The Auburn Haired Magician (valca85) wrote in bookish,
The Auburn Haired Magician

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

Synopsis from Goodreads:

In her most accomplished novel, Barbara Kingsolver takes us on an epic journey from the Mexico City of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to the America of Pearl Harbor, FDR, and J. Edgar Hoover. The Lacuna is a poignant story of a man pulled between two nations as they invent their modern identities.

Born in the United States, reared in a series of provisional households in Mexico—from a coastal island jungle to 1930s Mexico City—Harrison Shepherd finds precarious shelter but no sense of home on his thrilling odyssey. Life is whatever he learns from housekeepers who put him to work in the kitchen, errands he runs in the streets, and one fateful day, by mixing plaster for famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. He discovers a passion for Aztec history and meets the exotic, imperious artist Frida Kahlo, who will become his lifelong friend. When he goes to work for Lev Trotsky, an exiled political leader fighting for his life, Shepherd inadvertently casts his lot with art and revolution, newspaper headlines and howling gossip, and a risk of terrible violence.

Meanwhile, to the north, the United States will soon be caught up in the internationalist goodwill of World War II. There in the land of his birth, Shepherd believes he might remake himself in America's hopeful image and claim a voice of his own. He finds support from an unlikely kindred soul, his stenographer, Mrs. Brown, who will be far more valuable to her employer than he could ever know. Through darkening years, political winds continue to toss him between north and south in a plot that turns many times on the unspeakable breach—the lacuna—between truth and public presumption.

Since first reading The Poisonwood Bible many years ago, I've been an avid fan of Ms. Kingsolver, so really, it was no surprise that I decided to pick this book up.
The first few chapters were alright, not fabulous, certainly not up to the standard of her other works. The next bunch of chapters after that were, dare I say it, boring. Yes, that's right, the dread word.
The main character was doing nothing for me, he was colorless despite the frantic efforts of the author to make him interesting. Nope, sorry. Even the fictional version of Frida Kahlo was dull, which is an incredible feat all by itself.
But I am a loyal reader, so I continued, and I was rewarded.
As soon as Ms. Kingsolver steps away from the historical characters and focuses on her true main character, she shines. Her prose once again dazzles, her wit sharp, her writing tight and concise.
It really shows her mastery in the writing world. How many authors can write half a book that can send a reader to sleep and then pick the plot up and fly it high like a kite? Not many.

I do recommend it. Just get through the first half, consider it a long introduction, and I can promise rich rewards on the other side.


3.9 out 5 Stars


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