18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Flawed African diamond,
This review is from: The Poisonwood Bible (Paperback)
A flawed, but beautifully written novel about culture clash set in the Congo c. 1960.
The Poisonwood Bible presents a missionary “worst case scenario”. A stubborn, inadequately prepared (and, it would seem, inadequately supported) missionary hiding war time guilt launches himself and his family into a mission in the Congo in an attempt to find “redemption”. The country is about to erupt into political instability formented by his sending nation. Whilst the best cases perhaps makes for less dramatic reading, as man and fellow Christian I couldn’t help feeling sorry for Nathaniel Price. Thrown into all this, and then denied a voice. True, Kingsolver is more interested in his four daughters, and this is their story, but white, male, evangelical does make for a soft target in these politically correct times.
The true end of the novel occurs about 400 pages in. The last 200 pages, though well written, represent a ragged, overly long ending, reminiscent of Captain Corelli. The author attempts to tie up the lose ends over 30 years after 400 pages concerned with one intense year.
The author’s attitude to Christianity remains one king definitely unsolved. While I don’t think that a Southern Baptist missionary would present baptism as salvation (as it is implied that Nathaniel Price does in the novel), the Brother Fowles’ cameo shows a certain sympathy. A British writer would have likely to have shown much more cynicism and misunderstanding. The author’s target is more male pride and ego than the Christian faith.
Despite its flaws, the Poisonwood Bible richly deserves a five star rating and “classic” epiphets. I found the main characters to be believable (ok, you might not meet many people like them in, say, Glasgow). The technique of the daughters telling the story, which could so easily have flopped, works very well. I haven’t enjoyed a contemporary novel so much since Captain Corelli’s Mandoli and I thoroughly recommend it.