Friday, 13 May 2016

Prodigal Summer

Whether she is portraying cereus the night-blooming cactus flower in The Bean Trees or the stupefying heat and exuberance of the African Congo in The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver writes fine literary fiction. I’ve just read Prodigal Summer and fallen in love with the Appalachian landscape of lunar moths and coyotes and wild honeysuckle. Adriana Trigiani’s lovable Big Stone Gap series was set in the Appalachian mountains of Virginia and I think The Hunger Games, too.

Like The Poisonwood Bible, the narrative switches between three characters in Prodigal Summer - newly-widowed Lusa, touchy forest ranger Deanna and Garnett an octogenarian engaged in permanent warfare with his neighbour. Kingsolver wears her extensive knowledge of the wildlife of the mountains and the hardships faced by the rural community lightly and builds a satisfying story with high comedy in a particular incident with a snapping turtle!
Deanna doesn’t like people very much and prefers to live in a remote forest cabin tracking the coyotes that are re-populating the area. She does rather like the handsome hunter she runs across and their passionate relationship is echoed by the overblown summer. My favourite character though is former entomologist, Lusa, who is left to put her academic knowledge to practical use on the rural farm she inherits after her husband’s death. It is hinted that her marriage was not entirely happy and Lusa has to face hostility from some of her husband’s sisters while occasionally fending off amorous attentions from some of her husband’s male relatives. The chapters featuring Lusa are called ‘Moth Love’ and her passion for moths is beautifully portrayed.
An Io moth rested on the screen, her second-favourite moth, whose surprising underwings were the same pinkish-gold as her hair.
 It think I may have a prodigal summer of my own with a pile of Kingsolver novels and hopefully some warm weather to sit in the garden!


Audrey said...

I've never read her...but a prodigal summer (and a new author to discover) sound very good to me!

JoAnn said...

I've read most of Kingsolver's novels and Prodigal Summer is my favorite. That is a gorgeous cover!

Kat said...

Thank you for this great review! I loved this book so much and had forgotten about it! Honestly, it was the first Kingsolver book I fell in love with, having thought her early work was overrated, and then went back and read The Poisonwood Bible and that proved to be one of my favorite books. She really is one of the best American writers: she does not, however, win awards here. Very odd.

Nadia A said...

I've yet to read her books, but they sounds fantastic. Looks like I need to add Prodigal Summer to my TBR list for the summer.

Cathy Daniel said...

I love the way you review your books - you make me want to read them all! I think this book would be perfect for a holiday in a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere in the Dordogne, in the height of summer, when it is going to be hot, or I want my money back! I'll look out for it! xCathy

Ronald Demos said...

It is implied that her marriage was not so much upbeat and Lusa needs to face antagonistic vibe from some of her better half's sisters while once in a while fighting off desirous considerations from some of her significant others male relatives.I'm now writer at federal resume writing service,It is so inspiring book.

Cosy Books said...

Lots of customers at the library absolutely love Kingsolver's books. I have yet to read a single one but you've just given me an idea of what to share with one of my customers on the lookout for something good. Thank you!

Bellezza said...

I loved this book. I didn't agree with the heroine's choice, ultimately, but the imagery, the power of emotion that Kingsolver is able to evoke, is remarkable.

Vintage Reading said...

Hi Audrey, she's wonderful on landscape, the natural world and ecology.

JoAnn, I do like a good cover!

Kat, Poisonwood is one of my absolute favourite books, too. Kingsolver is often short-listed for UK book prizes but I don't think has won. I'm hoping for another novel soon because I wasn't keen on Flight Behaviour.

Nadia, yes, it's a great summer read!

Cathy, oh a French farmhouse, how lovely. I also recommend The Greengage Summer, also set in France!

Ronald, yes, I like the way Kingsolver tackles ecological issues and the poverty for the rural workers in Appalachia.

Cosy Books, yes the only Kingsolver I'm not keen on is Flight Behaviour.
The rest are pretty wonderful.

Bellezza, agreed, at her best she is a fine writer.