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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 16 August 2017
I feel like BK has a great idea and is capable of solid writing - but gets too attached to her message and then becomes sentimental and verbose, which is odd when she considers herself a scientist. It didn't help that I wasn't keen on the protagonist.

Mirroring the development of Dellarobia (not helped by being portrayed as a "poor white girl" named with such a pretentious title) with the struggles of the butterflies was a good choice. She sounded knowledgeable on the scientific details of the butterflies and climate change ( too much so at times). There was humour to lighten the load ("like a beach vacation minus the beach, and the vacation"). Some characters were portrayed with a range of redeeming features. The picture of a small, farming community struggling with paying the basic bills was harsh and believable.

But ....descriptions were over-long especially where the author wants to share her own thoughts . Too much read like a one-sided lecture. And there was too much sentimentality in the huge changes of D over the course of the book. Pretty quickly she seemed a shallow and unlikeable character, willing to leave her children and run off with a bloke she barely knew. Next minute, she is a competent, intelligent, loving mother who deserves sympathy for her poor start in life and unfortunate fall into an early marriage and her children's "racked sobs that wrenched her will for living". One minute they are dirt-poor ("as if shopping for previously-chewed meals", the next she is sharing the lamb Hester has just given them with Ovid and his wife - assuming they want to spend their time with her family and considering they had been parted for quite a while that is dubious - and then "crammed the leftovers into plastic boxes wedged into the refrigerator" as food is over-flowing! This narrator living in this limited community uses language that is not credible: "wherever she looked she saw their aggregations on the dwindling emergent places ............" For me, this kind of nonsense devalues what the story is meant to be sharing. Likewise, Hester is nasty: but she offers an "excuse" for her frustrations which sits weakly. Preston unsurprisingly shows an interest in science: he is 5 - there is no reason to believe he will follow this through and actually become a "scientist"! He was far too single-minded and serious at 5.

Having read the Lacuna and felt it turgid, despite a lot of good content, I think this is the style of BK. She needs to have a firmer editor!
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on 9 December 2016
Absolutely fantastic, engaging, real - just what a novel should be. It puts both social injustice and climate change into a believable and non-preachy context which is a joy to read - there were a few moments when I laughed out loud - but which also makes you think very much about the state of society and the world we have got ourselves into. A must read for anyone who wants to understand the shocks of the last 12 months and who wants to get a glimpse of a possible and positive future.
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VINE VOICEon 6 June 2014
Climate change is one of the most urgent issues facing the planet. But the problem for the novelist wanting to write about this subject is how to do it without being too worthy and hectoring. Barbara Kingsolver gets round this by setting her story on a sheep farm in the poor and deeply religious Bible Belt. Most of its people are highly suspicious of scientists and are happy to believe that all disturbances in weather patterns are just part of God’s plan.

Dellarobia Turnbow is trapped in a dull marriage and is mother to two small children. She is bright but was unable to take advantage of educational opportunities when she was at school. Her whole life changes when she goes up a mountain on their farm and discovers a sea of orange fire – this turns out to be millions of Monarch butterflies who have had their migration pattern upset and are now off course. Dellarobia gains (unwanted) social media fame as people come to see this awesome sight. One visitor is Ovid Byron, an African American etymologist who stays on the Turnbow’s farm with a small research team.

This is a turning point in Dellarobia’s life as she learns more and more about the butterflies and how the environment can be fatally affected by outside events.
Flight Behaviour is a stunning novel. The plot unfolds beautifully and the characters are incredibly well drawn. There is Della’s bitter mother-in-law Hester, her lummox of a husband Cub, her loyal best friend Dovey and the generous spirited church minister Bobby. Barbara Kingsolver has a brilliant eye for detail and Dellarobia exhibits a sharp wit throughout the book. When an environmental campaigner asks Dellarobia to sign a pledge to reduce her energy use she expresses puzzlement. She has no computer to leave on stand-by, she can rarely afford red meat, she can’t afford to drive far, she buys secondhand clothes and she has never been on a plane.
Just as we find out about the life cycle of butterflies, we see Dellarobia on her own cycle of turning into something admirable. The title “Flight Behaviour” could refer to the butterflies or to our heroine’s own life choices.

I hope I haven’t made this sound too didactic. It is a perceptive book which is very funny in parts.
One of the best books I have read all year – highly recommended.
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on 12 May 2016
I’m a big fan of Barbara Kingsolver. She writes big, baggy books, but I find them compulsively readable, and this is no exception. A young discontented mother on a failing farm in the Appalachians stumbles across millions of Monarch butterflies that, it turns out, are at risk of species extinction. In a way, nothing else much happens for 600 pages. She meets butterfly tourists and butterfly scientists. She learns about climate change, about her family and community, about herself and her husband and children. She decides what to do. What gripped me was the day to day detail of her life and her thoughts, engrossing and convincing, so effortlessly real that I was sorry to run out of more pages to read. Bravo.
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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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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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on 15 November 2014
I don't know why I bought this book, I didn't think I was going to like it but I thought I needed to read something different from the usual stuff I read. Barbara Kingsolver is not going to win a Nobel prize, not with this book anyway, her grammar is a bit strange in places and it's not really vivid nor beautiful writing. But she's got a good tale and I think she describes her people well though the only one who really comes across as a person is the main protagonist, Dellarobia. I think she is an alter-ego for the author. She's a bit of a cliché as a heroine, struggling to be free of an oppressing situation. But there are some interesting truths in there and insights into behaviour and comments on the workings of the world, nothing incredibly profound but good stuff nevertheless. I think there's some insightful description of a certain type of poverty where people are not really poor, but relatively so. The main background theme, global warming, is connected with people's lives and the point driven home. Maybe it's a little preachy, but it is after all a question the importance of which is difficult to exaggerate.
Get over the beginning. The very start it seemed it was going to be sentimental nonsense, though the bit about the second-hand boots is good, and then you need to persevere a good while to get involved, it's slow to start. But it's worth it in the end. It gives you a reason to sort your rubbish at least.
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on 6 May 2013
Barbara Kingsolver has restored my faith in the notion that scientists can be artists too. I was recommended this book by a friend on the basis that it had some science in it, and I am a scientist so.....this happens a lot and I don't have the heart to point out that I don't want to think about work in my leisure time! I found the novel quite slow to start, but this is possibly because I had just finished reading Instructions for a Heatwave that same day, which has a rip-roaring pace. Once I got into the story proper however, I couldn't put it down. The descriptions of climate change and the desolation that is resulting from it were genuinely distressing. I came away from this story with a need to understand more about this subject. Aside from the scientific considerations, the journey of Dellarobia from a desperate wife seeking release to an independent woman taking control of her life was very enjoyable and although I did feel very sorry for Cub, I appreciated the resolution of their story. I felt the ending was a little abrupt but perhaps that just reflects how absorbed I was in the novel. I would recommend this novel and found it much more enjoyable than The Poisonwood Bible.
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on 21 January 2013
Monarch butterflies overwinter in southern Appalachia rather than Mexico. Their arrival enables Dellarobia to work through her life problems - she has married young following an unplanned pregnancy which has ended in miscarriage, and now has a husband to whom she is not perfectly well matched and two small children. And as the novel works its way onward we learn more about Dellarobia's in-laws and the community of which she is apart - and about the climate change that has driven the change in the behaviour of the butterflies.

This was very impressive and a very unusual and memorable one: thought-provoking about deep issues on climate change (why some people believe in it and some don't), insightful about what makes people tick (in a community that will be totally alien to most readers but which is brought vividly alive), and about human tragedy (in small doses), ordinary human unhappiness (in larger measure), and the positive things in life - the ways in which Dellarobia does value her in-laws (to a degree), her husband (whose take on life is also very vividly given to us) and her children - and the natural world.
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on 29 October 2013
Flight Behaviour had been on my must read list for months before I finally got round to reading it. Despite having really enjoyed both Poisonwood Bible and Lacuna there was something about this that just did not grip me. Eventually it was chosen by my bookgroup and I had to get going. I left it late and found myself burning dinner whilst I stood in the kitchen gripped by the unfolding tale of this most unlikely heroine. The ironing pile grew as I read on to find out what happened to her after she turned back from committing adultery and it was nothing I could have imagined. The expected story simply is not told here. Instead we are led to a bigger world and a smaller one. A world of amazing fragility and beauty that Kingsolver describes in breathtaking detail. And alongside this a small, grey world of limited horizons against which Dellarobia is chafing.

I really enjoyed the way in which every character, with the possible exception of the TV journalists, is sympathetically portrayed. We see them all at first through Dellarobia's tired and resentful eyes. And we see them as she sees them - petty, unwelcoming and prejudiced. But as she grows in confidence and wonder she changes and her relationships with others change too. Not for Kingsolver the easy resolution of all tension but Dellarobia's growing connectedness with the world includes a connectedness with the people around her. She sees how their world has restricted them as well, the sorrows they have endured and not shared, the dreams they have laid aside. And as she does her own determination to build a better world for herself and her children grows stronger.

Small town America seems often to be mocked and I expected that the portrayal of the church, churchgoers and the pastor would conform to type. I had forgotten Kingsolver's respect for what she terms 'generous Christianity' and the Pastor is allowed to be generous and genuine within the context of his church community. The eventual revelations about the Pastor are just one more example of how she tells the unexpected story and asks us to wonder and welcome rather than belittle and berate. The literary riches of the Bible are also shown to be part of Dellarobia's personal linguistic repertore. Phrases from the psalms, stories from the Old Testament, the whole leitmotif of creation and particularly the Flood permeate the novel. This is not done to shore up any particular understanding of Christianity it simply reflects a shared Bible based culture; shared at least in terms of familiarity with stories and prayers if not in terms of belief and actions.

One of my favourite scenes is when Dellarobia is visited by a man who is trying to raise awareness of the need to cut back on energy use and live more simply. The gulf in understanding and lifestyle between the well meaning Green citizen and the struggling small town farmer is shown to be almost unbridgeable. It's a painfully funny scene which gently mocks many of the very people who may be drawn to her book, including me.

Flight Behaviour is long but I found it gripping from beginning to end. It's true that Kingsolver seems very keen to instruct her readers in the perils of climate change, our personal responsiblity for it, its impact on wildlife, habitats and humans but she does so in a way that I found utterly engaging. Whether it is through beautiful authorial descriptions, Dellarobia's observations or her son's questionning of the visiting scientist, it is always appropriate and interesting. The narrative twists and character developments and in particular the unusually respectful portrayal of her children, Cordie and Preston, all add to the overall enjoyment of this life-enhancing novel.
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