The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

The Poisonwood Bible‘The Poisonwood Bible’ by Barbara Kingsolver tells the story of an American missionary family who move to what was then the Belgian Congo in the early 1960s.  Their experiences are told from the point of view of Orleanna Price and her four daughters, Rachel, Adah, Leah and Ruth May while their father, Nathan, tries to bring salvation and enlightenment to the residents of a tiny Congolese village.  Each character is strongly affected by their time in the Congo in very different ways.

‘The Poisonwood Bible’ has been recommended to me by quite a few people and now I am going to pass on that recommendation again to all my blog followers.  Kingsolver captures the setting of the Congo brilliantly in her rich, lyrical writing and successfully balances the experiences and struggles of the five different narrators who all have their own recognisable voices and characteristics.   Although there is no doubt that Nathan Price represents the colonial forces and the damage they can do, the varied perspectives of his wife and daughters provide extra nuances to the story which I don’t think could have been achieved through one single narrator.  Thankfully, this prevents the story from falling into the trap of being too simplistic which is quite an achievement given that the book has a very obvious agenda.

‘The Poisonwood Bible’ is a compelling although often harrowing read.  It is eloquently written and has a very epic quality to it.  My one criticism is that the ending was stretched out far longer than was necessary.  The death of one of the characters was treated as a turning point in the book when it should really have been the overall conclusion.  I think a simple epilogue set twenty years later would have sufficed after that.  Apart from that, ‘The Poisonwood Bible’ is an intriguing and exceptionally well-written novel.


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17 responses to “The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

  1. I read it a while ago, and I remember finding one of the voices too contrived – one of the daughters. Perhaps she had some mental challenges? I enjoyed it, but it’s not a Kingsolver I’ll return to.


  2. I really enjoyed this book too. Excellent the way the different points of view are written. It reminded me a little of The Sound and the Fury.


  3. I loved this book and appreciated the viewpoints of all the different voices, although some were harder to read than others. I have read other Kingsolver books since but this remains by far my favourite .. in fact one of my very favourite novels of all time!


  4. Great review. What you describe as ‘epic quality, is exactly what makes it so memorable. If you haven’t read ‘The Lacuna’ yet, please do. I loved that too.


  5. ClewisWrites

    I read this book years ago for a college course on Female writers and has since earned a spot on my top 10 favorite books of all time.


  6. This book was my introduction to Kingsolver. Just Great. Later The Prodigal Summer became a favorite – who could not be touched by the coyotes ! but I had trouble with The Lacuna abd wll have to try that one again.


  7. It’s one of my favorites. Few writers master their characters’ voices like Kingsolver.


  8. This book was a masterpiece, marred only by the author’s preachiness, as expressed through the characters’ views on colonialism. We got that from the story. There was no need to preach about it. Still, Kingsolver is a superb writer and this book not only told a gripping story, but one with great political import.


  9. This was the first really good book I’d read in a long time. So creative and moving.


  10. glad you reviewed this! i just bought the ebook a few weeks ago and have been reluctant to start, but will begin imminently!


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  12. A real favourite of mine – I read it a few years back and the picture of the Congolese village is completely fresh in my mind. So vivid!


  13. I read the book years ago – made a big impression on me which subsequent Kingsolver novels have not.


  14. I loved this book. We read it for my neighborhood book club and it made for a great discussion! One of my neighbors focused on the mother’s part and actually went back and read ONLY the bits told from the mother’s point of view. It was an incredible story.


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  16. I love this book. Must have read it about 7 times.


  17. Pingback: Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver | A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff

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