- Publisher: FABER & FABER
- Format: Paperback | 640 pages
- Dimensions: 126mm x 198mm x 40mm | 522g
- Publication date: 10 January 2000
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 057120175X
- ISBN 13: 9780571201754
- Sales rank: 5,658
This is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959.
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Barbara Kingsolver's thirteen books of fiction, poetry and non-fiction include the novels The Bean Trees and the international bestseller The Poisonwood Bible which, amongst other accolades, won the 2005 Penguin/Orange Reading Group Book of the Year award. Her most recent novel is The Lacuna.
By Louise Marsh 31 Oct 2011
Imagine taking a handful of characters from TV's Mad Men and transporting them to the heart of the African jungle.
Consider how out of place they would be.
So too the Price family in Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible.
I very nearly didn't read this book. I didn't think I'd be able to relate to a family of missionaries who move to the Congo.
I wasn't expecting them to be an all-American 1960s family (tyrannical father aside) with a penchant for Betty Crocker cake mix, pink angora twin sets, sweet sixteen parties and ice-cream cones.
To say they are out of their depth in the Congo would be an understatement.
What on earth are they doing there?
Their situation seems comical at times. If only it wasn't so tragic.
If you enjoy books that make you think, you will love The Poisonwood Bible.
Barbara Kingsolver takes the reader on an epic journey to show what can happen when two very different worlds collide.
She packs a lot of food for thought into this book. Just when you think you've got it all covered, she gives you something new to think about.
I could get into a long discussion about The Poisonwood Bible.
But you'll enjoy it more if you discover it for yourself.
You can read more of my book recommendations at www.thereadingexperiment.com
The first novel in five years from the ever-popular Kingsolver (Pigs in Heaven, 1993, etc.) is a large-scale saga of an American family's enlightening and disillusioning African adventure. It begins with a stunningly written backward look: Orleanna Price's embittered memory of the uncompromising zeal that impelled her husband, Baptist missionary Nathan Price, to take her and their four daughters to the (then) Belgian Congo in 1959, and remain there despite dangerous evidence of the country's instability under Patrice Lumumba's ill-starred independence movement, Belgian and American interference and condescension, and Joseph Mobutu's murderous military dictatorship. The bulk of the story, which is set in the superbly realized native village of Kilanga, is narrated in turn by the four Price girls: Leah, the "smart" twin, whose worshipful respect for her father will undergo a rigorous trial by fire; her "retarded" counterpart Adah, disabled and mute (though in the depths of her mind articulate and playfully intelligent); eldest sister Rachel, a self-important whiner given to hilarious malapropisms ("feminine tuition"; "I prefer to remain anomalous"); and youngest sister Ruth May, whose childish fantasies of union with the surrounding, smothering landscape are cruelly fulfilled. Kingsolver skillfully orchestrates her characters' varied responses to Africa into a consistently absorbing narrative that reaches climax after climax - and that, even after you're sure it must be nearing its end, continues for a wrenching hundred pages or more, spelling out in unforgettable dramatic and lyric terms the fates of the surviving Prices. Little recent fiction has so successfully fused the personal with the political. Better even than Robert Stone in his otherwise brilliant Damascus Gate, Kingsolver convinces us that her characters are, first and foremost, breathing, fallible human beings and only secondarily conduits for her book's vigorously expressed and argued social and political ideas. A triumph. (Kirkus Reviews)