11 April, 2010

The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

From Goodreads:
The year is 1959 and the place is the Belgian Congo. Nathan, a Baptist preacher, has come to spread the Word in a remote village reachable only by airplane. To say that he and his family are woefully unprepared would be an understatement: "We came from Bethlehem, Georgia, bearing Betty Crocker cake mixes into the jungle," says Leah, one of Nathan's daughters. But of course it isn't long before they discover that the tremendous humidity has rendered the mixes unusable, their clothes are unsuitable, and they've arrived in the middle of political upheaval as the Congolese seek to wrest independence from Belgium. In addition to poisonous snakes, dangerous animals, and the hostility of the villagers to Nathan's fiery take-no-prisoners brand of Christianity, there are also rebels in the jungle and the threat of war in the air. Could things get any worse?
 I read Poisonwood Bible for our book group. I must say I found it challenging to start with. Many in our group struggled with the changing narrator, which I surprisingly didn't. I think my problem was more with the fact it was our third book in a row that dealt with colonisation type issues. (The first two being Every Secret Thing and Mr Pip) I started to enjoy it more towards the end and was glad I persevered.

Kingsolver gave each of her narrators (5 in all) a clear voice. It was easy to identify each of them simply by the style of speech. This also made it easy to like or dislike certain characters and their views or treatment of situations. I also liked how each character was followed through to the end, you knew what had happened to each of them and it wasn't always what you thought it would be.

Overall I enjoyed the book, I would recommend it, but would warn you need to read it, you can't skim! It took me over two weeks to read which is unusual, but it was worth the effort.