This tale of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction, over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa, is set against history's most dramatic political parables.
The Poisonwood Bible dances between the darkly comic human failings and inspiring poetic justices of our times. In a compelling exploration of religion, conscience, imperialist arrogance, and the many paths to redemption, Barbara Kingsolver has brought forth her most ambitious work ever.
©2004 Barbara Kingsolver; (P)2004 Brilliance Audio
"Haunting..A novel of character, a narrative shaped by keen-eyed women." (New York Times Book Review)
"The book's sheer enjoyability is given depth by Kingsolver's insight and compassion for Congo, including its people, and their language and sayings." (Boston Globe)
"Beautifully written....Kingsolver's tale of domestic tragedy is more than just a well-told yarn.. Played out against the bloody backdrop of political struggles in Congo that continue to this day, it is also particularly timely." (People)
Absolutely one of the best written novels I've read in a long time. The author takes you to the Congo and you experience the jungle with her. The story is so unexpected and pulls you in. I loved every minute of it. The narrator was perfect for this book.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is told from the perspective of five different women and I found that the changes in perspective kept the narration fresh. In the story it was interesting to see how the women reacted differently to the challenges put before them and how each character reacted differently to the same stimulus.
The narration was very well done.
This book was painful to listen to and I finally quit with an hour left, as I couldn't take it any more. I kept hanging in there thinking it would improve for all the positive remarks I'd heard about it!! These women do not have one ounce of compassion for each other and are so bitter and unattractively embracing their misery. It does not help that their husband/father chooses to abuse them, all in the name of his religion/God. Other than the young Ruth, none of the characters were even appealing. I generally don't feel so different than most people about books, but I did NOT get this book.
Good story about the colonial history of the Congo (Zaire) as told through the experiences of an American missionary family. Each family member offers a different perspective on their lives in Africa and it is interesting to see how it influenced their futures. The book offers interesting insights on how people react to hard ship and disaster.
The reason I gave it 3 stars instead of 4 is because of the reader. Unfortunately it seemed like she was in a hurry to finish the book and she rushed through the whole thing - especially in the beginning. Sometimes I could hardly keep up. Too bad, it ruined what is a good story.
Vivid characters relate a compelling story told through their letters. It is funny, dramatic, sad, and leaves one questioning great issues. The use of language is part of the art; as is this reading.
The story is totally worth 5 stars. However, the monotone voice is so boring. You cannot tell if it was the mother, the little 5-year old girl or the teenage daughter who's telling the story. They all sound the same as the mother (I couldn't bear that those daughters sound like middle-aged women). Like other reviewers mentioned, I was easily distracted from the story because of the boring monotone. The narrator was totally not into the story.
Immigration lawyer in Kansas City. I like Character driven dramas, fantasy (monsters, magic and witches oh my!) and coming of age stories. Favs include: The Book Thief, The Game of Throne series, Harry Potter Series, Dresden Files, Nightside series, anything by Neil Gaimen, 100 Years of Solitude.
This was a very compelling story of a family of missionaries that go to the Congo in the early 60's right before everything in the COngo errupts into violence and choas. The father, a hell and brimstone, my way or the high way type of man is unswerving in his dedication to save the souls of the Africans in his village. I really enjoyed the narrator and the story.
Great story-but poor narrator. If she (the reader would slow down by about 5 or 10% and try to use a slight different tone of voice for the different characters I think it would improve the listening experience 100%. I had to force myself to pay attention-the monotone put me into a trance so often I needed to go back and re-listen after I realized I had drifted away from the story.
This is a compelling, multi-layered novel. It tells the story of Nathan Price, a bigoted Baptist minister who takes his wife and four daughters away from the comfort of their American home to the diseased and famine ridden Congo. This move eventually leads to tragedy and to the break-up of the family. Although sad in parts it's not a heavy listen - it's hard to put down as it's written with great humour, particularly the passages relating to the eldest daughter Rachel with all her Malapropisms.
My only criticism is that the author spent far too long expounding her political views in the last quarter of the book. Those views of the ignorance of imperialism speak for themselves through the story. Aside from that, well worth the read, thought provoking and interesting from the historical perspective.
This is an excellent book in many ways and I would recommend it to anyone not just for its story but for the relevance of its politics.It is humane, insightful and finely written, and therefore deserves to be much better narrated. It is read too fast, with little expression and with no attempt to vocally differentiate between the characters, in particular the mother and her 4 daughters, the main characters, all sound like the same person. Sadly, many of the subtleties of the writing, especially in the more moving parts, are spoiled and occasionally lost altogether in the narrator's disregard for punctuation and apparent hurry to get it all over and done with! Good audio book narrators don't just read aloud, they act as well. This narrator just reads it aloud.
"A good story over-burdened with detail"
The author has created a wealth of strong characters: the awful, overbearing, self-righteous Baptist missionary Nathan Price; his long-suffering wife and four very different daughters that he drags to the Congo in the late 1950s to satisfy his desire to bring Jesus to the natives. The Congolese he encounters are resourceful and pragmatic and he greatly under-estimates them. It's an epic story of battling against the odds set against the tragic political upheavals caused by US meddling that ruined the country. There is much of interest in the book, but I felt there was too much descriptive detail and attempts to draw moral parallels that slowed down the narrative. The author knows a lot about the Congo having lived there and has obviously done much research, but a good story has become over-burdened with her desire to include too much of this information. There are many characters with unfamiliar-sounding names that made it difficult to keep track of who was whom: a difficulty increased by the colourless and sometimes overly hurried narration in a monotonous voice with no attempt to differentiate among the characters. The book is structured such that we get the story told from the perspective of the mother and four daughters in turn but I kept losing track of who was 'speaking' as the narrator sounded the same all the time. A pity as some audio books are brought to life by a skilled narrator who can change voice as each character speaks.
"Read this book to get the most out of it!"
I did not get as much out of this book as I would have done by reading it. The story, although a little slow at the start, really takes off and is well worth persevering with. However I did not like the reader and thought she made no effort to read each character differently. This book is based upon the way the women characters see life in a Congolese village at the time of the uprising in 1961. The youngest is 5. The reader did not attempt to make the listener understand which character was 'speaking'. i would have got more out of reading it 'in the voice' of each character. Therefore I cannot recommend the audible version - though i do recommend the book.
I listened to this book after hearing Tim Butchers account of his trip down the Congo (Blood River).
It is one of my favourite audio books so far.
The characters are so beautifully drawn, they almost seem real. In fact, at times I found it hard to believe that it was a work of fiction and not based on real events (although the political backdrop is, i believe, based on what really happened and is still happening).
It is, in places, heart wrenchingly sad and there isn't really a totally happy ending, but still I felt satisfied at the end.
Some of the descriptions of people, places and emotions are almost poetic.
It's a lovely, feast of a book...
I was really looking forward to listening to this as a number of people had recommended and I had heard some great things on the radio 4 book club. However I was really disappointed, the narrator didn't bring the characters alive at all, she was very one dimensional and her voice was actually pretty annoying. The story was interesting but I'm afraid I totally switched off due to the lack of commitment from the narrator. Just goes to show how important the narrator's job is when creating an audiobook, great books often fall flat if you get the wrong person reading them.
"Fascinating exploration of family and morality"
I rarely listen to stories more than once but I have now bought this book in print and think it is something I will dip back into in the future.
All the women brought something to the story and because it was told from various points of view in the form of journal entries it was possible to see the same situation differently. Each of the five main female characters added depth and richness to the story.
Robertson's performance was superb, bringing life to the characters as well as humour and warmth. She managed to bring out all their different personalities without resorting to odd accents.
The ending was very moving. The realisation that the Congo had forever changed the lives of these women, for good or ill, and the closing of old wounds as they moved on with their lives. Magical.
This was such an interesting story, sometimes reming me of Little Women, but much bigger and richer. It really made me think - about religion, about the relationship between men and women, about the things done in Africa in the name of democracy. It's taught me things about the Congo and those war torn parts of central Africa that I never knew before, and has made me question some previously held ideas.
"Entertaining, informative and profound"
It was probably Chinua Achebe’s recent death that prompted me to read this book – many years after everyone else had read it and raved about it. It is rave-worthy. It is a wonderfully evocative story narrated by a mother and her four daughters reluctantly dragged into the pre-revolutionary Congo by a fire-and-brimstone, Southern Baptist father. The mission family experience life in an obscure African village at the most tumultuous time on the continent as the wave of independence sweeps through (or past) them.
My first encounter with Kingsolver was The Lacuna and I stopped less than halfway through because the story was tedious and the author was also the narrator (audiobook) and she was just dreadful. So it took me a little while to forgive her and try another title.
This time I was very pleasantly surprised. I expected a very sombre exploration of cultures and religion, and although these exist throughout the book, my first reaction was to laugh out loud. The voices of the narrators bring out their idiosyncrasies, their (sometimes) hilarious perspectives on their lives. The story is strong and simple. They remind me of the Paul White Jungle Doctor stories which my father used to read to us. The tone is identical and the stories are simple, honest and natural.
But in addition to the quaint retelling of these village events, the deeper issues of competing religious views and the tragic consequences of fanaticism make this a most memorable novel. Very highly recommended.
The narrator (this time) is exceptionally good and her French is quite acceptable. I won't comment on her Afrikaans pronunciation but that is understandable.
I read this book years ago, and enjoyed it, but having just listened to it via audible, I have picked up on so many more nuances and clever tricks of language that I missed in the dense text of hard copy. Kingsolver is the mistress of words that can mean more than one thing, indeed she creates a character who makes meanings of words that are read backwards! Even the title is a play on the dual meaning of the word the preacher uses for Jesus - in the tribal language of the congolese people he is trying to convert, it means poisonwood - a deadly plant that will kill you. His ignorance, however, is foiled by the understanding of his wife and four daughters, each of whom have their own narrative voice and story. An absolutely compelling story that is at once a celebration of freedom and independence and a tragic exposition of social prejudice and expectation. Not a light read, but certainly one not to be missed!
"Lyrical and compelling"
I enjoyed it. If the narration was a little flat, I wasn't put off by it and the fact that each subsection is preceded by a naming of the character involved helps in following the plot. The character of the four daughters is drawn out carefully, as is their development over time. The Congo and its people are far more than a mere backdrop; they shape the growth of Orleanna and her four girls, whereas the refusal of the father to attempt any sort of integration compromises not only his religious mission but also his family bonds. He fades slowly out of the picture, leaving Orleanna to face all the consequences.
I wasn't convinced by all the characters. I couldn't get into the head of Rachel, the eldest girl, and Nathan, the father, remains a cipher despite his backstory. Adah, on the other hand, is fascinating and her plays with words reflect Kingsolver at her lyrical best.
At times the book feels a little like a treatise on long-suffering motherhood and the second half seems nowhere near as strongly written but, overall, I thought it had real impact.
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