Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The Poisonwood Bible

I seem to be going in for epic novels about completely different cultures at the moment. This is the best of all of them! I heard about it in Oprah's Book Club. It is one of those books that can change the way you view everything - in this case, valuing what you have, and also putting it in a different light. It's funny, sad, disturbing, beautiful and intelligent.

An American Southern Baptist preacher (zealous) and his family go to live in the jungle in the Congo in 1959. The preacher's aim is to enlighten the heathen - however the whole family is drastically changed by living there, in different ways. As the jacket says, it's the story of the family's 'tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over 3 decades in postcolonial Africa'.

Barbara Kingsolver has tackled many themes in this novel, in a very readable and articulate way - she reminds me of Doris Lessing in this: including a wide historical viewpoint and viewing events and cultures as they affect different people, who have very different opinions. She has said that she waited 30 years waiting for the wisdom and maturity to dare to write this book - it was worth the wait.

It's about Africa, America, colonialism, religion, agriculture, the jungle, family life, love - and as Barbara Kingsolver puts it, 'the great shifting terrain between righteousness and being right'.