This is not a book I would typically pick up and read and as such I was pleasantly surprised. This book by Barbara Kingsolver is a book to teach you a bit about history, to leave you thinking “hm”, to want to find out more. The book is based on a fictional character in the midst of a very tumultous time, from WWII to the McCarthy era. I learned a lot about these times that I hadn’t read before. The story of how his writing was first adored and then reviled all because of the words of one man was definitely something I could see happening. It was a very scary time during the McCarthy witch hunts, something I can see once in a while in current days too. We all like to point fingers and we all are scared of the unknown around the corner. We also sometimes trust too much in a single news source, it is hard to go out and search for the truth among the weeds at times.
One theme that came out in the novel that was pointed out during a discussion at the Naples Philharmonic Book Club was the way that art is woven into the story. The book starts in Mexico when the main character, Harrison Shepard, is a young man. The style is as if you are reading a series of journal entries that have been transcribed by his friend and secretary. It is a very unusual style. But anyway, one of his earlier acquantices is Diego Rivera and his wife Frida. In Mexico, art was a part of the political and cultural fabric of the country. But when he came to the United States, that isn’t seen anymore. The US doesn’t really hold art in the same way that other countries do. We have art, but art isn’t woven into our politics or our social fabric. There isn’t an artist that is seen as a hero in this country the way that Diego was in Mexico. It makes you wonder why that is? The question was also raised on what is “American art” anyway? There is one important nexus in this book where what the politicians wanted to see as American art didn’t fit with what the cultural staff they hired thought it should be.
Anyway, I am really not doing this book justice. It is not a sit down and read straight through book, it is a sit and think, take a break and come back for more type of book. I did enjoy it all in all and have to thank my mom for getting me into it.