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Book Review: The Lacuna

by Emma on June 2, 2011

in Books

I finally got around to finishing this book by one of my favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver. It is written as a kind of faux memoir/biography through journal entries, letters, newspaper articles and various narrators who knew the protagonist, Harrison Shepard. Although Shepard is a fictional character that Kingsolver has created, his life is interwoven with a number of real historical events, places and people. Shepard works as a cook to Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, befriending the artists and eventually transporting Kahlo’s works to a US museum around the time of WWII. He works as a typist for Lev Trotsky, one of the leaders of the Bolshevik revolution. Shepard eventually makes a name for himself by authoring several success novels and drawing the attention of Hollywood and the US government during the time of the Red Scare.

This probably makes the book sound quite… um… historical. Which it is. But please make no mistake, this is not a cold account of events. This book is infused with the fragility of humanity, the touching loyalty of friendship and the difficulties of growing up without a strong national identity. I was absolutely cheering for Mr. Shepard’s happiness while reading his life’s tale and laughing at his gentle and potent self-deprecating view of life. This was a wonderful read, and I was sad when it was over.

If you’ve read this book, I’d love to hear what you thought. Or if you have any good book suggestions for me, I’d be glad to have them as I am always looking for a good read. :)

Also my library section is pretty much up-dated (for now). So if you are looking for a good summer read check out my archives. It’s the least I can do for you. :)

xo. Emma


Grace Maria Buchanan June 2, 2011 at 9:17 pm

I seem to be having trouble subscribing to your new blog because I have made a point to do it atleast 10 times now and for some reason I keep missing new updates. I sought you out to say I wanted to hear more and it turns out I have been out of the loop. I’m glad you’re still around though. Hah.. I want to check out this book. That’s all I have to say I guess. Hope you are doing well. How long are you going to keep your hair blue?

Kelley Baber June 2, 2011 at 9:29 pm

I just finished The Help by Kathryn Stockett…I was so sad when it was over. Very good story!!

Marla Stanton June 2, 2011 at 9:32 pm

i only saw one jonathan safran foer book in your library. if you haven’t read these two by him, you HAVE to (sorry for yelling; they’re just that good!):
-everything is illuminated (the movie, while different from the book, is equally as good and heart-wrenching)
-extremely loud & incredibly close (movie is in the making!)

if you have already read them, then i’ll have to recommend another book!

Emma June 3, 2011 at 8:14 pm

hey marla, i have read both of those. i adore jsf :) they aren’t in my library section as i read them before i was ever a blogger. you obviously have wonderful taste though so feel free to suggest away. :)

Mandy @ Miss Indie June 2, 2011 at 10:53 pm

This book sounds really interesting! I’ll have to check it out. [thanks for sharing it!]
Right now I’m reading Eat, Pray, Love [..don't judge, haha. *wink*] and I just ordered Dante’s Inferno and a book about doodling…….yeah, weird mix. But I’m excited to read them! :]

Franjessica June 3, 2011 at 1:34 am

Hey Emma! I’ll have to check this book out because I do enjoy a historically based novel. If you’ve never read them, and even if you don’t like fantasy, George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (the series that starts with A Game of Thrones), is fantastic. I just finished reading them for the first time, and I’m obsessed. Also, if you’re looking for other loosely historically based but awesome books- The Russian Concubine (and sequel, The Girl from Junchow) as well as Cutting for Stone all make it into my top 5 reads of all time… Also quick question: Those cheddar pinwheels you make, do you happen to know how far in advance you can assemble them, before cooking them?
Thanks and Happy Reading! -Francesca

Nina June 3, 2011 at 3:13 am

Oh, Emma…I love you so much right now! Barbara Kingsolver is my absolute favorite author. The Prodigal Summer is the most incredible story, have you read it? I need to finish The Lacuna…thanks for your review!

Kara June 3, 2011 at 4:24 am

Hmm, this is one of Kingsolver’s that I haven’t read yet. I read The Poisonwood Bible and Prodigal Summer this year and those were my first forays into her work. I didn’t care much for The Poisonwood Bible (I think because of the historical aspect) but looooved Prodigal Summer. Have you read that one yet?

Kara June 3, 2011 at 4:25 am

Forgot to mention that I’m currently reading Kissing the Virgin’s Mouth by Gershten…she’s the first winner of Kingsolver’s literary award. So far it’s ooookay. I’ll let you know what I think of it by the end :)

Evie June 3, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Looks like a good book! I’ll have to check it out. The Help is a really good book. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is also extremely good. I just reread Love in the Time of Cholera and that book is very very good as well. Good luck compiling your summer reading list!!

Jena June 3, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Sounds fantastic. I love Barbara Kingsolver. I also really love Frida Kahlo so anything (even fictional) intertwined in her life is interesting to me. I’m putting this on my must read list. I just finished reading Room By Emma Donoghue. Have you read this? Its captivating. I couldn’t put it down. I highly recommend it.

Erin D. June 3, 2011 at 6:28 pm

I just have to tell you how much I am enjoying your blog. Especially now that I realized you not only love making yummy food, but also because you enjoy reading… a girl after my own heart! I really enjoyed The Poisonwood Bible, so I am mentally adding The Lacuna to my list. I took a gander at your booklist and I think you might enjoy The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. And the blue hair? You go girl! Many of us could never rock that look.

Anna Plage June 5, 2011 at 5:40 am

Hi Emma, good review! I really enjoyed this book (I adore Barbara Kingsolver – have you read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle?) and I would encourage your followers who are interested in reading it to not become discouraged if it doesn’t them you from the get-go. It can take a few pages to get into it – but it’s definitely worth it!

Book suggestion: The World is Blue by Sylvia Earle = Simply. Amazing. Don’t be thrown off by the subject matter – she has a really wonderful way with words (how’s that for alliteration?) and it’s surprisingly enthralling. You will absolutely not regret it.

Emma June 5, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Anna Plage, you sold me. I’m going to look up this book suggestion now! :)

Shirin June 8, 2011 at 5:37 pm

I loooove Barbara Kingsolver. Just finished Pigs in Heaven, it was beautiful.
Added this to my list !

Eleni Drinks Tea June 9, 2011 at 10:38 am

I love books like this – a little bit of history, mixed in with personal stories. Right up my street, I’ll have to check it out!

lily darger June 10, 2011 at 2:47 pm

I love this book! But I’m kinda surprised at how many folks I’ve talked to who started it and lost interest. I thought the book was quite gripping and I had to read sections aloud to my husband. (Like the part where you fall in love with North Carolina and want nothing more than to move into a cozy arts and crafts bungalow…)