'Prepare to be immersed in the heat and vibrancy of Florida's natural world, full of such sensual detail that to read it is to breathe it in.' -Jo Shapcott [review of Greyhound Night Service]

Then she released me...

So I have finally finished The Lacuna and now I am so sad to be done (and yet relieved because the library can stop chasing me for the book). As I read I turned down page corners where I found phrases or images and sometimes whole paragraphs that startled me with the beauty of the writing. And at the end of reading, I found I had absolutely dozens of those dog-eared pages. Too many to talk about with friends, unless someone has also read the book, too many to type out in this blog, and just enough to make me certain I will go out and buy the book and re-read.

Having been a Kingsolver fan for many many years, since reading her first novel, The Bean Trees, I have been known to spend days and weeks of my summer time with one of her novels...as soon as a new one comes out... And with this one, 2 months and 670 pages later, The Lacuna has more than surpassed what I imagine the judges of The Orange Prize look for, and even more importantly, it has surpassed the great novel tick boxes I carry around in my head. Now I want to go out and talk about the book with everyone! I want to live in the juicy world of Mexico even longer. But mostly, I want to share four of my favourite quotes from the book with you...

A recurring theme, like a chant in the book:
"The most important thing about a person is always the thing you don't know."

In a letter to Frida:
"I'm not as brave as you are. However badly broken, you still stand up. In your Tehuana dresses, in your garden, with the pomegranate trees bending toward you to open their red flowers. No matter what happens, you will still be at the center of the world."

When Soli returns to Mexico after many years:
"Here life is strong-scented, overpowering. Even the words. Just ordering breakfast requires some word like toronja, triplet of muscular syllables full of lust and tears, a squirt in the eye. Nothing like the effete "grapefruit," which does not even mean what it says.

And finally, my favourite scene from the book. The narrator is in the car with a lover:

"The world blurred, the April trees lit up with pale green flames, scenes flashed by, falling water, swinging bridges strung across rocky ravines. Windows wide open, the full breath of spring of dirt of new life stirring in the breast of whatever was left for dead, all that rushed at us now. Tommy's hair shuddered golden in the wind. He is a rake, a rake, the blinding shine of him reflected in the windscreen, Tommy's glint and glory. Tommy's hand laid here and there as if it hardly mattered, making me want to wreck the car. To find speed, drive myself deep into it."

At least I still have her non-fiction to finish before I'm in another waiting-for-your-next-book-please-Barbara phase.


  1. Here is a sampling of quotes from this reader:
    on Trotsky after his assassination --
    What a vast tapestry Lev must have woven in sixty years of living, the meetings of minds and bodies, armies of joined hands and pledged oaths -- and now this household is nearly all that's left of it. Only these few could tell a story of him from memory when he is gone. It's such a small measure to stack against the mountain of newsprint fables, the Villain in Our Midst. What will people find in libraries one day if they go looking? So little hope he will be honestly remembered. No future history in this man.

    Alejandro crossed himself each and every time a church was passed. He did it inconspicuously probably embarrassed in the present company: just a tiny movement of a curled hand on his chest, the smallest possible gesture that might be visible to a sharp-eyed God.

    on Trotsky's widow --
    The gloom may yet lift ... the weather in this city (Mexico City) is exactly the same in any month, give or take a chance of rain. Yet Natalya follows the seasons scrupulously, wearing light-colored prints in the spring, dark coats in autumn. Her sense of order is still ruled by the weather of Paris, or Moscow. And because of it, she survives. Lev survives. The past is all we know of the future.

    His happiness, when it comes to him, is so pure.

    Languages fell away, a long exile peeled from him like the layers of an onion.

    and perhaps my pick of the litter --
    ... those hopeful hours of typing through the night shift while Lorenzo's boots tapped overhead on the roof, all of our hearts bursting with the certainty of our own purposes.


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