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)
My sister, who lives in Africa, gave me the book soon after it was published with the instruction that this was a "must read". In spite of several attempts, I never could get too far before I lost the thread of the character changes and gave up. This summer I decided to "listen and read" at the same time, and suddenly the book came alive to me. It took a couple of hours to get Dean's subtle voice changes for the younger girls - but by the end of the book I didn't need the preface of names to know them as individuals.
I loved it and was sad to reach the end.
The detailed underlying history shocked me, I have been compelled to learn more about Congo and it's still turbulent evolution. The family story, as it details the maturation of supressed little girls into hugely differing independant women, each far greater than their father's expectations, illustrates how one absorbs a comprehension of life from your surroundings and experience that is not necessarily what your teachers intend. My sister was right. Truly a "must read"
I very much enjoyed this audio book. The first three quarters are phenomenal. It begins to feel slightly tedious and repetitive for the last quarter, but that may have had more to do with the fact that I was listening to it for long stretches, and may have felt some fatigue as a result.
I thought the narration was fantastic, and I thought the narrator captured the different characters' personalities in a very skilled and subtle way. I especially enjoyed her versions of Adah and Rachel.
There are things about this book that might work better in print, such as Adah's palindromes and other word play. But I so enjoyed this audio version that I didn't regret for a moment that I wasn't actually reading it.
First, everybody is right about the narrator. I actually think she is okay for the voice of the mom, but the book is presented by chapters in the separate voices of the mom and four daughters, and she has a husky, gravelly voice that is just horrible for teen girls and children. And she didn't even attempt to vary the voices. It was impossible sometimes to tell who was speaking unless you caught the chapter intro. I really believe that books that are written from several points of view should have separate narrators for each, and why this was not done here I can't imagine. Was it budget? Did they think because it was an older book they should cut corners?
But I have to tell you that by the middle of the book, I didn't care a whit about the narrator. The story, and the writing, were so absolutely beautiful and amazing that I was captivated. There were several times I actually had to pull over and write down something that I'd heard, and I am now hunting for the print book which I've had for a long time and never found the time to read.
I particularly love the voice of Orleana Price, the mom. I started out thinking she probably wasn't much, a submissive wife of an overbearing Baptist missionary, but she is such a rich, full character, and yet expressed with such undertones of subtlety.
I cannot say enough good about this book. Don't let the narrator put you off. If you don't want to listen to her voice, read the book. If you don't have the time to read it, listen to it and you will NOT be sorry.
When I read Barbara Kingsolver's "Pigs In Heaven" I was transported to a world of ordinary life written in simple words which together conveyed color and the music of language. Once again I was enveloped in language and story while engrossed in The Poisonwood Bible. Ms. Kingsolver's word magic was coupled with perfect accent, intonation and emotion in a genius narration. Read (listen) The Poisonwood Bible not just for the story, which definitely keeps a reader's interest, but for the experience of listening to well-chosen words taking you to the color of mid-century Africa.
This story, having it told by all the female members of the Price family, is so engaging that my 16 y o son had to talk about it, analyzing it, spontaneously after listening. He has never before made such a vigorous review including politics, history, characters ending with conclusions showing an understanding, on a new level, of our contemporary history having read or listen ed to a novel.
I understand his reaction after enjoying the listen too and we have discussed it further as more family members have listened too. We all (4, mix grown ups and adolescents) share the opinion the this is a well narrated good story where there characters have room to grow and develop.
This is by far one of the most interesting books I have listen to to date.
From the begining I was pulled into the family and into a world in the Congo I had never imagined.
True, at times it was very policital, but that did not detract from the story.
It was also one of the better read book I have heard.
One of the few books I will listen to again.
Barbara Kingsolver is a great writer, and this is her greatest book yet. She writes with such intelligence, knowledge, and compassion, obviously works hard at research, and - in this book especially - brings her characters and a continent to life. I read the book years ago and was VERY excited to have to chance to listen to it. I remembered the characters, but didn't remember a lot of the story, so I got to appreciate it all over again.
The most amazing aspect of this book is that it's written in five distinct voices. From Rachel's wonderfully mixed metaphors and word confusion (for example, she extols America's practice of single marriage vs. Congo's multiple marriage system and says "we call it monotony!") to Leah's intelligent palindromes and poetry, each voice is unique. Knowing this, I worried that a narrator might try too hard to differentiate them - and I HATE it when narrators do child voices, so it was a risk! This reader did a GREAT job through pace and inflection - subtle, but effective.
This of course is a well reviewed book and loved by many. But this wonderful book suffers at the voice of the narrator of the audiobook itself. I suggest anyone who has an interest listen to the sample as the entire book is read just like this. As the listener of 80 plus audiobooks in the past year and a half, I understand what a good narrator means to a book. And the narrator here, who uses a flat almost monotone voice does a great disservice to this powerful book. The writing was great. That said I had to literally force myself to pay attention, keep going and finish because the narrator might as well as have been reading a grocery list. Great book, poor vocal talent choice.
I am only half way through this book - I find the story to be interesting and it has gotten my attention, so I will continue to listen to it. However, the narrator reads so quickly - it's as if she's trying to read a 16 hour book in 4 hours! She reads each person in the same voice, and without giving any personality to the characters. This book would be much more enjoyable if it were read better, or if I read it for myself. Story - great. Narration - poor.
I'm currently about 1/2 way through my second read, and I rarely read a book twice. The story is told by turns from a missionary wife and her four young daughters, set in the Belgian Congo in the 50's. While it's an "historical novel" set against the backdrop of political unrest in that country, the focus is very much on the story of this missionary family's experience in a poor Congolese village. Kingsolver's characters are beautifully drawn, as always, and the reader captures each one's unique perspective through a careful reading of Kingsolver's wonderfully written prose. I only wish the reader would slow down a little to let us savor some of Kingsolver's gorgeous use of language. One of my favorite books of all time, and that's saying a lot.
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