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The Lacuna by B. Kingsolver
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The Lacuna (edition 2009)

by B. Kingsolver

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,5992041,464 (3.87)1 / 561
Member:Lynn_Barker
Title:The Lacuna
Authors:B. Kingsolver
Info:Harper Collins (2009), Edition: First Edition, Perfect Paperback
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:Mexico, Diego Rivera, fresco painting, Frida Kahlo, World War II, Communism, Leon Trotsky, history, Aztecs, art, Bonus Army, McCarthyism, Asheville, Mexico City

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 (203)  French (1)  All languages (204)
Showing 1-5 of 203 (next | show all)
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? ( )
  Michael_Lilly | Aug 13, 2015 |
It took me a really long time to get into this book. If it wasn't written by Barbara Kingsolver I don't think I would have continued reading. To me, the first half of the book was long and drawn out set up for the second half of the book. During this time, the narrarator is living in Mexico where he works in the household of the artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and thus becomes acquainted with the Soviet exile Lev Trotsky. There were a few interesting parts in this section of the book, but it was mostly just mundane and I kept waiting for it to end.

I just never felt attatched to any of the characters at this point. I didn't get a strong sense of who any of them were, or care much what happened to any of them. I have always loved Kingsolver's characters, so I was really disappointed by this.

I really enjoyed much of the second half of the book, especially conversations that Harrison Shepherd has with Violet Brown and Arthur Gold about the political and social climate of the United States and the anti-Communist fervor. I've never really read much about this period of American history, and I don't know how accurately Kingsolver captured it, but I loved the points about how most people really didn't know what Communism was, they only knew what anti-Communism was. The book illustrates well how easily people become afraid and suspicious of their neighbors when only a few years before they had rallied as a country and made many sacrifices to support the war efforts.

When I heard Kingsolver speak about this book, she said that was really the crux of the book for her. The time in American history when people came together and were sacrificing so much for the war effort to the time when it became un-American to question government policies or express any sentiments that America still had work to do as a country. I really liked the parts of the book that dealt with this theme and I just wish it had gotten to that point quicker. ( )
  klburnside | Aug 11, 2015 |
I had the privilege of listening to Kingsolver read this aloud as well as reading the print...I love her. Her voice and her style of narration, her perfectly articulated words and sounds all captivated me instantly. Hearing V.B.'s voice as Kingsolver intended it is what made me want to just hug Violet Brown. The characters were so lovable (even though I'd never want to hang out with Harrison or Violet in real life, but Trotsky definitely).

I have heard people say that this book had a political agenda. I have to disagree. I believe that this novel, although centered around politics, is about humans, while politics never seem to be. This novel did not turn me into a socialist, a communist, an anti-communist, or a hater of capitalism, but it did make me want to embrace all kinds of people. It made me yearn to learn more about and to listen to people I don't know, and especially those that I think "I know about." Because I don't really. The best part about someone is that which you don't know. Thinking about that recurring message in the novel has impacted me. For reals.

This novel showed me about:

McCarthyism: how could we force people to value our government over theirs by silencing, condemning, and violating all of the personal freedoms that make our country so great?
The Bonus Army: How did I learn about this terrible event in high school (I had to have, right?) without remembering it? It's seared into my consciousness now...
Having your words used against you
Being a writer
Being a private person
Trotsky & Stalin
Stupid American slang from the 20's-50's.
Being gay when hardly anyone around you thinks that is okay
Censorship & other oppressive behavior
Artists, especially Frida & Diego
A lot of ancient Mexican history
Integrity

My favorites (I'm being vague so as not to spoil the plot)

a) when a character protested a violating probe by invoking our personal rights guaranteed to Americans, and the agent responded with something to the effect of, "No American talks like that; that's how I know you're a communist." HA! I don't think this is true anymore, and I'm hoping that we'll be a little less inclined to McCarthyism-type witch hunting in the future.

b) The metaphorical images in the first chapter and what they came to symbolize

c) The strong women (Frida & VB)

d) Lev

e) The subtlety

f) The statement that a rule of the media is to fill the silence, keep talking, whether it's true or not. Sounds familiar.

g) Barbara Kingsolver's voices when she reads aloud.

h) The ending.


I have to thank my local library for pushing me to read this by selecting it for book club. I would have really missed out on some opportunity to grow as a person had I not dived into the lacuna.







( )
  engpunk77 | Aug 10, 2015 |
This is among the best books I have ever read. It has everything I love in a book - excellent writing, a connection to history, a well-crafted plot, and bigger-than-life themes. I loved every page. ( )
  anitatally | Feb 4, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 203 (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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Wikipedia in English (1)

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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