Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver
6 April 2002

 

Oh, dear - another "well written, pity about the plot" book. They're everywhere, and they come almost exclusively from those undereducated females. Yes, I am afraid I do belong to the school of thought that says a woman is good for nothing unless she has something solid inside her head.

But, I see from the flyleaf that Kingsolver "was trained as a biologist". An intellectual bigot, I do not consider biology a pure science. However, at least she doesn't have an arts degree.

Enough about the author. The story itself is not at all bad. There is nothing to cause me to actually resent studying it for the next six weeks or so. But it barely challenges me. Some stories are near-impossible climbing walls. Some are marshes, some smooth flat plains. This one is a very, very downy feather bed. I have never come so close to actualy falling asleep during a book, not because it is boring, but because it fits so easily into my mind. I am mistrustful of something I accept so easily.

Some of the images are interesting and cause me to think twice, but may I stress - only twice. Good language should not take the place of exciting plot development. That's probably the main problem with this book - it's so dreamy and gentle. The plot should be suspenseful, but completely fails to be. It's not just second-reading syndrome, either, as I felt the same when I first read it last year.

Here's what it lacks: passion, sufficiant emphasis on its main characters, and suitably subordinate supporting cast. I'm thinking of Jax. He fascinates me. I want more Jax, which can't be good as the story is not fundamentally about Jax.

Oh, the passion bit. You may find that surprising. I can't point to any one event or description that obviously lacks passion. But the subject matter (in brief, racial issues) should make me angry or tearful, knowing me. It's got to be a lack of passion - I don't see what else it could be.

 

15 April 2002

Since finishing the book I have had a few more thoughts about it, mostly about the language and specific images which I like.

In the first chapter, "Alice wonders if other women in the middle of the night have begun to resent their Formica". This strikes me as vaguely amusing. It reeks of menopausal suburban neurosis. Why exactly do I like it? It sounds like the kind of irrational thought that might pass through my own head in the small hours of the night.

Annawake's solitude puzzles me a bit. She constantly rails against any suggestion of a relationship ("I knew there was some reason why women sought the company of men," she says after her brother complains about her borrowing his shirts) yet seems, inwardly, lonely. She alone is left uncoupled and unresolved at the end of the book. Poor lonely Annawake, with "no noticeable habits except working". Perhaps she has to wait for her twin to come home before she can be free to love.

 

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