Thursday, October 11, 2012

Audiobook Review: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

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Title: The Poisonwood Bible
Author: Barbara Kingsolver
Narrator: Dean Robertson
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Edition: Unabridged
Duration: 15 hours, 33 minutes
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it -- from garden seeds to Scripture -- is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5

I always appreciate books that seem real. The Poisonwood Bible definitely had a realistic feel to it. Kingsolver doesn't have problems magically disappear for her characters; the girls really struggle with living in Africa and having to deal with their half-crazy domineering father/husband. And bad things happen. In a weird way, I was glad when the first bad thing happened. It meant that Kingsolver took this story seriously. (Honestly, you can't just put characters in the Belgian Congo in the 60's and not have anything bad happen.) After that, I felt more at ease and looked forward to the conflicts that would ensue.

While I liked the story overall, my opinion changed chapter by chapter with this one. At first, I thought it had promise, then the story lost me, then I got back into it, etc. I think the problem is that it was too drawn out. Near the end, I had thought it ended twice before it actually ended. And sometimes I would just get bored of the description of everyday life or the complaints of living in Africa. Naturally, books that have a lot of details, especially ones that are set in exotic places, are fun to read and do a lot to set a visual in the reader's mind. But this was too much -- just by a little, though. Most of the details were necessary, I just think that condensing would be beneficial to the story.

My favorite character is Ada. The point of view constantly shifts between each of the female characters, and I found myself perking up when it came for Ada's narrative. Because of her quirks, and the way she played with language, her thoughts and version of events were the most interesting to me. Also, I feel like she had some of the most heartbreaking events happen to her. But all the characters are impressively complex and have their own unique traits and distinct points of view -- Kingsolver even makes Nathan Price, crazy devout missionary that he is, seem vulnerable and human. I love it!

I do think that Robertson could have differentiated between each of the characters better by using different voices, or something. My favoritism of Ada may also have been due to the fact that I knew when she picked up the story. For the others, they all melted together. Besides that, it was good narration overall. I was enjoyed the story and it was one of those audiobooks where I made up extra chores just so I could listen to it for another hour. However, considering the content of The Poisonwood Bible, the tone of the narrative, and the shifts of perception, I think print would be better for this one. The audio seemed overly long, and I'm not sure that I would have thought that had I actually read it. In any case, it would be worth it just knowing who was speaking when.

The Poisonwood Bible is definitely a book to try reading at least once. (It could be tedious for some.) If you have the patience and the interest, I think it's worth it.