Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver

lacunaI listened to this audiobook, which was read by the author.  At the beginning, I thought Kingsolver’s voice was really annoying, but I got used to it.  I don’t think I would have finished this book if I had been reading it traditionally.  It’s a very long, epic tale – which is exactly the kind of book I like to LISTEN to.  I mostly listen while I’m driving, and the time and the book go fast.

The Lacuna is the life story of a fictional character named Harrison Shepherd.  But, this book is full of fascinating historical events and real characters.  The story is told as entries into Harrison’s diaries.  These diaries were published by his typist and friend Violet Brown, who we meet later in the story.

Shepherd’s parents split up, and since his mother is Mexican, they move to that country when he is twelve.  His mother goes through a string of boyfriends, and therefore Harrison is moved from place to place and to different schools and jobs.  The story gets interesting when he begins to work mixing plaster for Diego Rivera, the famous painter.  His wife is Frida Kahlo, also a famous Mexican painter, and she becomes Harrison’s life-long friend.  These people are communists and end up hiding Lev Trotsky after he is banished from the Soviet Union by Stalin.  Even though there is much danger, Harrison loves working for Lev as a cook and typist.

Harrison is very interested in Mexican history, so the reader learns about Cortez and the conquest of the Aztecs. Harrison ends up returning to the U.S. at the beginning of WWII, and lives in Asheville, North Carolina.  Violet Brown enters the story here.  We learn a lot about the feelings of the people during the war – the rationing and sacrificing that each person made for the good of the war.  Harrison decides to write a novel about Cortez and the Aztecs and it becomes a best-seller.

The last part of the book is during the McCarthy era, when Harrison is  accused of being a communist sympathizer, so we learn a lot about the feelings and activities of that era.   The ending is somewhat of a surprise, but is satisfying.

I liked this book – but I’m a fan of historical fiction.  I love learning about history through the eyes of people who (fictionally) lived through it.  I know this book isn’t for everyone, but if you are a lover of history and great characters, you should give this book a try.


  1. I LOVED this book. It was an epic but when I was reading it I could hardly put it down. I thought the character of Frida was especially well written.

    Sam at Tiny Library

  2. I wonder if I would have liked this one better if I had listened to it on audio. I read it and didn't really like it. I felt it was contrived and I LOVED all of Kinglover's previous books. Oh well!


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