Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver

Flight Behaviour Barbara Kingsolver‘Flight Behaviour’ by Barbara Kingsolver tells the story of Dellarobia Turnbow who climbs up a hillside in southern Appalachia on her way to meet her lover and stumbles across what appears to be a lake of orange fire.  As we learn later, this is the arrival of millions of monarch butterflies which have been diverted from their usual destination of Mexico by the effects of climate change.   A research team arrives to investigate but Dellarobia’s involvement in their work soon comes into conflict with all other aspects of her life, particularly her husband’s family who want to clear the land for logging.

As Kingsolver explains in the author’s note at the end of the book, the plight of monarch butterflies in the Mexican mountain town of Angangueo is a true story while the appearance of the butterflies in rural Tennessee is entirely fictional.  However, Kingsolver’s story is convincingly told.  The reader won’t feel blinded by the science of climate change but it is also impossible to come away unaffected by it after reading the novel.  Just like with The Poisonwood Bible, I felt that Kingsolver had a very clear message yet still managed to add extra nuances to the story to prevent it from becoming too simplistic and predictable.

This is not just a pretty story about some colourful insects though as several other epic themes are also covered in the story including  Dellarobia’s marriage problems and her family’s struggles with poverty.  Dellarobia is a character as memorable and distinct as her name and all of the other characters are well drawn out too with multiple layers.  I really liked the humour in Kingsolver’s character observations and descriptive imagery which got me hooked into the story straight away.  The scenery  is always brilliantly painted whether it’s the majestic descriptions of the butterflies or Dellarobia’s depressing trips to the bargain basement stores in small-town Tennessee.

I am really pleased to see that ‘Flight Behaviour’ has made it onto the shortlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction this year.  It is a beautifully written novel which I enjoyed just as much as ‘The Poisonwood Bible’.  I will definitely be adding ‘The Lacuna’ to my reading list.


Filed under Books

12 responses to “Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver

  1. I’ve been curious about this one (particularly now that it’s on the shortlist). Thanks for the review!


  2. Well said. In other words, I agree with what you wrote here and like how you wrote it. I am not such a fan of TPB or TL, so I’ll wait to read what you write about the latter.


  3. jamesfantbooks

    The cover is awesome. Very clean, vibrant. It tells its own story. Your character and imagery assessments were excellently written. The first few lines of the book are engaging. For example “flame-colored hair.” I love when a writer turns her fingers into paintbrushes and her monitor into a canvas.


  4. Nice review – I’ve been meaning to pick this one up.. The Poisonwood Bible and The Lacuna are two of my all-time favourite books… I think that Kingsolver is a great writer and master storyteller. Can’t wait to read this.


  5. soifollowjulian

    Lacuna is really great!


  6. I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle but none of her other books! Will have to add them to my reading list because Kingsolver is definitely a great writer!!


  7. Vishy

    Nice review! I liked what you said about how Barbara Kingsolver balances the climate change theme with Dellarobia’s own personal struggles. I liked reading about Dellarobia’s life more. I haven’t read ‘The Poisonwood Bible’ yet. I have that and ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle’ and I hope to read them soon.


  8. This one sounds lovely. I want to read The Lacuna too


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