December 15, 2012

Of books made out of poisonwood.

Last week I finished reading The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. It took me a very long time to read.

It was a pretty long book, almost 600 pages, but that's never been an issue for me before. I like epic fantasy, remember. Big is fine as long as it doesn't hurt my hand to hold or smack me in the face and give me a black eye while I'm reading it in bed. Which I haven't been doing lately anyway due to a love affair I'm having that involves me, my bed, and as much sleep as I can get while in it.

So The Poisonwood Bible. It was pretty good. A friend loaned it to me and she had been given it by one of her friends. A guy at (former) work told me it was a really good book. So it was pretty well recommended. I have a feeling that the books that people recommend are books that make them feel smarter. For instance, I once recommended Infinite Jest to someone. Sure, it was an enjoyable book, but I knew that if she read it
she'd be in awe of how grown up my book tastes were. Because I didn't recommend The Princess Diaries.

Seriously, The Poisonwood Bible was a fine book. It was long, though, and very serious. I liked that it was told from the point of view of five different characters, because it gave a bit of different perspective. It was also kind of fun because most of the characters were rather young. For instance, the five year old mentioned "circus visions." It took me a second to realize that circus vision was not, in fact, what was being talked about. I'll let you think about that for a second.

So the story took place largely in the Congo in the early 1960s, right smack dab in the middle of independence. That, for me, what was kept me interested. I studied a fair amount of African History in university so I always get excited when I know what's going on. I read a whole book on the Belgian Congo in second year.

Other than that, the book was, like most great books I guess, about people. Apparently I'm more of a plot person. I remember my grade 11/12 English teacher saying that people who read escapist books weren't as mature as those who read whatever the other kind is. Clearly I'm a woman-child because I love me some plot.

That isn't to say I don't like reading books about the human condition and having deep thoughts and feelings, but I tend to gravitate towards the more escapist literature. Because that is how I roll. My life is busy enough that I don't really feel the need to delve into the deep problems of humanity over my morning Cheerios. You know what I'm talking about.

I realize I've failed at talking about The Poisonwood Bible but all in all I'd say it's worth a read. It's got a lot of really great African history in one of the more volatile times in history, told from a unique perspective (missionaries), as well as some very interesting characters that grow in ways that I wasn't expecting. I believe in happy endings and really good fiction is never going to give you a truly happy ending, I guess. Go figure.

Chances are good that's going to be the last book I finish this year, there being only two weeks left of 2012 and, assuming we don't all die fiery deaths, I've got lots of other stuff to keep me occupied from my current Bordertown read.

So, uh, what are your favourite books?

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