Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

The Lacuna is the story of Harrison Shepherd a Mexican American writer who is born in the USA but grows up in Mexico. He works for a while with Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, round the time when Trotsky is living with them.

Shepherd then moves to the US, becomes a writer and gets caught up in the anti communist witch hunts after the second world war.

There's a lot I loved about the book, the writing is excellent and the issues raised by the book are thought provoking. Specially the contrast between the relationship between art and politics in Mexico and in the US. Then the fact that Shepherd writes historical fiction that has disguised relevance to the times he lives in, presented in a historical novel that has (disguised) relevance to the times we read it in (issues round censorship and in scapegoating groups we're suspicious of).

I like the way the book is put together, diaries, fictional reviews of Shepherd's books, letter and newspaper articles. Though I am aware that this may not work for all readers.

I'm always uncomfortable though when real characters from history are shown in fiction intereacting so closely with fictional characters that effectively history is rewritten. Shepherd didn't exist, so the stories that centre round him and Kahlo, Rivera and Trotsky aren't true, though those other characters are real and have real stories.

Overall though it's an impressive book and well worth reading

1 comment:

Paula said...

That's also a problem with movies, historical accuracy vs entertainment. I haven't read this work by Kingsolver but I'm now officially intrigued.