Welcome to the third installment of English 101: The Harper Perennial Modern Classics Book Club. Today’s book is The Poisonwood Bible.
About the book: 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.
Before I start talking about how much I liked this book, I should mention that the reason I had never read it for years was that I was convinced it was dystopian lit that took place in some sort of apocalyptic world. Why did I think that? I have no idea.
But back to the book. I think what I loved the most about The Poisonwood Bible is that it’s one of those unique books that teaches you about something, be it an era or a country or a time, without ever seeming didactic or boring. I feel like TPB gave me a taste of what happened in Congo in the 60s, and definitely left me wanting to know more and read some nonfiction about the time. Another thing in its favor is that it is told, in alternating chapters, by five different narrators, and I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book where that was done so well and so distinctly, though my favorite character by far was Leah, the smart, non-silent, non-stuck-up sister.
The only thing I didn’t 100% love about the book was that I much preferred the parts where the Price family was together in the Congo than the parts that take place in later years. A part of me almost wished that Kingsolver could have ended the book with the Prices (or most of them) leaving on the day of Lumumba’s assassination, which was also an important day in their family, and left me wondering what happened to them afterwards.
So let’s discuss. Did you love the book as much as I did? How did you feel about the later parts? Which cover do you like better? (I have to say I’m in love with our orange and yellow deluxe edition.) And can you recommend any other books that teach without being too obvious about it?
If you’re on Goodreads, we’ll also be discussing the book there in our new goodreads group, which you should absolutely join.
We’re gearing up to make some new Harper Perennial tote bags, and we want your input! Would you carry a bag with any of the following slogans? If it helps you decide, the bags will be black, and they’ll have quotes from our awesome authors on the back.
This week in harper perennial on tour we have two favorites of mine: Simon Van Booy, who brings treats every time he comes to visit (and is a great writer too, of course), and Malena Watrous, whose book is one of the few books I’ve read about women in their 20s that didn’t annoy me.
Jo Nesbo got his start writing after tiring of being the frontman for one of Norway’s most popular rock bands, Di Derre. So he quit the band in the ’90’s, hopped a plane to Australia, and banged out his first manuscript in about 6 months. Since then he’s written eight internationally acclaimed crime novels starring Detective Harry Hole, and trust me, they’re GREAT. Full of suspense, grit, and deftly plotted twists — they read like watching a really good movie. For a chance to win a set of his first two books published in the U.S., The Redbreast and Nemesis, leave a comment about the fantasy life you’d like to be living before you jetset and start writing award-winning novels. Then go out and buy his latest, The Devil’s Star, in stores now!
Here’s Jo talking about the Harry Hole character in his sweet Norwegian accent.
I’ve got 3 sets of books to give away. Don’t be shy! We’ll announce the winners next week.
There’s an article in the Telegraph today about how Russia is ignoring Leo Tolstoy’s literary legacy. Apparently, as we approach the centenary of his death, there’s no plans to officially mark the occasion in Russia, and a new film version of Anna Karenina has failed to find a distributor, with its director being told “none of the young people that go to the cinema now know who Anna Karenina is.”
But here at Harper Perennial, the last thing we’d do is ignore Leo Tolstoy. We’ve already got Family Happiness, a collection of his short stories:
with more Tolstoy in the pipeline for next year. Plus, for another perspective on the great writer, we’ve got The Diaries of Sofia Tolstoy, out this fall.
We’re doing our part to make sure the young people of America that go to the cinema know who Leo Tolstoy is.
Just kidding, I actually love Jersey Shore more than life itself. But it begs the question: are there any reality tv stars out there who haven’t done books, but should? Where’s the 16 and Pregnant book?
And now I’ll conclude this entry before I embarrass myself further.
This week, we’re expanding the reach of Harper Perennial Pets to include our friends from Eos. So in honor of the e-book launch of 19-year-old author Stephen V. Beirne’s NOVEMBERREIGN , we present his poodles: Amber, Ginger and Coco.
As Stephen says:
I have three energetic poodles, two miniatures and one toy. Amber is the oldest at age 13. She has a great dislike for other dogs, although she’s grown to enjoy her other two sisters over the past few years. She’s still energetic, always ready to race outside to hunt and play. She’s happy to be outside during summer’s heat or winter’s snow, unlike her four-year-old sister Ginger. Ginger’s the biggest in size of the three poodles. Although she sometimes acts a little lazy, always trying to find a shady spot in the yard to lay down as opposed to suffering the hot sun, she loves other animals and especially loves to play with Coco, my little chocolate toy poodle. Coco, who’s only a one-year-old, loves to play with both Ginger and Amber. Even though Amber growls at the puppy to leave her alone, Coco flattens herself into a submissive position making sad moans and cries as she squirms toward Amber on the floor. At first Amber did it out of annoyance, but now I think the two growl and cry at each other for fun. It’s like a game to them. Ginger usually just sits back and watches the action. It can get very loud in my house! When one dog begins to bark, it sets off a chain reaction. Even if there’s nothing outside and neither poodle knows what she’s barking at, they’ll all bark anyway. My poodles are full of energy and can be a handful sometimes, but they’re always full of love. Whenever I’m just sitting in the kitchen, doing some work or reading a book, they’ll come up to me and lay their heads on my lap or jump up on their back two legs and paw at me so that I’ll pick them up and hold them. Coco especially loves to do this, and since she’s so small, she’s the perfect size for me to hold her while I read or write a story on my laptop. All three poodles are extremely smart, but each is unique and has her own distinct personality.
Our beloved author Tony O’Neill just had one of his novels named as one of the top 13 novels about drugs by thetop13.com. Sadly, it wasn’t one of the ones we publish (Down and Out on Murder Mile, which is about drugs, and the forthcoming Sick City, which is about drugs but also a secret Sharon Tate sex tape). But it does beg the question: what do you think are the best novels about drugs? Are books about heroin better than books about cocaine? (I personally have no preference.)
Comment with your favorite drug book for a chance to win a copy of Down and Out on Murder Mile!
It’s Lionel Shriver Day! To celebrate the release of Lionel’s newest novel, So Much for That, I and several other bloggers (including Nicole from Linus’s Blanket, who co-hosted this challenge) read books from her backlist.
I’ve read nearly all of Lionel’s books (including the classic We Need to Talk About Kevin), but I had never read my backlist choice: Checker and the Derailleurs. It’s the story of a charismatic, seemingly happy-go-lucky, nineteen-year-old drummer named Checker Secretti, and his band, The Derailleurs, who orbit around him in varying stages of idolization, lust, and disgust. There’s a ton of stuff packed into this novel: a green card marriage, two suicide attempts, glassmaking, parties, arrests, and a lot of music, but it never felt overdone. One of my favorite things about Lionel’s writing is the way she writes about unlikable and despicable people, and it’s easy to see the beginnings of that great talent in this early novel.
Now for the fun part! Anyone talking about Lionel Shriver today—whether in the comments here on this post, on twitter, or on their own blogs—will have a chance to win a copy of So Much for That! If you blog or twitter (with the hashtag #lionelshriver), leave a comment here with a link. I’ll randomly pick five winners (not including me! I’m also very psyched for So Much for That.) So get to it—what do you love about Lionel’s writing? What book is your favorite?