by Barbara Kingsolver
Genre: Literary fiction/ Historical fiction
I have the feeling lots of you are big fans of Barbara Kingsolver, and for good reasons. Personally, I have read almost all her books, including collections of essays, and enjoyed them a lot. I reviewed Flight Behavior on this site. Like me, you probably rushed on Unsheltered, her upcoming book. Maybe some of you have already read it? What did you think? I’m very curious to know about your own experience. Here is mine.
And mine is not positive at all! This author was on the list of writers I would automatically read, diving into their latest work without even reading the synopsis. Well, like other similar recent disasters with other authors, Unsheltered didn’t work for me.
To be honest, there were a few elements I did like in Unsheltered:
The back and forth between 2 stories, 2 families living on the same property, one in the 1870s, one in the 2010s, in the time leading to the latest American presidential election. And both stories also connected with their relation to nature and environment
Thatcher physically resisted the urge to walk over and read the books’ titles, a magnetism that had controlled him since the day in late childhood when he’d first set eyes on a book.
in Chapter 4
And to add to the connection between both stories, the last words of a chapter become the title of the next. Neat little literary device
The life of the naturalist Mary Treat, whom I knew nothing about; the evolution debate (cf. Darwin)
She was a scientist and writer, extremely well known in her time. One of the most outspoken American advocates of Darwin and evolutionary theory in the late nineteenth century.
in chapter 7
The effortless knack of Kingsolver to write dialogs that sound so much true to life
Criticism of racism, of current political situation in the US
Ideas about protection of the environment and minimalism, especially in the character of Tig, a resourceful millennial
But what I didn’t like weighed more in the balance:
The focus on these 2 families daily lives and struggles. I really have a hard time on that type of focus. Both families are living in a house that’s falling part. The modern family seems to have done everything right, yet they are broke, not mentioning all kinds of extra problems coming at them: job insecurity, dying father with close to no health insurance, having to take care of a newborn grandchild.
I think I understand there’s plenty of symbolism – for instance the houses falling apart and the state of our country and planet, but I felt this could have been done with more subtlety. It seemed to me the author was going at it with a hammer, trying to push here ideas in the head of her readers. I am aware of the urgency of issues raised, and I may be too pessimistic here, but at this point I think some people will never get it anyway. Or they may finally do get it, but they will refuse to recognize they were wrong and blind at some point; or they know that if they do admit there’s a problem, they are going to lose a lot of power and money, and they are not ready for that.
Storms we can’t deal with, so many people homeless. Not just homeless but placeless. Cities go underwater and then what? You can’t shelter in place anymore when there isn’t a place.
in chapter 15
Friends will probably count more than money, because wanting too much stuff is going to be toxic.
Waste not, want not.
in chapter 15
With the points just mentioned, the book is way too long. I often felt it really boring. I would have DNFed it if I had not requested it for review. It was actually quite painful
Too many swear words/expressions. Whether in English or in Greek, f* words are still f* words, and after a while, it’s too much
After I read the book, I went to Goodreads to see what others thought, and it seems I’m definitely not alone among her fans to be disappointed by this one. So I’m done with blind dates of upcoming books by favorite authors. Now please please Kate Morton, do not disappoint me with The Clockmaker’s Daughter! I did read the synopsis, just in case, and it does sound good.
VERDICT: A social allegory within a historical novel. Great dialogs, but too long and somewhat boring.
HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK?
Have you ever experienced being disappointed
by one of your favorite authors?
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