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4.2 out of 5 stars
Flight Behaviour
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 17 January 2013
I live in Africa and The Poison Wood Bible remains one of the best novels I have read. I was very keen to read this new work of Kingsolver's but about 1/4 way through began to get frustrated. The book needs a thorough edit. One gets the strong impression it was a rough first draft. There are far too many unnecessary and detailed descriptions - information that has little or nothing to do with the main plot . This only serves to distract ( in my case really irritate) the reader from a what could have been an excellent story. The heroine becomes less and less plausible as a character as the book progresses and, however much Kingsolver tries to bury her objective ( i.e educate about some of the more subtle impacts of climate change that will affect us all) it still comes out more as a lecture and not a piece of fiction. Very disappointing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 3 April 2013
I am a long-time fan of Barbara Kingsolver's work, so had high expectations for this new novel. For me, Flight Behaviour got off to a slightly disappointing start. I found the protaganist Dellarobia quite unlikeable and I wasn't able to get a very good sense of place and setting in the first few chapters. Maybe for those more familiar with American geography and culture it would be easier. However the descriptive writing was as beautiful as always for a Kingsolver novel, and the relationships and emotional life of the characters felt so real it was heartbreaking.

I did also find the narrative a bit preachy in places (both on climate change and poverty/inequality), and some of the dialogue was a little clunky in places for this reason. I think some of this could have been left for the reader to make his/her own deductions, rather than everything being spelled out laboriously.

Four stars as for all its flaws this was beautifully and skillfully written, and overall a thoroughly enjoyable read.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 10 February 2013
The beginning of this book was engaging and I was interested in the characters. But from one third through it became a bit of a polemic, and although I am a committed environmentalist, I became bored with the way the environmental issue took precedence over the characters, to the detriment of both. I felt as if I was being preached at.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 8 April 2013
The author has a generous feel for human behaviour. The book looks at all the issues relating to climate change in a novel that revolves around people looking at their own situation and moving on. She looks at the effects of millions of butterflies changing their previous behaviour on a small farming community. The characters are well drawn and appealing. She understands their unwillingness to change and the urge to resist unwelcome scientific discovery.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 11 August 2013
I felt the plot was totally lost in the desire to give a long and scientific description of the endagered butterflies and the planet in general.
The character descriptions were good and it was a relief when they appeared and the plot continued.
The imagery was overdone and in many cases added nothing to the text.
After an initial engagement I just lost heart and interest. However I did read the whole novel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 15 August 2014
I have always liked Barbara Kingsolver's writings and therefore came to this with high expectations, and was not disappointed. It is a story of relationships, and of the environment and is pulled together very well. The descriptions of how and why the butterflies choose their environment were most interesting and well done for the layman. The most unusual component of this book was that the heroine heard a view point of her behaviour from her mother in law that she had never considered and that made me think of how we view ourselves. The women's characters were very well done, the men featured less. The small twist at the end was very neat. And I liked how the butterflies were incorporated into the story; the flight behaviour is relevant both to the insects and the humans. Much enjoyed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 19 January 2014
This was our book club monthly read for July and having read The Poisonwood Bible for book club, I knew it wasn't going to be an easy read.

One of the first things that put me off this book was when I started reading and my Kindle told me it was going to take just over 14 hours to read. I read on average an hour an evening with more at the weekend - this did not fill me with hope for a quick read! A hard slog more like!

In the first few pages we meet Dellarobia wandering off to meet her secret lover but instead she discovers the mountainside filled with butterflies, and this changes her life. However, to get to this stage there are pages and pages with block after block of descriptive text with no breaks and I found my mind would wander easily and I hadn't really missed anything

This was billed as Kingsolver's "most accessible novel yet" which I interpret to mean that you don't need to be super intelligent to read it. I didn't have any trouble understanding the content but it's just so slow and there's lots and lots of scientific stuff in here. I felt I was being taught and a little preached to on global warming and the effects of climate change - I didn't really want this or need this from a novel.

I can appreciate that this novel is excellently written, the characters and subplots are really well developed but I can't seem to put my finger on this book in terms of what it made me feel. Was it interesting? deep? thought-provoking? informative? Yes, all of these but I was still bored and had I not been reading it for book club, I probably would have given up.

I found the last few chapters the most heartfelt with Dellarobia coming into her own, explaining the loss of her first child to her son, and other significant events that I won't reveal in case you read it!

Read if you're a fan of Kingsolver, it's not one I'd recommend but if you decide to give it a go I hope you enjoy it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 12 January 2014
Dellarobia Turnbow lives with her husband Cub and their two young children on a poverty-stricken Tennessee family farm owned by Cub's parents. She is frustrated by the Turnbow family's limited horizons and by her mother-in-law's unquestioning Christian belief that all difficulties and disasters must be accepted as reflecting God's will. Then her life is transformed when millions of monarch butterflies suddenly settle on the farm for the winter instead of making their usual winter migration to Mexico. A leading academic entomologist, Dr Ovid Byron, comes to the farm to research this change in migratory behaviour, which he identifies as a consequence of changes in the butterflies' traditional habitats resulting from climate change. Dellarobia assists Byron's research, and in the process she becomes still further frustrated as she glimpses what she perceives to be the more rewarding life style of Byron and his colleagues.

This is one of two novels about climate change which I have recently read; the other is Solar by Ian McEwan. I found it instructive to compare the two as a way of rating each of them. The two books share some similarities. Both feature an eminent scientist (Byron in Kingsolver's, and Michael Beard, a Nobel prize-winning physicist, in McEwan's); and in both cases this character is used as the vehicle for conveying relevant aspects of the science of climate change to the reader. In other respects, however, the two books are very different, and I overwhelmingly preferred Kingsolver's novel to McEwan's despite the fact that I rate McEwan highly as an author on the basis of some of his other novels, especially Atonement. The problem with McEwan's book is that it reads too much like a treatise about climate change, with some largely uninteresting characters and a difficult-to-believe plot tacked on as an afterthought. By contrast, Kingsolver's book has interesting characters who develop in believable ways throughout the novel, and climate change is the backdrop against which the story unfolds.

I particularly enjoyed two aspects of the book. The first was Kingsolver's treatment of the Turnbow family and their neighbours. This small-holding farming community is adversely affected by climate change (e.g. increased volatility in weather patterns is ruining some of their traditional crops) but - perhaps perversely - they mostly share Dellarobia's mother-in-law's view that everything that happens to them, for either good or bad, is simply God's will and therefore beyond the control of humankind. On this basis they are deeply suspicious of, and sometimes downright hostile to, Byron's arguments that what is happening to them is the result of man-made climate change and therefore potentially reversible if appropriate policy changes are implemented. I thought that Kingsolver developed this part of the novel very well: whilst it's clear that she accepts the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is occurring and is largely man-made, she takes the God-fearing views of the farming community seriously and treats them with dignity.

This leads on to the second aspect of the book which I particularly enjoyed, namely its treatment of differing, and sometimes clashing, cultures. A contrast is drawn between Byron's and Dellarobia's worlds. Byron represents the well-educated elite who travel the world and have big aspirations; Dellarobia represents poorly-educated people who often never leave their birth localities, and have narrow aspirations. Each of these groups has difficulty in understanding the other's lives and ambitions. I particularly enjoyed chapter 9, in which Byron interviews Dellarobia for a temporary job on his research project and gradually realises, as the interview develops, that many of his implicit assumptions about what he expects from his research colleagues are totally inapplicable to the lives led by Dellarobia and her neighbours.

Another culture clash in the book is between the worlds of pure science and journalism. The monarch butterflies' change in migratory behaviour attracts a swarm of news reporters who sensationalise what is happening, to the dismay of Dellarobia, whose naivety in the face of a manipulative news reporter leads to her being misrepresented in news reports. Later, in chapter 12, Byron angrily confronts a journalist, accusing her and the media in general of misrepresenting climate science in the interests of ratings and sound bites. This was one of the few places in the book where I was less than convinced by Kingsolver's treatment. I accept that many journalists behave in this way, but Kingsolver's caricature of a cynical news reporter is clearly unfair to the many serious journalists who try hard to give an accurate picture of climate science and its findings.

The differing cultures that feature in the book also provide the motivation for Dellarobia's character development: over the course of the novel her initial feelings of inadequacy in the face of Byron's educated sophistication are gradually replaced by an ambition to widen her own horizons. I found Dellarobia's character and its development both believable and enjoyable.

Overall, I very much enjoyed this book and would strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to read an intelligent and well-researched novel about one of the biggest challenges to the future of human civilisation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon 9 February 2013
"Flight behaviour" is wordplay to cover both the distinctive orange monarch butterflies deflected from their usual migration patterns by the effects of climate change, and a Tennessee farmer's wife, symbolically also flame-haired, seeking to escape from the trap of her marriage to a kind but dull husband still ruled by his domineering parents.

Although her small daughter Cordelia has been nicknamed "Cordie", Dellarobia does not shorten her own distinctive name. An ill-judged attempt at adultery is averted when she is amazed by the sight of a lake of fire, which proves to be great clusters of butterflies clinging to tree trunks in the wooded slopes above her home. My interest was hooked when I realised that the incredible details of these insects and their life cycles are based on fact, the author being a trained biologist with a mission to inform us through fiction.

The arc of the overall story is strong, and Barbara Kingsolver explores some interesting themes, such as the varying attitudes to the butterflies when a team of scientists come to study them. The locals, for instance, tend to reject climate change because the popular media play it down, but the strongly religious community feels that the butterflies may have some special significance, even to the extent of questioning the right of Dellarobia's father-in-law to earn much-needed cash from felling the trees in which the butterflies have chosen to winter.

"The Poisonwood Bible" is a hard act for the author to follow, but I found "Flight Behaviour" hard-going, partly because it often gets bogged down in detail and long-windedness, crying out for a good edit. Although she is capable of sharp, funny dialogue, moving intimations of subtle human relationships and powerful descriptions, too often the prose grated on me - clunky and folksy in a way I had not expected, although I wondered whether it was intentional to convey a sense of a traditional "hillbilly" community, resistant to change. So, my four stars are for an original and thought-provoking storyline rather than the quality of the writing which often disappointed me.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 6 January 2013
Disappointing polemic without the redemptive storylines and humour and range of interasting characters of Prodigal Summer (which was one of my favourite books). Eve
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