Thursday, December 2, 2010

Book Review: The Lacuna

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

Harrison William Shepherd, the son of an American father and Mexican mother, spent much of his impressionable youth in Mexico as a cook and various other jobs for the artist Diego Rivera and his artist wife Frida Kahlo. When Russian revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky comes to Mexico to hide from assassins to live w/the Riveras and then moves out on his own, Shepherd begins working with him as a typist. After Trotsky’s assassination, Shepherd moves back to the U.S. where he becomes a famous author eventually caught up in the hunt for Communists (due to his past and current relationship with the Riveras and Trotsky) led by the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1940s.

Told through Shepherd’s journals and occasional archivist remarks from his stenographer, Kingsolver is definitely a talented writer as the descriptions and language was quite beautiful. Beautiful but dull. I was actually halfway through the book before I began to care about anything that happened to Shepherd. Maybe that was led by how he doesn’t even reference himself in his own journals. He never uses the pronoun I. Not even when he was 12. Which I find to be unrealistic for a 12 year old. He is not a confident character and doesn't seem to take much interest in himself or his life. Which is really probably why I didn't take much interest in him either.

While her writing is beautiful, it’s also sluggish to read. It seems like she tried too hard to make Shepherd seem destined to become a famous writer with the style and words she gave him as a young boy starting out his journal writing and storytelling. It felt pretentious and not entirely necessary.

I will give it one credit though. I do want to see the movie Frieda now as a direct result from reading this book.

If you’ve read Poisonwood Bible and just really like Kingsolver’s style, you might be interested in reading The Lacuna. But it wasn’t for me.

Next month – The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

Disclosure: No one paid me in any way, form or fashion to do this review.

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