Read a Book: The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

28 Feb
To be honest, I was a bit hesitant about taking on Barbara Kingsolver’s latest novel. Weighing in at over 600 pages, I had flashbacks to the late Nineties as a ploughed through her previous novel The Poisonwood Bible. While I remember enjoying the book – I did find it a test of endurance. 

Her latest novel also threw up early hurdles that I had to consider – mainly that I knew next to nothing about Mexico (where the first half of the novel is set) and even less about the artist Frida Kahlo and her husband Diego Rivera (who are pivotal characters throughout the novel).

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

Over the first 100 pages, I felt myself loosing the struggle to understand, as the various dated entries noted by a still to be identified narrator skips across a montage of Mexican happenings, and slowly we learn that we are following the novel’s central character Harrison Shephard and his man-hunting mother.

But then in an instant, as Shepherd meets Diego Rivera for the first time, and his relationship with him and Frida unfolds, The Lacuna quickly becomes an addictive, fascinating read – so much so that you’re more than happy to have hundreds of pages to get through.

Plot-wise, the novel follows Harrison Shepherd from 1929 to 1951 from his childhood in Mexico through to his adulthood in the US. The first half of the novel focuses on his time in the Kahlo / Rivera household, and his interactions with the exiled Communist Lev (Leon) Trotsky.

From there we head to the US as Shepherd embarks on a journey as a writer, set against an historical backdrop of WW2, McCarthyism and Communist Paranoia that gripped the US after the War.

While only the keenest of history and art buffs will recognise where fact ends and fiction begins, for the rest of us, even those with virtually no prior knowledge of the period or of the Mexican artists, this should be a fascinating, exhilarating while also an informative read.

Robot Rating: 9/10 (and contender for Top 5 Books of the Year)



3 Responses to “Read a Book: The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver”

  1. Nathan Marcello Rotunda February 28, 2011 at 5:51 am #

    Hmm. Looks like I finally have a new book to try. I’ve been stumped on what to read next.

    • chloerobot February 28, 2011 at 5:55 am #

      Go for it. Definitely worth the read – and let us know if you enjoy!


  1. Heard about the #50bookchallenge? (Books 1-10) « Chloerobot's Blog - March 5, 2011

    […] and my own first post: @chloerobot Finished The Lacuna No. 10 in the #50bookchallenge – contender for Top Read of 2011 – review here: #books… […]

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