Paul Bryant's Reviews > The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
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Jun 27, 11

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bookshelves: novels
Read in January, 2008

Reviewing in the face of the great billows of love projected towards this novel is a hapless task, your hat blows off and your eyes get all teary and if you say one wrong thing small children run out of nowhere and stone you or just bite your calves. So I shall this one time sheathe my acid quill. But I can't resist just a couple of little points though -

1) you have to suspend great balefuls of disbelief. These kids, they're awfully highfalutin with their fancy flora and fauna and fitful forensic philosophising. And the mother is worse, you can see where they get it from.

2) I don't care for the historical novel/film cliche where a character rushes in and clues us up to the bigger picture - "Have you heard, Sophie? War has broken out between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Turks, the English fleet has just been sunk, the king has fled and we have a new Pope" "Why Sir Marmalade Gin-Rummy, you don't say so, and how is the Queen?" "The Queen has syphilis and now barks like a very dog" etc etc.

3) For 350 pages the writing is lovely and the recreation of one tiny corner of the Congo convinced me. Ah if it was only all like that, then we could remain friends and there would be no tears before bedtime.

4) After that it goes really wrong. I mean, seriously.

5) But 350 pages can't be denied. It's more than you get from most books.

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01/29 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-33)

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Charissa Oh Paul... this is perhaps my favorite book ever. I'm so jealous that you get to read it for the first time. I would love to go back and have that experience over again. I had hoped that Kingsolver's novels would continue to live up to this but she has drifted into preachy non-fiction with regards to the environment. This story is worth the price of admission though. Good reading to you.

message 32: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Bryant There are a small number of novels which seemingly every single goodreader has read or is reading and 99% of them seem to like - this is one of them. I have noticed these titles and I thought I'd better take a shot at some of them. The Kite Runner is the current one here, also The Time Traveller's Wife and What is the What - several more. But my Goodreads friends seem to love the Poisonwood Bible so I'll be getting to it after I've dealt with a global war against zombies.

Charissa Kite Runner I haven't read yet... and may not. I have difficulty reading about child predation. It's not something I'm willing to subject myself to very often.

Time Traveller's Wife was a very good story... but the end wound up being predictable for me, so I was disappointed. However, up until that point it was a lovely lovely book.

Actually I preferred another story which I read around the same time (on a trip to Paris) "The History of Love":

Knowing what I do about you I think you would enjoy this book immensely.

PS... Yay zombies!

message 30: by Ruth (new)

Ruth I've only read one Kingsolver, the Bean Trees. I thought the writing was so poor, and the agenda so thinly disguised that I there and then decided it would be my last.


Dottie The Poisonwood Bible held up to rereading -- twice. Haven't had occasion to revisit it but wouldn't discount it happening down the road a ways.

It may have helped that this is Congo based -- Belgium and Congo being a link in my personal vernacular as well as the real world. It may also have helped that I had cousin who was a rather wild-eyed snake-oily type of preacher with familyn blinders the size of planet earth -- and well -- the book just HIT and it says some things which are becoming increasingly on Kingsolver's real-life agenda and are also on my mind more and more.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

message 28: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Bryant Hi Mrs K - what was wrong with Kite Runner?

message 27: by Ruth (new)

Ruth Yeah, K. I liked Kite Runner. The writing was a tad clumsy, and the plot sucked, but it was a fascinating look into a society I know little about.


message 26: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Bryant Yeah, K - whassup?

message 25: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Bryant Hey Mrs K, you know I wouldn't chuck you off anything. Just wanted to find out why you had the temerity to not adore a book so much beloved by the great multitude of bookreaders not just on bookface but across the entire known world and in all time zones and for all I know on the space shuttle if there is one at the moment, I can't remember, has it run out of petrol? I can't remember, I have these headaches. But I do remember one thing. The Kite Runner is a Great book. Our children's children's children, apart from being uncomfortable that they're mentioned in a Moody Blues abum title, will be reading The Kite Runner. But apparently. Mrs K, you won't. What does this tell us?

message 23: by Paul (last edited Jan 04, 2008 09:14PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Bryant The words aren't entirely clear so to enable you to sing along here they are. I have found that this works well as an a capella piece with a child and an adult. One or the other sings "papa ooh mir mir" constantly in the background and the other sings the following words:

We have just discovered an important note from space
The Martians plan to throw a dance for all the human race

Papa ooh mir mir papa ooh mir mir papa ooh mir mir papa ooh mir mir
Ee-ee-ee ee-ee

I got into my rocket ship to see the Martian Hop
I saw the planet shining red so there I made my stop
But as I opened up the door and climbed the ladder down
I saw the Martians on the floor a-dancin' to this sound

Ee-ee-ee ee-ee the Martian Hop ee-ee-ee ee-ee-ee-ee

I saw I was the first one there and so I was surprised
To see the Martians twist and stomp before my very eyes
They did the locomotion and the hully-gully too
I couldn't name a single dance the Martians couldn't do

Ee-ee-ee ee-ee the Martian Hop ee-ee-ee ee-ee-ee-ee

Now right around the stroke of twelve the dance had just begun
The earth kids parked their spaceship down on Mars to have some fun
And so I left my friends, the Martians, stomping on the ground
And even though I'm back on earth I still can hear this sound.

Ee-ee-ee ee-ee the Martian Hop ee-ee-ee ee-ee-ee-ee
(fade out while repeating "papa ooh mir mir")

message 22: by Paul (last edited Jan 19, 2008 01:14AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Bryant You should read the first 350 pages, they're the
toppermost of the poppermost.

But if you ever should think I'm severe in my reviewing, may I present the Gold Standard of Severe, the all time greatest Goodreads Diatribe :

message 21: by Whitaker (new)

Whitaker Thanks for pointing me to the Missa Luba.

message 20: by Trish (new)

Trish "Sheaf thy acid quill"...but not till a drop of poison spilled from thy sharpened shaft..

message 19: by Anthony (new) - added it

Anthony Wow!! the first paragrph that you had put down was amazing desciption, I can't beleave that they actually said that in the book.

message 18: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Bryant er, the first paragraph is me, not Miss Kingsolver

message 17: by Anthony (new) - added it

Anthony Oh ok, but still good paragraph.

message 16: by Jana (last edited Dec 17, 2012 05:29PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jana I loved your review, if I disagree with your feelings on the book. Keep the acid quill at the ready. I'd love to see your take on say, Twilight - if you would stoop to such depravity.

message 15: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Bryant Thanks Jana - I wouldn't do Twilight but you may be glad to know I've hated various other novels! Such as these

feel free to enjoy my temper tantrums!

message 14: by Clova (new)

Clova I like that "suspend great balefuls of disbelief", that is so true. I have reached page 100 with a fair amount of skimming, and this book is boring me senseless.

message 13: by Clova (new)

Clova Will I get into trouble if I say it needs editing, the various view points are a cop out and often result in repetition and that generally the whole delivery is rather patronising, maybe a bit like a kids book? (what would happen if I said I thought that this book is disposable chaff and bran for those who dont like to work too hard when they other words the writing is just a bit crap?

message 12: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Bryant wow, I bet you've now had to go into the FBI witness protection programme!

message 11: by Clova (new)

Clova Ha ha ha. Living on the edge on Goodreads!

message 10: by Meh (new) - rated it 4 stars

Meh This was a very unique review. The wrote you wrote it was very interesting and I agree, the first 350 pages were the best part.

Paul Bryant thanks Meh!

Aliyah This review was funny. I have to disagree though I found the first 100 pages boring and dwells too much on magical realism and symbolism. It felt like I was watching an episode of Lost. But the story only becomes interesting when the wife and kids leave the crazy priest and just before and after Ruth May's death. Other than that, the book was terrible throughout. When the women leave Congo etc. I don't know about you but Ruth May and Adah irritated me the most. Rachel became annoying when she married Axelroot and afterwards.

Paul Bryant Hmm, maybe I would like Lost. I never saw that. Thanks for the tip.

Talatha At first I was confused when you said 350 pages, but I understand now. This book, well as far as I have read which is just past book 4 when Ruth May Dies, reminds me of that time when I saw a documentary of the Jonestown Massacre; more specifically, when I saw an old woman sobbing because she was forced to admit that this moment is what stole her faith away. Anyway, The first point you made I agree with a bit more than I should, given that I choose to give this book five stars instead of the four I was considering. Maybe I am just more optimistic to her style then I was saddened by how much I could tell that the fifteen year old teenagers were talking as though they were 20 and the 17 year old teenager had a -very forcible attempt at- speech equivalent of a 13 year old. However, I have yet to read a book where the author was fully able to eliminate her/his voice from the characters, and like how every daughter (except maybe Ruth May before her bout with malaria) seems to have a sudden spurt of repetitive metaphoric and intelligent language that obviously could only have originated from a singular adult source rather than three separate voices, novels will always have something that reveals distinctively the voice of the writer over the character being portrayed. That being said I truly love this book so far (as do all of my classmates) and I excitedly await discovering what happens next.

Paul Bryant You make a very solid point about the author's voice - I am reading a giant novel (A Naked Singularity) in which all the characters talk in identical lawyer-type pendantic longwindedness whether they're lawyers or not, except for on street character who talks like a script of The Wire. Strangely this doesn't make it a bad novel. Dickens tried to invent verbal tics and catch phrases for a lot of his characters to distinguish them, and sometimes it works, and sometimes it grates because it's obviously an author trick. Multiple voices must be one of the most difficult things an author does. One guy who does it brilliantly is Joyce in Ulysses.

And thanks for your comments!

message 4: by Julianna (new)

Julianna I enjoy your tone. Paul, do you write? If not, please do.

Paul Bryant I write a whole lot of reviews here!

Kellie I agree with Julianna! Write Paul!

Paul Bryant well... like I say I do my thing here on GR...

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