Yesterday Barbara Kingsolver won the Orange Prize for The Lacuna. When I heard I was mostly ho-hum, so I didn’t rush to post this notice. I know several people like The Lacuna, but in no review have I been able to grab on to something that suggests I might like it too (though I thought Kingsolver did an excellent job with The Poisonwood Bible). People who haven’t enjoyed the book, however: their qualms are the same qualms I would have, and they have pretty much assured me that I wouldn’t like it. They say it is formally ambitious but fails to deliver because the cobbled pieces of media are unconvincing and don’t feel genuine. The writing is flowery and more an attempt to show-off than move the narrative. It consistently tells you the story rather than let you live it. That may lead into the real reason I am sure I wouldn’t like it: they say Kingsolver is editorializing, that The Lacuna is a polemic. I am unpersuaded, so far, by the occasional reviewer who says that the human story rises above the polemic, and I’m just not interested in another novel that tries to tie together so many notable events and people in history (Diego Rivera, Leon Trotsky, HUAC, Nixon) in order to drive home a point about modern society. I liked The Poisonwood Bible — quite a bit, actually – but it had its faults; from what I’ve heard The Lacuna keeps the faults, builds them up, and loses the rest.
That is all just my impressions from the reviews I’ve read. The reviews have left such a strong impression upon me that I don’t think I could force my way into this one.