The Lacuna Pdf Summary
In her most accomplished novel, Barbara Kingsolver takes us on an epic journey from the Mexico City of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to the America of Pearl Harbor, FDR, and J. Edgar Hoover. The Lacuna is a poignant story of a man pulled between two nations as they invent their modern identities.
Born in the United States, reared in a series of provisional households in Mexico—from a coastal island jungle to 1930s Mexico City—Harrison Shepherd finds precarious shelter but no sense of home on his thrilling odyssey. Life is whatever he learns from housekeepers who put him to work in the kitchen, errands he runs in the streets, and one fateful day, by mixing plaster for famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. He discovers a passion for Aztec history and meets the exotic, imperious artist Frida Kahlo, who will become his lifelong friend. When he goes to work for Lev Trotsky, an exiled political leader fighting for his life, Shepherd inadvertently casts his lot with art and revolution, newspaper headlines and howling gossip, and a risk of terrible violence.
Meanwhile, to the north, the United States will soon be caught up in the internationalist goodwill of World War II. There in the land of his birth, Shepherd believes he might remake himself in America’s hopeful image and claim a voice of his own. He finds support from an unlikely kindred soul, his stenographer, Mrs. Brown, who will be far more valuable to her employer than he could ever know. Through darkening years, political winds continue to toss him between north and south in a plot that turns many times on the unspeakable breach—the lacuna—between truth and public presumption.
With deeply compelling characters, a vivid sense of place, and a clear grasp of how history and public opinion can shape a life, Barbara Kingsolver has created an unforgettable portrait of the artist—and of art itself. The Lacuna is a rich and daring work of literature, establishing its author as one of the most provocative and important of her time.
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The Lacuna Review
5.0 out of 5 stars Like Diego Rivera’s murals, a larger than life work
Reviewed in the United States on February 9, 2010
Frida Kahlo was petite, birdlike, with a permanent limp due to severe injuries suffered in a bus accident as a teen. As well as her right leg, the accident damaged internal organs. Her injuries ultimately required some three dozen surgeries. You can see in her self-portraits her undeniable mustache, her unibrow, both of which she refused to conceal or remove. It is not surprising that her paintings, esteemed by art lovers worldwide, reflect her suffering.
Yet there was beauty about her, a raw sexuality she did not hesitate to exercise. Jolie-laide, beautiful-ugly, the French would say. Her husband, Diego Rivera, was 21 years her senior, a tall and unprepossessing man with an ample belly and “eyes like boiled eggs.” “The frog,” some called him, including Frida.
Diego and Frida were staunch Communists, dreaming of a classless society, Diego even had the house at 47 Positos Street in Gunajuato, in the center of Mexico, built without servant’s quarters. Devoted Communists or not, Frida and Diego soon realized that picking up one’s dirty socks from the floor or washing one’s dirty underwear were nowhere to be found in the job description of either great artist. Soon a retinue of cooks, maids, drivers, and eventually, bodyguards, were crammed into nooks and crannies inadequate for housing them.
Those armed guards: From1937 to 1939 they had a house guest, a short, stocky, man with an immense dome of a forehead and graying black hair. He made it a point to wear fine pajamas at night, knowing he might be murdered in his sleep. To be found dead in threadbare sleepwear would be an affront to the dignity of Lev (“Leon” is another transliteration) Trotsky. He was a Menshevik (Russian: “minority party” as opposed to, Bolshevik,”big party”). Whatever his shortcomings, compared with his nemesis in the Soviet leadership, Stalin, Trotsky was angelic. Trotsky is the third of the four major characters of Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna.
The Lacuna (Latin, “a void,” here the void between historical reality and what is generally recalled) provides a concise and interesting summary of Trotsky’s dispossession by Stalin. Once Stalin clawed his way to the leadership position, he sent out agents of the GPU, (“Office of State Security,” one of several predecessors of the KGB). These agents, assassins actually, systematically tracked down Trotsky and his family, including his children and his close associates. Around the globe, wherever they sought refuge, GPU agents found them. Then they killed them.
The fourth major player in this historical drama is fictional; Harrison William Shepherd. Shepherd has an American father, a “government bean counter.” He and Harrison’s Mexican mother, Salomé, separated. She took the child to Mexico with her, expecting to marry her lover, a Mexican oilman. Though she and her son were in residence at the oilman’s hacienda on Isla Pixol, a small island off the coast of Mexico, the businessman had other ideas than marrying Salomé. A coquette, she attempts to enthrall one or another man into marriage and thus the upkeep and maintenance of herself and her child. One such lover is American businessman P.T. Cash, “Produce the Cash,” she calls him.
After his mother’s untimely death, Harrison is on his own, happening into a job mixing plaster for muralist Diego Rivera, then working and residing in his household as a cook and typist.
Shepherd’s story provides a frame for the body of the book, which begins and ends with his life story. He is a literary foil that provides continuity through his letters, journals and the articles he reads. A voracious reader, he is self-educated. Harrison becomes a best-selling author, penning books of historical fiction concerning the Aztecs. His archivist, at first identified only as, “VB,” enters the narrative after he eventually settles in Asheville, N.C.
Eventually Harrison comes to the attention of the House Un-American activities committee. He lived in a household with Communists as a teenager, thus in the fearful logic of the McCarthy era he had to be a dedicated Communist.
The journey to the denouement for these four principals is a fascinating one. The book is filled with historical tidbits that add to the allure of this work. One example of such is the assault on the Bonus Marchers who encamped in Washington, D.C. in the spring and summer of 1932. The reader witnesses this pivotal incident (It helped assure Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s election that same year) through the eyes of Harrison. The veterans of Belleau Wood, Verdun, Château Thierry, the Marne and other storied killing fields of WW I Europe, arrived in Washington by the tens of thousands, peacefully petitioning for the bonus for military service they had been promised. Many had their wives and children with them. President Hoover took exception to their presence and ordered Secretary of the Army Douglas MacArthur to drive them away. MacArthur brought in an infantry unit. Other sources indicate that it was George Patton, then a major, who arrived with a tank platoon and cavalry out of Fort Myers, VA.
The bedraggled and hungry vets, watched as the cavalry came online. The vets cheered, thinking that the display of military pomp and pageantry was in their honor. Civil servants left work and lined Pennsylvania Avenue to witness the spectacle. The ensuing scene is sadly reminiscent of the Czar Nicholas’s Cossacks assault on petitioning workers in St. Petersburg’s “Bloody Sunday, in 1905.
At 4:45 PM, the U.S. cavalry was given the order, “CHARGE!” They did so, followed by the infantry, then the tanks. The sabers of the horse soldiers slashing blades glittered in the weak sunlight of late afternoon. The civil servants watching cried out, “Shame! Shame!” MacArthur, though he’d been ordered by President Hoover to stand down after the initial routing of the veterans, refused to stop. He continued his armed pursuit of the hapless veterans into their, “Hooverville,” the pathetic collection of hovels built from scraps of plywood, sheet metal and other detritus where wives children, and the wounded sought refuge. Then they put the shanties to the torch, forcing the veterans and their loved ones to flee to who-knows-where. MacArthur rationalized his actions by claiming, inaccurately, that the veterans had, “Communists,” in their midst. President Hoover, perhaps making virtue of necessity, said later that he completely agreed with MacArthur’s insubordinate decision. General/Secretary Collin Powell’s statement concerning U.S. machinations in Chile in1973 come to mind; “that’s a part of our history we’re not very proud of.”
The ultimate resolution, the lives and quandaries of Shepherd, Rivera, Kahlo, and Trotsky are all fascinating. Even when the reader knows what’s going to happen, as in the case of Trotsky, the memory is likely to be obscure; a picture faded by time. La Lacuna adds enticing detail as it brings the historical figures into sharp focus.
At 507 pages, The Lacuna is a large and important work, one powerful enough to allow for this minor criticism. Kingsolver, in the first hundred pages or so, creates exposition using the childhood hardships of Harrison Shepherd and his mother. This section could benefit from judicious editing and a bit more of a hook to compel the reader to read on. This work doesn’t really take wings until somewhere between pages 50 and 100.
Even so, to hold La Lacuna in one’s hand, to read it, is to witness and experience years of distilled effort and research. Like Diego Rivera’s murals, it is a lager-than-life work full of color, life, and movement, one executed by a masterful artist at the height of her creative powers.
HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE
5.0 out of 5 stars A thrilling literary adventure though history – A MUST READ for fans of Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo & Mexican art and history!
Reviewed in the United States on January 18, 2012
Barbara Kingsolver paints extraordinary portraits of flamboyant Mexican artists Diego Rivera and his wife, Frida Kahlo, as well as Lev Trotsky, also know as Leon Trotsky, Russian Communist and Lenin’s former companion, in her riveting novel, “La Lacuna.” Trotsky, is in Mexico City to seek exile with the couple while hiding from Stalin’s assassins. This epic saga takes us on a journey from 1920’s Mexico to Pearl Harbor, WWII, and America in the 1950’s, where citizens are paranoid and terrified by the idea of communists in their midst. Senator Joe McCarthy and the The House Committee on Un-American Activities intensify this paranoia.
In an interview, Ms. Kingsolver said, “I wanted to examine the birth of the modern American political psyche, using artists as a vehicle. I would start with the Mexican revolutionary muralists of the 1930’s, and end with the anti-communist censorship of the 1950’s. Diego Rivera was such a crucial part of that history, I thought I should have my narrator live in his household for a time. I was interested in the muralists, these men with their party work and collective shenanigans.” She also writes a great deal about the indomitable “Frida,” her art, and her relationships with the 2 main men in her life, Rivera and Trotsky. The sights, sounds, and even the tastes of Mexico are vividly captured in the novel so that one feels like they are right there, in Mexico, alongside her characters.
Ms Kingsolver goes on to say, in this same interview, “Frida is such a potent and intriguing person, she was everywhere I looked: her doodles and drawings even cover the margins of Diego’s financial ledgers. I felt her poking at my shoulder, saying, ‘Look, chica, you’re ignoring me.’ She was not a frozen icon at all, but a rogue, and a complex person with aches I understood. She started to steal scenes. She was a natural for drawing out my reclusive narrator – those two had brilliant chemistry.”
Harrison William Shepherd, the novel’s protagonist and narrator, is an accidental bystander to history. His journey through three tumultuous decades of the 20th century begins in a solitary boyhood. It continues through the Depression and World War II, and culminates in the ugly hysteria of the Red Scare in the United States.
Shepard, born in the United States to an indifferent Mexican mother and an absentee American father, is taken to Mexico at an early age. The boy is initially reared in a series of provisional households in Mexico, and then enrolled by his father in an exclusive American boarding school where he is a lonely outsider. After escaping life in school, he returns to Mexico City in the 1930s.
It is in Mexico City that Harrison finds a precarious home, where he works as a domestic for famed Mexican muralist Diego River and his wife, the exotic, formidable artist Frida Kahlo, who will become his lifelong friend. Here he is treated as a servant or a member of the family as it suits the couple. Life is whatever the boy learns from a series of housekeepers who put him to work in the kitchen. He also runs errands in the city’s streets.
Rivera and Kahlo are ardent communists who fight for workers’ rights, as long as it doesn’t impinge on the smooth workings of their home and art strudios. One fateful day, Shepherd is given the odd job of mixing plaster for Rivera. He originally learned this skill by mixing flour for tortillas. During this time he also discovers a passion for Aztec and Mayan history and art. Later, when he goes to work for Lev Trotsky, an exiled political leader fighting for survival, Shepherd inadvertently casts his lot with art and revolution.
All important to this tale are the journals he keeps from early boyhood throughout his life. It is through these journals and a series of letters that the story unfolds. Later in life, living in the U.S., he becomes a novelist and is subsequently investigated by the The House Committee on Un-American Activities. He instructs his secretary, Violet Brown, to burn his diaries and letters. She saves them instead, which is fortunate, as without them there would be no storyline. Ms. Brown also plays a major role in this tale.
La Lacuna is a thrilling adventure though history accompanied by some of the period’s most colorful characters. The title word, “Lacuna,” refers to a gap or something that’s absent… a missing section of text or an extended silence in a piece of music, etc. The motif of “lacuna” is the crucial missing piece which runs throughout the novel,
I have long been fascinated by Diego Rivera, the man and his art, and, especially by Frida Kahlo. Her paintings have always moved me and her biography is truly unique. So, I was thrilled when this book came out. Happily, Ms. Kingsolver’s literary, historical novel has exceeded my expectations. It is the author’s sixth novel, and won the 2010 Orange Prize for Fiction and the Library of Virginia Literary Award. “La Lacuna” was also shortlisted for the 2011 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
About Barbara Kingsolver Author Of The Lacuna pdf Book
Barbara Kingsolver Author Of The Lacuna pdf Book is an American novelist, essayist, and poet. She was raised in rural Kentucky and lived briefly in Africa in her early childhood. Kingsolver earned degrees in Biology at DePauw University and the University of Arizona and worked as a freelance writer before she began writing novels. Her most famous works include The Poisonwood Bible, the tale of a missionary family in the Congo, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, a non-fiction account of her family’s attempts to eat locally.
Her work often focuses on topics such as social justice, biodiversity, and the interaction between humans and their communities and environments. Each of her books published since 1993 have been on The New York Times Best Seller list. Kingsolver has received numerous awards, including the UK’s Orange Prize for Fiction 2010, for The Lacuna and the National Humanities Medal. She has been nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Pulitzer Prize.
In 2000, Kingsolver established the Bellwether Prize to support “literature of social change.”
Kingsolver was born in Annapolis, Maryland in 1955 and grew up in Carlisle in rural Kentucky. When Kingsolver was seven years old, her father, a physician, took the family to the former Republic of Congo in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Her parents worked in a public health capacity, and the family lived without electricity or running water.
After graduating from high school, Kingsolver attended DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana on a music scholarship, studying classical piano. Eventually, however, she changed her major to biology when she realized that “classical pianists compete for six job openings a year, and the rest of [them:] get to play ‘Blue Moon’ in a hotel lobby.” She was involved in activism on her campus, and took part in protests against the Vietnam war. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 1977, and moved to France for a year before settling in Tucson, Arizona, where she would live for much of the next two decades. In 1980 she enrolled in graduate school at the University of Arizona, where she earned a Master’s degree in ecology and evolutionary biology.
Kingsolver began her full-time writing career in the mid 1980s as a science writer for the university, which eventually lead to some freelance feature writing. She began her career in fiction writing after winning a short story contest in a local Phoenix newspaper. In 1985 she married Joseph Hoffmann; their daughter Camille was born in 1987. She moved with her daughter to Tenerife in the Canary Islands for a year during the first Gulf war, mostly due to frustration over America’s military involvement. After returning to the US in 1992, she separated from her husband.
In 1994, Kingsolver was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from her alma mater, DePauw University. She was also married to Steven Hopp, that year, and their daughter, Lily, was born in 1996. In 2004, Kingsolver moved with her family to a farm in Washington County, Virginia, where they currently reside. In 2008, she received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Duke University, where she delivered a commencement address entitled “How to be Hopeful”.
In a 2010 interview with The Guardian, Kingsolver says, “I never wanted to be famous, and still don’t, […:] the universe rewarded me with what I dreaded most.” She says created her own website just to compete with a plethora of fake ones, “as a defence to protect my family from misinformation. Wikipedia abhors a vacuum. If you don’t define yourself, it will get done for you in colourful ways.”
The Lacuna Pdf, Paperback, Hardcover Book Information
- Publisher : Harper; 1st edition (November 3, 2009)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 507 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0060852577
- ISBN-13 : 978-0060852573
- Item Weight : 1.82 pounds
- Dimensions : 1.5 x 6.5 x 9.1 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #434,978 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #1,164 in Political Fiction (Books)
- #5,139 in Contemporary Literature & Fiction
- #22,592 in Literary Fiction (Books)
- Customer Reviews: 4.3 out of 5 stars 1,826 ratings
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