shepherd's life and the bits and pieces of the tale that involved the artists was well researched. Overall it is well written and engaging, despite some slow stretches. ( )
  Al-G | Oct 1, 2015 |
It pains me to give Barbara Kingsolver only three stars. I echo many of Katie's feelings about this book. Perhaps that is because we were reading it at the same time and talked about it as we read. If it were not a Kingsolver novel, I feeel sure that I would not have finished it. It would languish on my "read some of it" shelf. I am glad that I persisted, because the second half of the book, in my opinion, was much better than the first. Still, a two and a four still average out to be a three, and at times, I feel that is a generous rating. I will have to re-read Animal Dreams to restore my faith in my favorite author! ( )
  TheresaCIncinnati | Aug 17, 2015 |
Historical novel that includes Diego Rivera, Freda Kahlo, Leon Trotsky, Joe McCarthy, and the House Unamerican Activities Committee. What more could you want for drama? ( )
1 vote Michael_Lilly | Aug 13, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 205 (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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