The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

17 Sep

Well, my attempt to read half a suitcase of books during my holiday did not exactly succeed, however, I did finish Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna whilst I was away, so that was something. And glad I did too, a really great book. I really enjoyed The Poisonwood Bible when I read it a few years ago and I’d had my eye on The Lacuna as soon as it came out in its pretty hardback form. Our narrator Harrison Shepard begins with his experiences growing up with his flapper mum who’s run away to Mexico with her latest boyfriend, all the way through to his later life. The reader meets famous figures like Frida Kahlo and Trotsky along the way. For me, it was a wonderful blend of history, fiction and the arts. I really enjoyed the creative imaginings of the personalities of Kahlo and Trotsky and the way this fitted into the historical events of 30s and 40s America. The method by which the story is told – in fragments, using the narrator’s diary and letters – was particularly good. It’s not a new technique sure, but it felt innovative nonetheless. It’s a bit of a slow burner; not as gripping as some novels, but I was intrigued all the way through, and the end was particularly engrossing. For someone who’s only been alive for the last quarter century, the light it shed on the political climate of post-war America, in regards to the huge backlash against communism and the actions of the Committee for Un-American Activities, was fascinating.

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