‘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.