Kingsolver’s extensive research, her exposure of history as seen through the eyes of her characters, the mix of fictional and non-fictional characters, all kept me coming back. As in all her writing, there are no lack of social issues of the day. This book did not disappoint.
The setting is a house – shared by characters from the 1860s and today. I thought it very clever how Kingsolver changed time periods using the last word of the one chapter as the first word of the next chapter, always alternating protagonists and eras.
Vineland was an exclusive community owned, designed and built by a man named Charles Landis. He vetted all the well to do residents, made the laws of the town and ensured there were enough working class people to keep the elite happy and cared for. But this dream of utopia does not work out as planned when an upstart journalist opens a print shop. This newspaper is full of the real goings on in the underbelly of the town and Landis is not pleased.
One of the residents, Mary Treat, is a scandal. In the 1860s her husband has run off and left her for another woman. Treat is an avid botanist who not only corresponds with Charles Darwin, but actually BELIEVES his controversial theory of evolution. Living next door to Mary is the new high school science teacher, Thatcher Greenwood. Like Mary he believes Darwin’s theory and tries teaching it at Landis’ school.
Thatcher is so impressed with Mary’s discoveries of new species, her drawings, her spiders and venus fly traps, that these kindred spirits of science begin a series of forages for new specimens in various conditions, climates and seasons, Another scandal!
Iano and Willa, the family of today who occupy the house, have an entirely different set of problems, local issues, trying children, broken walls and leaking roofs. So much to think about.
Kingsolver’s “The Poisonwood Bible” is one of my top twenty books. I enjoyed this book very much, but it is not THAT book.
Holding the Line
The Bean Trees
At his murder trail in 1875, Charles Landis pleaded temporary insanity. This may be the first time in American judicial history where a person claimed insanity as a reason for not being guilty.