Thursday, January 31, 2013

Flight Behavior

I'm pleased to say that I've finally read a Barbara Kingsolver novel that I loved, or at least super-duper liked which is close enough. I've read most of her fiction going back to the start when she was an obscure leftish writer addressing U.S. intervention in Central America, and while I've often admired the effort I've never been knocked out by the execution. Last time around I was quite critical. Now, with Flight Behavior, hooray, she pretty much nailed it.

It, in this case, being climate change and the devastation it's wreaking. It being a vivid, compelling, character-driven story lushly laid out in beautiful language replete with a dazzling mastery of metaphor matched to a sweeping thematic vision. It being a thoroughly winning, complex, conflicted protagonist. All of it adding up to that which we red readers so prize: high quality political fiction.

As such, naturally, this novel has garnered its share of complaints about being "too didactic" and the like. Looking through the reader reviews at Goodreads, you'll find lots of this. What nonsense. Me, I'm all for didacticism in fiction--I love to learn, I love to be shown important stuff, I don't even mind being lectured by a character which is something Kingsolver skillfully pulls off in one or two sharp scenes in Flight Behavior. If anything, she errs too far on the side of the soft stuff--character development/family dynamics/internal monologues, etc.--when I would have happily gone much farther along in the direction of tromping through the woods or bent over lab tables studying the butterflies. For there is story, too, in doing science, which she does convey but mostly not in the foreground. No matter. This here is good work.