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View Full Version : So What Did You Think? The Poisonwood Bible (Repost)



Yeshanu
07-03-2006, 08:32 PM
Please don't post more on this thread until the reconstruction is finished. Thanks.

(And if you voted in the poll, please vote again. I don't know how to ressurrect the results.)


I'll begin with a simple poll and my opinion that this is one of the most beautiful books I've ever read. Enthralling and heartbreaking.

I can't wait to hear what elements would have some of you agree with me, but I'm even more interested to hear why some of you didn't care for it.

I'm going to review some discussion questions that have been listed on the Web and see if they're worthy of our elite panel of reviewers, but please, please - don't wait for me.

Yeshanu
07-03-2006, 08:37 PM
Unique:


I liked it. It reminded me of a book I'd read a long time ago, (The Nun's Story) so I checked it out and re-read it.

It's one of the few books that had a main character (the father) that I disliked intensely, immediately, and throughout the book. I wanted to smack him and keep on smacking him.

Yeshanu
07-03-2006, 08:38 PM
Perks:


One thing that stands out, in fact the most important thing in a way, is that Africa, The Congo, was a character in the book. It was so clear that the land itself had a personality that was incompatible with what Nathan Price wanted for it and demanded that it do for him.

I think America is in-between as a force to rival human will. What I've seen of Europe leads me to think that it is a tamer topography. It's more "content" to be shaped. I think that makes human "civilzation" an easier and more thorough endeavor. If the ground stays where you put it and the trees give way to your clearing, you can turn your thoughts to more philosophical and less practical pursuits. Mostly, I think this is a good thing, if you happen to be a human being, but it may be the single greatest factor in Western myopia.

In America, especially in the the south, I have seen more of a struggle against the elements and it does change the attitudes and philosophies of the natives.

Any thoughts?

Yeshanu
07-03-2006, 08:38 PM
alleycat:


I liked Kingsolver's other novels a lot, but I couldn't get into this one. It's been a while since I read it; as I recall, I just couldn't develop much empathy for the characters or much interest in the storyline. I was surprised since I'd enjoyed The Bean Tree, Pigs in Heaven, etc. so much.

ac

Yeshanu
07-03-2006, 08:39 PM
CaroGirl:


I loved this novel, especially the deft way she changed narrative voice for each character. I think that's what really sucked me into the story. It was so interesting to see the same incidents told from the different perspectives. Each voice was unique and you knew who was narrating immediately, once you got to know each girl.

I agree that the father was one of the most loathsome characters I've come across in literature, but that just attests to Kingsolver's talent in this book. You don't hate characters in books where you don't care about the story and the other characters.

I wasn't able to find my copy of The Poisonwood Bible to reread it, but I remember most of it quite vividly. It stuck with me. I also tried lending it to people because of how much I enjoyed it, but none of them loved it like I did. One friend couldn't get through it at all. That surprised me.

Yeshanu
07-03-2006, 08:39 PM
aruna:


OK, I haven't been snubbing this discussion... I arrived in Germany a few days ago and have been offline since then.
I loved most of this book, but didn't like the last few chapters - it just got to ploitical for me. I found the real ending was when they crossed the river (writing this from memory - I didn't have time to re-read the whole book).

After that, it seemed to me that there was just too much authorial voice coming through, that Leah was being a bit of a puppet. Up to that point I found it magnificent. If there is any writer I'd like to emulate, any standard of writing I'd like to hold myself to, this is the writer, this the book!

I haven't got much time unfortunately to go into more detail now but I'll be back tomorrow.

Yeshanu
07-03-2006, 08:40 PM
Perks:


Oh! Are you in Bavaria? Eat good food for me, please. I love eating in Germany.

That's a great point about the standard of the writing. This was a perfect time for me to ingest this quality of word-working. It's the type that makes me swoon.

Yeshanu
07-03-2006, 08:41 PM
aruna:


Quote:
Originally Posted by Perks
Oh! Are you in Bavaria? Eat good food for me, please. I love eating in Germany.

.

Not Bavaria - Baden-Württemberg. German food is NOT good for vegetarians!!!

Yeshanu
07-03-2006, 08:41 PM
Perks:


Oops! You're right. I gnawed on a good few animals while I was there. Sorry!

Yeshanu
07-03-2006, 08:42 PM
pdr:


I liked this best of all B K's books.
I liked the fact that as an American she wasn't afraid to tell the truth about what missionaries really do in another country to her fellow Americans.

I liked the way she used politics, the real actual factual politics of what happened to make that ending ring true.

It's a shocking book if you believe that missionaries only do good, if you believe that invading another people's culture and country is okay and especially if you do so in total ignorance of the county and culture.

It's a deeply distressing book when you simply look at the story of the family and what happened to them. Obsession is not good for relationships!

I also found BK's use of language and her writing style a pleasure to read.

Yeshanu
07-03-2006, 08:45 PM
That's all I could find, folks. Sorry if I missed any of your wonderful comments.

maestrowork
07-05-2006, 04:15 PM
06-22-2006, 10:31 PM
AmyBA
Formerly AW_Amy


This is one of the first books I read where I said to myself, I wish I could write like that!

I also loved the way Kingsolver was able to so completely draw me into the world of each girl, and by her descriptions, into Africa.

I felt the most ambivalent about Orleanna, whom I imagined with Holly Hunter's voice during the passages that take place years after the story from her home in Georgia, for whatever that's worth in the discussion.
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06-22-2006, 11:20 PM
aruna
Dances with Peacocks

Quote:
Originally Posted by AmyBA
This is one of the first books I read where I said to myself, I wish I could write like that!.

Yes, exactly!

Quote:
I felt the most ambivalent about Orleanna, whom I imagined with Holly Hunter's voice during the passages that take place years after the story from her home in Georgia, for whatever that's worth in the discussion


Orleanna is the one I had the most difficulty with, as well, especially in the opening chapter. The first time I read the book years ago I actually skipped that chapter, and read it later; it feels to me more like a prologue, you know, that thing that lots of readers skip? Even though it's good and interesting in its own right, I wanted to leap into the story from the start and that first chapter slowed it down, same thing when she did it again later on.

I also missed the Rev's voice. I would have loved to hear the story from his POV as well. I just love books written this way, as they let you see the same situation from various angles, which is something I try to do in everyday life anyway; you know, to see that the way I regard a given situation is not fact, but coloured by my own personality.

One other writer who does this very well is Susan Howatch. She makes you step into the shoes of someone you have learnt to loathe through reding about him from another character's viewpoint, but when you see the story through this "villain's" eyes, you actually grow sympathy for him or her. I'd have loved to see this happen in PB, for the Rev.
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So, what do you think of missionaries? Really cool AWers discuss The Poisonwood Bible.

"We live that we may learn to love. We love that we may learn to live. No other lesson is required of Man." The Book of Mirdad, Mikhail Naimy

Browse my books in the AW Library!



06-23-2006, 08:02 AM
MacAllister
Dawnolyte Acolyte
Super Moderator


I've always thought this one of the most beautiful books I've ever read. It seemed a bit outside Kingsolver's comfort range, on occasion--but I appreciated that. It read, to me, as if she were honestly stretching her skills. For the most part, I thought she was absolutely up to the task. *g*

As a result, I felt more inclined to fogive the one or two tiny baubles.
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06-23-2006, 11:35 AM
Perks
delicate #!&*! flower
Mod Squad Member


I'm wondering if the length of the book was offputting to some? When a book is excellent, I don't mind if it goes on for volumes, but some people shy away from a time investment of that magnitude.
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The AW BookClub's first selection, The Poisonwood Bible, is up for discussion. Come play!


06-23-2006, 12:06 PM
CaroGirl
Puissant


Judging by the poll, this is truly one of those "love it or hate it" kind of books. As someone who loved it, I'm curious to hear an opinion from someone who hated it. Anyone?
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Caro
~The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar, and familiar things new.
I took The 2006 Rejection Pledge: 4/20
Accepted: 1 (2nd place win in a short story contest)



06-23-2006, 04:00 PM
Perks
delicate #!&*! flower
Mod Squad Member


Absolutely! That would be so interesting. Come on back, people who hated it! Tell us why! We won't bite or belittle you... except behind your back for your heinous lack of taste.
__________________
The AW BookClub's first selection, The Poisonwood Bible, is up for discussion. Come play!



06-23-2006, 04:15 PM
alleycat
**************


I didn't hate it, I just didn't like it. I would try to explain further but it's been some time ago since I read it. As I recall, I didn't have much empathy for the characters and their situations. Plus, I felt like Kingsolver herself was preaching to the reader. Instead of putting herself (feelings and opinions) into the story; she hung the story off of her opinions. Does that kind of makes sense?

That's about the best I can do without going back and rereading parts of the book.

ac



06-24-2006, 12:49 AM
aruna
Dances with Peacocks


Quote:
Originally Posted by alleycat
I didn't hate it, I just didn't like it. I would try to explain further but it's been some time ago since I read it. As I recall, I didn't have much empathy for the characters and their situations. Plus, I felt like Kingsolver herself was preaching to the reader. Instead of putting herself (feelings and opinions) into the story; she hung the story off of her opinions. Does that kind of makes sense?

That's about the best I can do without going back and rereading parts of the book.

ac

As I mentioned earlier, I first read PB because an online friend of mine, who went by the ID of The Literary Moose, hated it so much it became for him the Worst Book of All Time. Moose is - or was - a wonderful person and an avid reader; Polish, with an amazing command of English, he was also a genius studying for his Doctorate in Economics at Northwestern. He used to have an amazing website ful of all kinds of books; Russian, Polish, American, al kinds of literature, for which he wrote extensive reviews. He was so kind as to include a couple of my own books, and those reviews are still on my website as he did not ask me to take them down afer he deleted his site.

He was a very funny, very eloquent man but extremely conservative politically and very opiniuonated as far as books were concenrned. He wrote brilliant reviews and several well known authors wrote to him to thank him. But he was also quick to anger which resulted in him removing every one of his amazon reviews and deleting his site and disappearing, abandoning all his friends. He had high-paying job offers from places like Stanford but finally I heard he went to work for Opera software in Norway (he was also brilliant in IT.) He was only 28 when I knew him but I had the feeling one day he'd win the Nobel proze for economics. He was that brilliant, lovable and quirky.

I say all that because his hatred of this book was beyond anything I'd ever witnessed before. He adopted the word "a Kingsolver" to mean a book of abysmmal badness, and used to be quite funny in his rants.
SO I was really, really curious and one day, after we had parted company, I read it. And all the way through I kept asking myself what it was that the Moose hated so much but could find no answer. It couldn't be the writing itself so it had to be something in the content - but what?

Only in the last section I could begin to see it with his eyes, and I believe it was the political stuff he hated so much. I just don't know. I can understand people being indifferent to it, as I to have been left unmoved by books that others have praised to the skies. But never have I hated a book to the extent that Moose hated this one. ANd I am still as baffled as ever! I wish I could have asked him, but by the time I read it he had gone off into the mists of Norway and stopped replying to mails.

BTW I just googled Literary Moose and found him: he really is with Opera and has renamed his website but not everyone can access it. I think the answer to the Kingsolver question can be found on this interview with him, http://www.designdetector.com/articl...eInterview.php

which gives a good idea of his personality and the valuie of his literary site.
__________________
So, what do you think of missionaries? Really cool AWers discuss The Poisonwood Bible.

"We live that we may learn to love. We love that we may learn to live. No other lesson is required of Man." The Book of Mirdad, Mikhail Naimy

Browse my books in the AW Library!




06-25-2006, 12:51 PM
Sarah Skilton
Super Member


Like many of you, I found the writing absolutely beautiful and enjoyed the various POVs, particularly Rachel's. I felt she brought a much-needed "sane" (if solopsistic) and humorously ignorant POV that kept the story grounded when it was used.

However, for me the book went on 100 pages too long. I felt the themes had been sufficiently explored way before the end; and I got the sense Barbara Kingsolver simply didn't want to let the characters go and/or wrap up.

On a personal level it bothered me that Leah chose to stay in Africa, where her kids were actually sickly and hungry, rather than go home to the states. She could have assisted the efforts from a place of comfort, and it was insulting to the people who *couldn't* leave that she would stay merely on a point of principal/misplaced guilt.

However, the first half of the book mesmerized me and I'm really glad I read it.
__________________
Sarah Skilton, Freelance Writer

Writing: http://www.sarahskilton.com


06-25-2006, 02:51 PM
aruna
Dances with Peacocks


Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarah Skilton

However, for me the book went on 100 pages too long. I felt the themes had been sufficiently explored way before the end; and I got the sense Barbara Kingsolver simply didn't want to let the characters go and/or wrap up.

On a personal level it bothered me that Leah chose to stay in Africa, where her kids were actually sickly and hungry, rather than go home to the states. She could have assisted the efforts from a place of comfort, and it was insulting to the people who *couldn't* leave that she would stay merely on a point of principal/misplaced guilt.



I agree with you. For me, the resolution of the story came when Ada realised that, in crossing the river, her mother had loved her as much as Leah. After that very moving wrapping up of the story the book was finished for me. Though it was intersting to know what became of them all, it's the kind of stuff that happens to character after the last page is turned, if you know what I mean. It was like a whole different story tagged on.
__________________
So, what do you think of missionaries? Really cool AWers discuss The Poisonwood Bible.

"We live that we may learn to love. We love that we may learn to live. No other lesson is required of Man." The Book of Mirdad, Mikhail Naimy

Browse my books in the AW Library!



06-25-2006, 07:32 PM
pdr
Writer

Ah, yes but...
don't you think BK was actually trying to say something about ignorance, cultural imperialism, the colonial mind set, racism and the arrogance of Christians and that the last 100 pages are there to tie off all those ends?

Did anyone here, as a Christian, read the book in a state of shock, it being the first inkling that missionaries do anything but good?



06-25-2006, 07:43 PM
Perks
delicate #!&*! flower
Mod Squad Member


I grew up in the 'Assembly of God' denomination - very big on missionary work. Honestly, it didn't surprise me one bit.

Many missionaries have humanitarian motivations, but it is so hard for people from Western cultures, feeling particularly blessed by God, to understand that not everyone, everywhere wants to be us.

It was one of the elements I found most brilliant in this book.
__________________
The AW BookClub's first selection, The Poisonwood Bible, is up for discussion. Come play!


06-25-2006, 09:30 PM
Sarah Skilton
Super Member


Quote:
Originally Posted by pdr
don't you think BK was actually trying to say something about ignorance, cultural imperialism, the colonial mind set, racism and the arrogance of Christians...

Yes, definitely, and she did a great job, but...

Quote:
Originally Posted by pdr
and that the last 100 pages are there to tie off all those ends?

This I disagree with. From the moment the father ignores the local wisdom on how to plant and cultivate food, which occurred fairly early on, the theme was set. She added many rich layers, and showed how this theme affected each of the daughters, but by page 400, or even 500 (let alone 600!), I felt as though I personally *got* it, and the time had come for the story to end.
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Writing: http://www.sarahskilton.com



06-25-2006, 11:00 PM
aruna
Dances with Peacocks


Quote:
Originally Posted by pdr
don't you think BK was actually trying to say something about ignorance, cultural imperialism, the colonial mind set, racism and the arrogance of Christians and that the last 100 pages are there to tie off all those ends?

Did anyone here, as a Christian, read the book in a state of shock, it being the first inkling that missionaries do anything but good?

For me, the characters always come first, so even though these themes existed, they wer eplayed out through the characters, and as Sarah says, they had alreday been sufficiently dealt with. For me, the resoltion had ot be personal, within the characters.

I was not at all surprised by the missionary shenanigans. See, I came from a colony and I've seen similar things first hand.
When I was travelling in SOuth America in the 70's with friends we came upon an American misssionary colony deep in the Amazon, inaccesible except by boat and seaplane. These people had come to translate the Bible into a native language. They had an entire American small town, complete with cinema and drug store. ANd they were so arrogant. The spoke of the Indians with such condescension, it was appalling. I remember my friend Margaret giving them a good piece of her mind; I was too polite to say anything.

(Sorry, I could only retrieve the first page from Google's cache)

rpauls
07-20-2006, 10:45 PM
This is possible the most beautiful book I have ever read. I've read it a couple of times (actually only in audio format) and I can not stop the tears for the beauty of character Kingsolver creates. Where did she learn to write like that! I have two favorite characters Ada an then in te second half Leah (excuse me if the spelling is wrong I've never seen the text!. btw, the audio version is excellent because the reader is really great. So much depends on the reader).
Most of all I enjoyed Ada's dark poetry. I loved Leah later as she learned to see a much bigger picture of the world from her experiences in the congo and especially her relationship with Anetole. "The subtle differences that shimmer beneath the surface of right an wrong". I know by now you guys have finished this book, but I just found your iscussion today. My loss. Email me if you wan to discuss further or if you know of another dicussion of this work.
Thanks
Rich

rpauls
07-20-2006, 10:51 PM
This is possible the most beautiful book I have ever read. I've read it a couple of times (actually only in audio format) and I can not stop the tears for the beauty of character Kingsolver creates. Where did she learn to write like that! I have two favorite characters Ada an then in te second half Leah (excuse me if the spelling is wrong I've never seen the text!. btw, the audio version is excellent because the reader is really great. So much depends on the reader).
Most of all I enjoyed Ada's dark poetry. I loved Leah later as she learned to see a much bigger picture of the world from her experiences in the congo and especially her relationship with Anetole. "The subtle differences that shimmer beneath the surface of right an wrong". I know by now you guys have finished this book, but I just found your iscussion today. My loss. Email me if you wan to discuss further or if you know of another dicussion of this work.
Thanks
Rich

Perks
07-21-2006, 12:27 AM
Thanks to whoever got this thread back for us! I didn't even have a chance to go hunting! :)