Sunday, 1 November 2009

Book of the Week - Barbara Kingsolver, The Lacuna

Barbara Kingsolver was born in Annapolis, Maryland in 1955. She spent some of her childhood in Africa where her father was a medical doctor, but mainly grew up in the US. She initially attended DePauw University, on a music scholarship (studying classical piano), but eventually changed her major to biology. In the late 1970s, Kingsolver lived in a number of places, including Greece, France, and Arizona, working variously as an archaeological digger, copy editor, housecleaner, biological researcher and translator. She earned a Master's degree in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona. She then took a job as a science writer for the university. The science writing led to some freelance feature writing and journalism. In 1986, she won an Arizona Press Club award for outstanding feature writing. Her first novel, The Bean Trees, was published in 1988, and The Lacuna is her thirteenth book, and her first novel since The Poisonwood Bible, shortlisted for The Orange Prize in 1999. The Lacuna is set in a period in which I am interested, and I am looking forward to reading it. Reviews are very good, and it will be a contender for The Orange Prize next year.

“"The Lacuna" is the story of a man's search for safety in the grinding jaws of two nations, at a moment when the entire world seemed bent on reinventing itself at any cost. Born in the U.S., reared in a series of provisional households in Mexico, Harrison Shepherd is mostly a liability to his social-climbing flapper mother, Salome. Sometimes she gives her son cigarettes instead of supper. Making himself useful in the household of the famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, his wife Frida Kahlo and exiled Bolshevik leader Lev Trotsky, young Shepherd inadvertently casts his lot with art and revolution, and the howling gossip and reportage that dictate public opinion. A violent upheaval sends him north to a nation newly caught up in the internationalist good will of World War II. In the mountain city of Asheville, North Carolina he remakes himself in America's hopeful image. But political winds continue to throw him between north and south, in a plot that turns many times on the unspeakable breach - the lacuna - between truth and public presumption. This is a gripping story of identity, connection with our past, and the power of words to create or devastate. Crossing two decades, from the vibrant revolutionary murals of Mexico City to the halls of a Congress bent on eradicating the color Red, "The Lacuna" is as deep and rich as the New World.”

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