Saturday, June 27, 2015

Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver (and a re-scoring of Gone Girl)

I finished reading Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver last night. I’m in two minds about Barbara Kingsolver’s books (I’ve read The Poisonwood Bible and now this one); on the one hand, her writing is often beautiful, sometimes perfect. In Flight Behaviour, I loved her depictions of marriage and motherhood (the children in this book reminded me so much of Moses and Hazel). Two tastes:

But being a stay-at-home mom was the loneliest kind of lonely, in which she was always and never by herself. Days and days, hours and hours within them, and days within weeks, at the end of which she might not ever have gotten completely dressed or read any word longer than Chex, any word not ending in –os, or formed a sentence or brushed her teeth or left a single footprint outside the house. Just motherhood, with its routine costs of providing a largesse that outstripped her physical dimensions. She’d seen ewes in the pasture whose sixty-pound twins would run underneath together and bunt the udders to release the milk with sharp upward thrusts, jolting the mother’s hindquarters off the ground. That was the picture, overdrawn. A gut-twisting life of love, consecrated by the roof and walls that contained her and the air she was given to breathe. (page 59-60) 


 “I knocked,” Hester declared. “Where were you?”

“Just cleaning, moving some stuff around on the back porch,” Dellarobia lied. She took a quick inventory of the things Hester would hold against her this morning: breakfast dishes in the sink, Cordie in just a diaper and shirt. She’d tried to get her dressed, but the child had pelted her all morning with a hail of no; she felt like a woman stoned for the sin of motherhood. (page 127)

I love Kingsolvers writing. I love the stories she tells.

But. (The other hand.) In both The Poisonwood Bible and Flight Behaviour I found myself thinking, “I’m being taught a lesson here!” and not in a reflective, “I’m similar to this character, and her relationships are shining fresh light on me and relationships in my life” way, but in a purposeful way that felt far too obvious and therefore patronising. The word I used to describe what I didn’t like about The Poisonwood Bible was ‘didactic’; I was disappointed to have to revive the description for this book, too. In Flight Behaviour, the lesson’s on climate change, which is a worthy topic to lecture people about, I have no problem with that; perhaps it’s the unsubtlety of the lecture that bothers me most (teach me sneakily! I don’t want to notice that I’m being taught something!). 

Despite feeling annoyed by the teachiness of parts, I really liked this book and have now spent quite some time googling and being amazed by images of the phenomenon it speaks about (no spoilers!). The writing scores 4.5 out of 5, and then I’ll take 2 points off for obviousness and score it 2.5 out of 5. But then I’ll add an extra point because I did actually enjoy it and I want you to read it, too, so that’d be 3.5 out of 5. Maybe just 3… Let’s just say 7 out of 10.


In Flight Behaviour, the main character’s name is Dellarobia, which I think is beautiful, though it’s a mouthful. At the beginning of the book I was pronouncing it “della–row–bia” (as in row, row, row your boat), but a few chapters in someone says it slowly and it’s clear the name’s actually pronounced “della-robbia”, which I don’t like nearly as much. So throughout the remainder of the book I argued with myself, with one part of my brain wanting to stick with my preferred pronunciation, and the other part thinking, “You have to say it right! It’s obviously not pronounced that way, so let it go! If you pronounce it incorrectly while speaking about the book, you’ll sound like an idiot!” It was distracting. (This is my issue, not Kingsolvers. No points were removed for Dellarobia.)

Speaking of scoring books, I’ve been thinking more about Gone Girl since my last post, and I’ve decided I liked it more than I thought I did when I first finished it. It was very clever, and the ending was the right one, even though it left me wishing for more retribution, but I think that was kinda the point. So I’ll bump that one up to 4.25 out of 5/8.5 out of 10.

1 comment:

  1. I want to read Flight Behaviour after those excerpts now.