Short, Simple, No Spoilers
Southern Baptist minister from Georgia with wife and four blonde daughters in tow head to the Congo to save souls. Agree with the author's POV and enjoy her detailed, meticulous, unassuming writing style. However, this book felt monotonous, tedious, and banal. I grasp the concept and love the hidden sarcasm, just wish she could have wrapped it up sooner. Faced with 6 more hours to go, I had to stop. Maybe I missed something important at the end, but at this point, would rather move on to more interesting books.
Not sure why this book always scores so high on lists. Maybe it's the fact someone tells the truth about how sad it is people feel the need to force their beliefs on "uncivilized" people who are perfectly content. Revelation indeed, but work more closely with your editor, Ms. Kingsolver. Also, the southern accent grated and reverberated in my ears.
I couldn't get going with the printed copy of this book, but once I started listening to the audio version, I was instantly hooked. The narrator's reading with the Southern accent made the story come alive and I enjoyed listening to all 15+ hours of Barbara Kingsolver's story of Africa.
Enjoying one good listen after the next!
I have to confess that I almost didn't spring for this book because of the reviews denouncing the narrator. I am so glad I didn't listen to them (although I did wait to buy it on sale just in case they were right!)
The narrator is just about perfect for this story. She provides the perfect inflection and pace, including using varying levels of cynicism and cockiness, in the five voices of the main characters. (I especially loved how the author included miss-pronounced and miss-chosen words in the narration just as would have been likely in the conversation of young girls.)
This is an amazing geo-political story that will make you think long and hard about the virtues of missionaries bringing "the light" to the Congo, and think even harder about how the US government involves itself in the politics of the world, often at the dire expense of the people in places such as the Congo.
At the core of this story is how a family, under the sadistic rule of a brutal, intolerant man, crumbles when facing adversity in the Congo. At the same time, it is a story of how each of the surviving women find the means to accept their pasts and live out their lives.
Kingsolver's writing is incredible and the narration poetic. This is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed and will likely listen to again.
I hesitated listening to the Poisonwood Bible as an audibook because I enjoy Ms Kingsolver's lyrical prose, and I didn't want to miss that experience. But as it is for most of us these days, I have less time to read than I do to listen. So when Audible introduced the new "listen and read" feature I decided to try it out on this book.
Wow. This new feature is going to change my life! Not only does it let us experience the best of both worlds - immersing ourselves in the author's writing style, re-reading particularly important or complicated passages, etc, but it also lets us experience the performance of the story, bringing the characters to life via the narration in a way they don't come to life on the page. Plus, we can get through books so much faster! I would listen on my long commute and then kick back in the evening with my Kindle, synced to the exact position where I'd left off in the book, and spend time enjoying the book. It's a truly seamless back and forth experience.
In this way I got to hear the correct pronunciation of African names and terms I am sure I would have butchered if left to my own devices. But if the audio narration got too complicated (lots of character names, etc.) I could go back and reference the book and get reoriented.
I disagree with those reviewers who did not like Ms. Robertson's narration. I thought it was spot-on - perfectly capturing the personality of each girl through her unique accent and speaking pattern. Her narration made these characters come to life for me.
I don't know whether I found the audio or the written version of the book better. It was the combination of the two formats that elevated this book to a new level.
As for the book itself, I thought it was powerful, informative, compelling, and heartbreaking. I'd say it's Ms. Kingsolver's best book - managing to give a historical account of the Congo while also capturing the heart and soul of the people. The narrative device of telling this story from the perspective of the young girls who must adapt, grow and survive in this foreign and hostile environment is genius.
Ms. Kingsolver is often criticized for having an agenda in her presentation of facts and of being preachy in her opinions. She does not avoid those characteristics in this book, but the overall story is so well told that it's easy to forgive her.
If you're looking for a book that will sweep you up and take you to places you've never dreamed of and will teach you things along the way - this is it.
Four women, four voices, four experiences of four decades in the history of Africa. From the first paragraph describing the Congolese jungle, this book slithered out and wrapped itself around me and I didn’t want it to ever let me go. The language is exquisite, the characters riveting and the plot dramatic in the best sense of the word. That Kingsolver also manages to pack in a complex lesson on the history of imperialism on top of all that is simply mind-boggling.
The setting is Africa, but events like those in this book have happened many times all over the world. Unfortunately, citizens of imperialist nations, including the U.S., are privileged to “sail through from cradle to grave with a conscience clean as snow,” as Kingsolver says in the first chapter. Having lived in Chile, I understand far too well what U.S. foreign policy is capable of doing. So I found the story of what happened to the Congo under first Belgian direct rule and then U.S. indirect rule depressingly familiar. Yet it is a story that needs to be heard over and over until the citizens of the “first world” finally hold our own governments accountable for the misery we have caused in the “third world.”
I found this to be a truly masterful depiction of imperialism and its effects on entire nations, as told through the stories of four American women. Dare yourself to read this book with an open mind and you may begin to see that we are all co-conspirators in the fate of our fellow human beings.
For me, this was a powerful novel, evoking memories of my own childhood growing up with two sisters and a mother who was at once somewhat powerless in her own life, and yet strong. This book brought back memories of poverty, idealism, family migration, and history taking place around me---and me oblivious to it. I was only about 10 when Patrice Lumumba was elected, and I remember that, but at 10, alas, hadn't a clue as to what was happening. This book took me back and filled in some gaps for me. I loved it! When I began to listen, I thought, why did I buy a book about a Baptist minister in the 1950's, when my genre is medieval history? But I absolutely loved it and will read it again! Highly recommended!!
I had high hopes for this listen and so far sadly disappointed. The narrator does the author an injustice. The narrator reads way too fast for me to enjoy Kingsolver's beautiful descriptions. The narrator sounds like she has been tasked to speed read through this novel. I am trying to love this novel dispite the narrator. Audible please ask the producer to find another narrator and reproduce this narration. This is the worst narration I have heard.
Wow! I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought the narrator ruined the audio version of this (otherwise wonderful) book.
I can slow down the speech with my Mp3 player, which does distort the sound a little, but did make the reading a bit more tolerable. Even then, it was poorly done though! Besides reading too fast, there is no pause between sentences and paragraphs. It's like reading a document without punctuation - and very easy to lose your place in the reading.
I've read close to 200 audio books and this is the first time I've ever run across a narrator like this. If Audible ever puts out a better version of it, all of us who purchased this should get a free download of it!
I had a hard time trying to figure out who was who and when they were talking. I almost set this book aside a few times. The narrator can make a marginal book great or a great book marginal. In this case, it was the latter. She read so fast and made no attempt to change dialects for the 4 different daughters that narrated the story, that it made it difficult to follow. Finally, the last 25% of the book made it worth the listen. I am sure it would have been closer to a 5 star read if the narrator was better.