Our ReviewsThe Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver


I told myself this would take *weeks*. Several weeks. But here I am, just one week later and I am a matter of pages— mere pages — from its end. 

This has genuinely been on my TBR forever but I never actually had a copy until a very kind extended family member pressed hers into my hands and told me to take it. That was some time ago. But we are where we are. It was, on every level, worth the wait.

I’ve always proclaimed to be someone who isn’t much of a historical fiction fan. But having read this, I think I was wrong. Because this is perhaps historical fiction of the very best kind as reading it makes you feel that you are truly living history.

You may well know the story. It is 1959 and the Price family have arrived in the Belgian Congo. Led by Nathan, a fiercely evangelical Baptist, they’ve come to bring Christianity into the lives of their new neighbours. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t quite turn out as hoped.

His wife, Orleanna, and his four daughters — Rachel, Leah, Adah and Ruth May — tell this story, each part opening with Orleanna’s version of events and the chapters following told by each daughter in turn. Their distinct stories and voices are testament to Kingsolver’s inimitable talent as a writer; you will come to know each of these girls, these women, intimately. The ins and outs of their characters and what indeed makes and shapes them into who they are.

And let’s not forget the history itself. Because Kingsolver is tackling a hugely complex and multi-layered period of time here — the Congo itself as well as the big power players across the African continent and far, far beyond. There is so much here — so very many stories — but she handles them with such skill, it is as though she is tying threads together, intricately and beautifully to form something magical.

There is a lot of detail and a lot of build up; the beginning does, at moments, feel saturated with information. But for me, this worked, because it painted a picture so vivid that when it came down to it, I genuinely felt part of it myself. A total triumph ~ S

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