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Publisher's Summary

The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them all they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it - from garden seeds to Scripture - is calamitously transformed on African soil.

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

Critic Reviews

"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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.4 out of 5.0
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  • Overall
  • Jacinta
  • Sydney, NSW, Australia
  • 01-29-10

very enjoyable

I loved this book, it took over every spare bit of my life whilst listening to it. The Congo part was interesting and enticing after Congo i believed it lost some interest and intrigue. I loved the narration,and the personalities portrayed. Plus it was a great learning tool about the Congo and the politics of which I knew nothing about.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Kasia
  • Cold Spring Harbor, NY, USA
  • 10-18-09

Really great book

Decided to listen to this one after listening to "Animal, vegetable, miracle" - did not get disappointed at all! The story is truly incredible and engrossing, even thought it's a totally different subject. Love BK's attention to detail and learned a lot about the history of Congo this time. Couldn't put the audio down and didn't want it to end.
The narrator's voice turned out to be very pleasant to listen as well.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Kingsolver is a Word Weaver!

Kingsolver is a skilled artist at weaving words together into a story with texture and color. I always feel enriched after reading one of her novels. The plot doesn't have to be about romance or mystery or history or fantasy. The story doesn't have to have a happy ending or tie up all the loose ends. It just has to connect with the human experience. Kingsolver knows how to connect.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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What's the Hype?

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.

30 of 37 people found this review helpful

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Engaging listen!

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.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • KW
  • 08-25-17

Incredible Book, Terrible narrating

Would you consider the audio edition of The Poisonwood Bible to be better than the print version?

I have not read the print version, YET, but I plan to because I was enthralled with the story.

Who was your favorite character and why?

I think either Adah or Leah, or maybe both of them since they are twins. Their stories are individual and each very unique, however since they are twins they have this connection that is different than the other sisters.

What didn’t you like about Dean Robertson’s performance?

The recording was very difficult to listen to because there is minimal distinction between the five female characters. The performance was very monotone and lacked fluency. Having elementary aged children, I think they could have easily read this with more inflection than this narrator. I'm not sure I would purchase another audio book narrated by Robertson.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Yes, I both laughed and cried, was amazed and horrified; I think I experienced the most emotions while reading this book than any other I have read.

Any additional comments?

The Poisonwood Bible was utterly fascinating. Kingsolver portrayed these female characters so vividly in their actions and descriptions throughout their saga in the Congo and beyond.This is a book I will gladly read in print, likely again and again through the years. It's a story that is so thought provoking that it causes you to question modern and historical ideas about faith, missions, the spread of the English language and Western ideals. I can imagine what I would have thought as a college student reading this as an unmarried young adult versus now that I am married, have had a career and children. And in the future, I'm sure my thoughts and reactions will be different once again.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Best book, best reading, wonderful experience.

When I read the description indicating that the book is set in the Congo, I was't at all sure it would be my cup of tea, but I was captivated in the first few minutes. Beautiful, intelligent writing. There just is nothing better. And the story is powerful! The characters, their story, the story of Africa - universal truths and wisdom galore.

The narrator did an excellent job of capturing the personalities of the characters as written by a brilliant author. I cannot recommend a book more highly than I recommend this one. If you have missed it before now as I had, don't wait any longer.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Kelli
  • Birmingham, AL, United States
  • 11-23-14

Southern Gothic Fiction Set in the Congo

This is exactly what I want from an award-winning novel! I was hooked immediately by the author's authentic southern voice and the way she expertly molded and shaped the four Price girls and their mother. The Poisonwood Bible was my kind of Southern Gothic fiction, but instead of being set in the American South, it was set in the Belgian Congo. If you decide to take this journey into Africa, expect Southern Baptist evangelism gone wrong, ignorant racism, the devolution of European colonialism, ex-patriot survival to the extreme, and the unmistakable bonds between siblings. Some readers were turned off by the apparently heavy-handed political tone of the book, but I was intrigued by the history of the Congo and the struggles of its people before and after Belgian occupation (and the impact of all on whites living in the country). There are images from this book that I will likely never lose - like a green mamba snake camouflaged in a tree and the distinctive light blue color of the inside of its mouth.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Jan
  • SAUCIER, MS, USA
  • 09-07-08

Powerful!

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!!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • Houston, TX, United States
  • 04-27-14

Masterfully written; superbly narrated

This is another book for which excellent listener reviews are already available but which I would like to call to the attention of anyone who may have missed them so far. (While I am on the subject, allow me to apologize to Westergren Viveca. The single negative response to her very interesting review came when my finger slipped. I wish Amazon would make it possible to correct such mistakes.)

One caveat. This is not a book which will slip easily into one ear while the other is atuned to traffic or a house full of distractions or the underdrone exigencies of a busy day. It is full of riches which will be missed by the casual listener. Perhaps this explains the problems some people have had with the narration. Dean Robertson brilliantly captures the rhythm, inflection and expressive idiosyncracies Kingsolver has written into these Georgia bred women and differentiates them in wonderful verisimilitude. Their words come alive in the voice of this gifted actor, and since the speaker is clearly named at the beginning of each chapter, no pyrotechnics of pitch or timbre are required to identify them. The result is a very truthful and telling characterization in every instance. Nor would a slower reading have served the text. These women do not speak slowly, savoring the poetry in their mouths. That bit of truth is one of the delights of this book. Just as with any really excellent piece of writing, there may be times when you want to go back. and dig a little deeper into the meaning and beauty. It is worth the time and effort.

That was a pretty long caveat, wasn't it! Sorry. But do consider treating yourself to Barbara Kingsolver's ravishing book sometime when you can really listen with both ears.

13 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Sarah Noel
  • 11-26-17

If it’s on your TBR, get it read

This book comes up a lot on best...lists and that’s why I read it. I wouldn’t think of choosing a book about missionaries in Africa but it’s about family and trials and just so well crafted. The sisters are so unalike. You get such a feel for them. It was a real treat to read.

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  • Artemis
  • 11-03-17

A great book ruined by a truly dreadful narrator

I had only managed to read half of The Poisonwood Bible when it came up for my book group, so decided to revisit it in audio format. What a mistake that was.

Dean Robertson, the narrator, races through the sentences so fast it's as if she's been given a completion time she must stick to on pain of death. There's no inflection, no slight pause at the end of a sentence: it's machine-like reading with no regard to punctuation and, worst of all, no differentiation between the various characters. Meaning and detail is lost in the rush. Given that the book is structured as a series of internal first-person monologues involving various different people, the fact that she moves without pause from say, the mother's 'voice' to one of the children's 'voices' and doesn't vary pitch, colour, speed or inflection at all, makes for a very confusing situation. I'm going to return the book half-listened to: I can't bear to hear her murder the text any longer and I'm sick of getting confused because I hadn't realised that it's the mother talking now, rather than the daughter.

I thought maybe I was the one with the problem because I notice a couple of people have posted to say what a superb job Dean Robertson did on the book. So I googled to find out whether she's done other work and I found an interview with her here:

https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2015/08/01/audiobook-narrator-interview-number-four-dean-robertson/

in which she reveals that she was a teacher (no professional voice or acting training I presume) and this was her first 'professional' reading. She says: 'I’m going to describe my process for narrating The Poisonwood Bible, because that was the longest book I narrated and also the first, the finest, and a model for the others. It would still be the model if I did this work again. The work came up fast. They sent me a manuscript, which was dauntingly thick and, unlike my usual meticulous preparation for anything I do, I decided I just didn’t want to read it. So, the narration was my first reading."

Suddenly everything becomes clear. She picked up the script cold and ran at it. No wonder it's so awful. She didn't think about the different characters and find different voices for them. She didn't honour Barbara Kingsolver's wonderful prose by reading through carefully and looking for ways to create depth and texture. She opened it at page one and set off at pace. No wonder, when she's reading, she's like a machine that doesn't seem to have any idea where a sentence is heading or how one sentence reflects on the previous one.

If I were Barbara Kingsolver I would be horrified to think that the company who were recording my precious text gave the job to a first-time narrator with no dramatic or radio experience and who didn't bother to read the script before she recorded it. This book desperately needs to be rerecorded by someone who will do it justice.

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  • Mrs
  • 10-19-17

Fantastic story telling and in depth history lessi

Just the sort of book I love, believable charactors set against historical events. I loved that the narrator was from the Southern USA and was very skilled at giving each charactor their own voice.

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  • AvidReader
  • 09-28-17

Five narrators brilliantly delivered

A cracking story set in the Belgian Congo told by the wife and four daughters of a damaged religious zealot.

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  • Lynne
  • 08-10-17

Superb narration

This is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it. It is absorbing from start to finish and taught me many things I won't soon forget. The narration really brought the characters and the story to life. I could listen to the narrators voice all day quite happily!

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  • Mrs C
  • 07-26-17

Amazing immersion

This was an amazing experience. This beautifully crafted novel refers to events which took place when I was young then relates them to present day Africa. It is the story of a missionary family told from the perspective of the women. The pastor Father, like his God, is detached,remote,struggling with his own demons.
As Africa is changed by colonialism the young family suffers too and the two stories intertwine.

Sometimes I want to read my audio books but the narrator was excellent and made the story come alive to such an extent that I want to listen again
I will look for both author and narrator in the future.
Highly recommended!

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  • Pavitti
  • 07-11-17

Stunning

Beautifully written. The narration was wonderful. If you enjoyed To Kill a Mockingbird you will love this.

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  • Miss
  • 06-23-17

A book I shall read again.

Wonderful book giving insight into being the wife, or the daughter of an uncompromising preacher, and how the white man has treated the Belgian Congo..

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  • PL
  • 03-17-17

Very well read

I loved this version of the The Poisonwood Bible. The narrator was brilliant and did a fantastic job reading the story.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Barbara Murray
  • 03-10-17

Be patient. it's worth it

Good book. It took me a while to get into it but I'm glad I persevered. I would recommend it