Saturday, 8 February 2020

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

Review by JJ Marsh

What we thought:

Through her novel about a family home crumbling, Kingsolver addresses many contemporary issues with subtlety and nuance. At the centre of the story is a house in New Jersey. Inherited by Willa Knox in modern-day America, it seems like a sanctuary for her family until she discovers it is collapsing.

Her only hope is a grant, by proving how the house has 19th century historical value. Enter the second thread – a science teacher who believes in Darwin and his biologist neighbour.

The twin narratives flip back and forth, each shining a light on past and present dilemmas and in particular, the frustration with popular opinion.

The novel addresses social structure then and now, with some alarming parallels. Anti-evolution mobs baying for Darwin to be hanged versus political rallies chanting similar punitive measures.

Willa is a middle-aged woman whose sense of confusion as to generational attitudes and shifting sands makes it one of those books you need to stop reading and think.

My favourite kind.

You’ll enjoy this if you liked: The Lacuna, The Travelling Horn-Player by Barbara Trapido

Avoid if you don’t like: Contemporary reflections on politics and social issues, historical and contemporary blends

Ideal accompaniments: Mint tea, love soup and Billie Holiday singing God Bless the Child

Genre: Literary Fiction

Buy this book here

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