Shelf-Life

Books, reading & writing

The Poisonwood Bible

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The first book of my female authors challenge is finished and if the objective of the exercise was to better understand the female experience (although I’m not entirely sure if that is the objective) then in Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible I got a lot of bang for my buck. The story of the Prices 1959 missionary expedition from the state of Georgia to the village of Kilanga, in the heart of the Belgian Congo, is told in an interweaving series of first person reflections by the five women in the family (mother Orleanna and her four daughters Rachel, Leah, Adah and Ruth-May). Whisked up in the storm of the religious zeal of their husband/father Nathan Price, they find themselves stuck in a land they don’t understand and a culture they cannot comprehend. Told against the backdrop of Congolese independence, the charting of the coming of age and loss of innocence of the Price girls is reflected in the turmoil and struggle for identity taking place in the nation around them.

There is a great deal I could say about what is good about this book (because there is a great deal of good) however I am trying to avoid writing reviews per se on this blog. So instead I’m going to write about what this book made me think and made me want to do.

Let’s take the second task first. This book made me want to learn more about the Congo. The extensive bibliography presented at the end of the book shows the depth of research Kingsolver completed while writing her book – covering history, language, culture and religion – and while I admit to rushing onto Wikipedia on finishing the book rather than down to the library to pick up one of the listed works, I rushed nonetheless.

Now, first things second, what did the book make me think: That if my objective is to find truths about ‘the female experience’ I’m not going to find them, just as I wouldn’t find truths about ‘the male experience’ in books written by men. I may however find truths about people’s experiences in books written by people (i.e. books).  [check me being all profound and stuff]

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