THE POISONWOOD BIBLE (1998)
Culture shock, religious hypocrisy and the triumph of women
in adverse circumstances are key to this character-driven
novel, based on real experiences including the author's own.
Set in the Congo, The Poisonwood Bible is narrated by
the wife and four daughters of a baptist missionary who moves
the Georgia family to central Africa in 1959.
Through the eyes of the five women, the missionary cause in
all its glory and impracticality is explained in contrast to
the traditional Congolese way of life.
A community reluctant to change cements the family's
challenge, as each member struggles to adapt.
Simple errors in translation underpin the difficulty of the
task, which is largely abandoned by the more rational female
members of the family - determined to make the best of their
Each approaches the Congo differently due to their age and
individual personalities, although Kingsolver makes it easy
for the reader to understand and sympathise in some way with
all five narratives.
She is renowned for building strong characters and The
Poisonwood Bible is perhaps the best example of that.
Born in Maryland, Kingsolver moved from rural Kentucky to the
Congo at the age of 7, where her physician father and mother
worked in a public health capacity.
The family lived without electricity or running water.
Accordingly, The Poisonwood Bible accurately depicts
the mood and development of the country around that time in
Well worth a read, the novel is one of only a few I can
return to time and again.