Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reading Update

It's looking like I'm not going to get any more books read this year, though I'm working on two right now. The last two books of the year were Ophelia, by Lisa Klein, and The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver.

Book #58, Ophelia, is billed as a YA title, or at least that's where it was in the bookstore. I thought it was for people a little older than my middle schoolers. I am always intrigued by retellings of stories that I know well. This one takes the story of Hamlet and tells it from the point of view of Ophelia, a character whom Shakespeare leaves frustratingly nebulous. I enjoyed her version of events.

And the last book of the year, book #59 - I really thought I could make it to 60 - was Barbara Kingsolver's latest novel, The Lacuna: A Novel. Kingsolver is such a wonderful writer and can make any subject interesting - look at what she did for vegetables in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. This book tells the story of Harrison Shepherd, a character who, the book jacket tells us, is "pulled between two nations." (Favorite theme alert!) At the beginning of the book he's a child in Mexico, living with his Mexican mother, who has left his American father. Later in the book he returns to the United States, but he is always a foreigner everywhere. He falls in with various famous people, namely Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Lev Trotsky, but unlike some books, his story doesn't feel like an excuse to tell theirs. Shepherd's life story, spanning the 30s, 40s and 50s, is richly detailed, and yet there is always a lacuna, for "the most important part of a story is the piece of it you don't know." At the end of the book Shepherd falls afoul of the "Committee on Un-American Activities," as did so many writers and artists of the period. I couldn't help but wonder whether the injustices done to Shepherd were in some way informed by Kingsolver's own experience with the type of criticism she has faced, as she too has been called "un-American" because of some of her writing questioning the status quo. I loved this book and I found it well worth waiting for. But I hope Kingsolver will write another one soon.

1 comment:

Brook Stableford said...

Barbara Kingsolver is speaking at a writers' conference Mexico in February 2010. Does anyone know anything about it? Someone mentioned in a reading group that she is going to speak and lead workshops at a conference. Does anyone know anything about it? Thanks. I want to go!