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am 11. Juni 2000
I have read all of Barbara Kingsolver's novels and, in my opinion, this one is her best. Five different female perspectives are given of a family's Baptist missionary conquest in the Belgian Congo. Their experience in a remote African village affects the characters, all in different ways, for the rest of their lives. Generally their accounts are dark and somewhat frightening but cleverly Kingsolver uses the voice of Rachel, the eldest daugther, to provide satirical comic relief.
The Poisonwood Bible has been frequently criticized for evolving from a well developed and interesting story into a political diatribe. I thought, however, that perhaps Kingsolver was attempting to draw parallels between the actions of one man's religious mission and the intrusion of global superpowers in Africa. Both were manipulative, self serving, and had calamitous results. I believe Kingsolver's intention was to describe the effects of foreign interference on a small scale to illustrate what a disasterous impact western influence has upon Africa on a macro level.
Kingsolver was able to combine a powerful fictious story and use it to help the reader understand the travesty of what much of Africa is presently enduring and why. The read is engaging and exciting while, at the same time, informative and enlightening.
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am 14. Oktober 2001
Barbara Kingsolver ist eine Meisterin ihres Fachs. Ihre Erzählweise fesselt an jede Zeile des Buches. Man will immer mehr erfahren. Auf keinem Fall will man sich ihrer poetischen Wörterzusammensetzungen entziehen.
Aus der Sicht der Frauen der Price Familie wird diese Familiensaga erzählt, wodurch man als Leser mehrere Perspektiven der gleichen Erfahrung miterlebt. Die Erfahrung als amerikanische Töchter und Ehefrau eines Reverend im unbekannten und zunächst sehr fremden Kongo als Missionare zu landen entlockt den vier Töchtern des Hauses keineswegs die gleichen Empfindungen.
Obwohl das Leben im Kongo nicht einfach ist und keinesfalls bei allen Mitgliedern der Price Familie gleichermassen positiv aufgenommen wird, ist der Kongo stets ein Teil aller Price Mitglieder, sogar lange nach dem Kongo.
Ein sehr empfehlenswerter Roman. Nach "Animal Dream" ein weiterer Höhepunkt Kingsolvers.
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am 18. September 2002
A real five-star-book: excellent and gripping story (US missionary familiy with zelot-father, who come to the Congo at the edge of the independence) and innovative storytelling (the story is told from the view of the daughters and the wife). If you have a little bit of a feel for Africa and like a real novel (ie developements of characters and not only some action), get it and you won't regret it.
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am 20. April 2016
What makes this book for me is that it is written by a woman who dears to have an opinion. I wish Kingslover encourages her sisters around the globe to raise their voices and write down their thoughts more frequently.
The postcolonial Congo is a setting that seems too hard to touch, high respect for the courage to try this topic and congratulations to the produced output. The narrative style is uncommon (five people, mother and her four daughters narrate their perception of what happened) but gives the author an amazing freedom to put all her thoughts into the book. Kingslover is full of thoughts, shades of reality and unusual perspectives and this is exactly how you can produce a glimpse of Africa. Actually I would love to give five stars because it’s the best I have read so far from a westerner when it comes to “capture Africa” – not that this is possible without “living Africa”. The book has some stretches - necessary to accustom the reader to the setting? – for me a bit too much of the good. In any case a very good read!
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am 7. Juni 2016
A story of an American family with a mission to serve God in Africa who through their ordeals and other useful experiences gain an insight into what many call the Trouble Heart of Africa, and so help us the reads to gain another view of life that is very enriching. Novels like Disciples of Fortune, The Poisonwood Bible, Out of Africa serve as good road maps for readers still getting familiar with contemporary Africa.
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am 31. Juli 2000
The phrase ''heart of darkness'' occurs only once, as far as I can tell, in Barbara Kingsolver's haunting new novel, ''The Poisonwood Bible.'' When it does, it falls from the mouth of Orleanna Price, a Baptist missionary's wife who uses it to describe not the Belgian Congo, where she, her husband and their four daughters were posted in 1959, but the state of her marriage in those days and the condition of what she calls ''the country once known as Orleanna Wharton,'' wholly occupied back then by Nathan Price, aforesaid husband and man of God.
Joseph Conrad's great novella flickers behind her use of that phrase, and yet it doesn't. Orleanna is not a quoting woman, and for the quoting man in the family, her strident husband, there can be only one source -- the Bible, unambiguous and entire, even in a land that demonstrates daily the suppleness of language. ''Tata Jesus is bangala!''he shouts during his African sermons. It never occurs to him that in Kikongo, a language in which meaning hangs on intonation, bangala may mean '''precious and dear,'' but it also means the poisonwood tree -- a virulent local plant -- when spoken in the flat accent of an American zealot.
The Prices are Nathan and Orleanna and their daughters: Ruth May, the youngest; Rachel, the oldest, a pale blond Mrs. Malaprop of a teen-ager; and the twins, Leah and Adah. Both twins are gifted, but Adah suffers from hemiplegia, which leaves her limping and nearly speechless. The female members of the family narrate ''The Poisonwood Bible'' in turn. Orleanna does so in retrospect, from her later years on Sanderling Island, off the coast of Georgia. The girls, however, tell their story from the Congo as it happens, on the precipice of events, like an epistolary novel written from a place with no postal service and no hope of pen pals.
Nathan Price narrates nothing. And yet his certitude -- and the literal-minded ferocity with which he expresses it -- is the altar around which these women arrange themselves. We already know his story, Kingsolver implies. Most of what we have always heard, she suggests, are stories told by men like him. ''The Poisonwood Bible'' thus belongs to the women, and it is a story about the loss of one faith and the discovery of another, for each woman according to her kind. As Adah, so bright, so willing to torque the mother tongue, puts it, ''One god draws in the breath of life and rises; another god expires.''
The Congo permeates ''The Poisonwood Bible,'' and yet this is a novel that is just as much about America, a portrait, in absentia, of the nation that sent the Prices to save the souls of a people for whom it felt only contempt, people who already, in the words of a more experienced missionary, ''have a world of God's grace in their lives, along with a dose of hardship that can kill a person entirely.'' The Congolese are not savages who need saving, the Price women find, and there is nothing passive in their tolerance of missionaries. They take the Americans' message literally -- elections are good, Jesus too -- and expose its contradictions by holding an election in church to decide whether or not Jesus shall be the personal god of Kilanga. Jesus loses.
And yet, for all its portraiture of place, its reflexive political vitriol, its passionate condemnation of Nathan Price, ''The Poisonwood Bible'' is ultimately a novel of character, a narrative shaped by keen-eyed women contemplating themselves and one another and a village whose familiarity it takes a tragedy to discover. Rachel is the epitome of America's material culture, a cunning, brainless girl who parodies television commercials and says of Eeben Axelroot, ''I'm willing to be a philanderist for peace, but a lady can only go so far where perspiration odor is concerned.'' Ruth May, the baby, is the innocent whose words betray the guilty; she is the catalyst that splits the Price family apart. ''The Poisonwood Bible'' turns on several axes, and one of them is Leah's struggle to rebalance herself morally when she finally realizes exactly who her father is. Once she had said, ''My father wears his faith like the bronze breastplate of God's foot soldiers, while our mother's is more like a good cloth coat with a secondhand fit.'' But when the armor fell, she saw that Nathan Price's ''blue eyes with their left-sided squint, weakened by the war, had a vacant look. His large reddish ears repelled me. My father was a simple, ugly man.''
All the Prices adapt to the Congo, in their way, but Adah and Leah are carried farthest in their adaptation. Rachel accomplishes this by not adapting at all. ''The way I see Africa,'' she says, ''you don't have to like it but you sure have to admit it's out there. You have your way of thinking and it has its, and never the train ye shall meet!'' For Adah, adaptation comes in the form of unforgiving self-discovery, the realization that ''even the crooked girl believed her own life was precious.''
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am 3. Juni 1999
In The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver has painted a broad and deep fictional portrait of a family of innocents abroad in a very real world they neither control nor - at least initially - understand. She has also painted a very clear picture of that world as it actually existed and unfolded. Although it is possible to quibble with certain aspects of the telling of this story, I nevertheless found this to be compelling and deeply satisfying reading. The author tells the story of a rural American religious missionary whose personal demons lead him to drag his family of five women (a long-suffering wife and four young daughters) off to the African interior (the Belgian Congo) in 1959. The story is told through the women's voices, and very distinctive voices they are. One is intentionally obtuse and materialistic and consistently quite irritating, the others varied, interesting and generally quite perceptive in their own ways. The history of the world in which the characters find themselves is itself at least as complex as any of the characters themselves, and is - in my moderately educated opinion on the subject - true to the actual course of modern African history. The novel, in fact, pulls no punches in describing the nature and consequences of Western (and especially American) involvement in Africa through much of the period from first contact through at least the mid-20th Century, and this is likely to stick in the throats of readers who like their history sugar-coated. Ms. Kingsolver has brought recognizable and articulate American sensibilities to a clear-eyed story of private and public betrayals of trust and, in so doing, has done her readership a real service. She has also told a wonderful story. If some of her readers are uncomfortable with that, then so be it. Thank you, Barbara.
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am 17. März 2000
I didn't want to read this book. And even after I began reading it, it did not pull me in for several chapters. But after the first time around, through each of the voices, the characters came clearly into focus, and I was lost. Even now, days after finishing the book, I remain in the spell it cast.
Kingsolver presents this experience of an uprooted middle-American family desperately trying to adapt to life in the Congo from 5 different points of view - a mother, and each of her 4 very different daughters. Similarly to Pears' technique in An Instance of the Fingerpost, Kingsolver tells a part of the story from each different viewpoint. Like Pears, each of her narrators has a strong, clear, very real personality. But Kingsolver outdoes Pears in that each of her narrators has a characteristic voice all her own. Orleanna is a desperate and naive young mother, striving to keep her children well. Rachel is the self-centered beauty queen, Leah is an earnest, brilliant tomboy, Adah is Leah's crippled, bitter, perhaps more brilliant twin, and then there is little Ruth May, bossy and competitive. Each one's different perspective meshes with the others' to create a complete and engrossing picture of the whole.
In the unfolding of the drama, there is a wealth of sensory detail, and plenty of humor to offset plenty of tragedy. The incongruous differences in social outlook, and the endless language difficulties make for lots of laughs, as well as some of the biggest tragedies.
Someone should slap Alix Wilber for calling Kingsolver's presentation of her philosophical and political viewpoint a "weakness". The message in this book is actually a social one, and isn't that one of the responsibilities of art? And whose viewpoint should she write from, if not her own? But the political message is anything but strident; the message and the story are entirely intertwined, each enhancing the other.
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am 28. Juli 2000
I had been told to expect this book to be slow to begin with and then become a "can't put down". I found the opposite. I immediately loved the langauge and the style of writing. I looked forward to returning to each daughter's story to get her perspective on events. It make me think about what progress and civilization are and whether one culture can determine what that is for another. And then, in the last third of the book, the author decided we just couldn't get the point without being hit in the head with a hammer. Many authors have attempted to educate westerners about the culture of others and the effect of outside interference and political policies, but they have done it in more subtle ways that really make you examine your beliefs and perspective. Does Ms. Kingsolver lack the skill or just the will? I did enjoy the writing enough to try another of her books, hopefully she'll give me the benefit of the doubt and assume I am intelligent enough to draw my own conclusions.
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Dieser Roman stand jahrelang auf meiner "lese ich irgendwann einmal"-Liste. Bei der günstigen neuen Taschenbuchausgabe habe ich nun zugegriffen und war zu Beginn der langerwarteten Lektüre erst einmal enttäuscht: Ich hatte Schwierigkeiten, mich in die Geschichte einzulesen und war während der ersten ca. 100 Seiten mehr als einmal in Versuchung, das Buch wieder zuzuklappen und wegzulegen. Allen, denen es ähnlich geht, kann ich sagen: Durchhalten lohnt sich in diesem Fall. Irgendwann habe ich festgestellt, dass mich die Geschichte wider Erwarten doch noch gefangen genommen hat, und ich habe sie wirklich gern gelesen.

Die Handlung beginnt 1959, als der Baptistenprediger Nathan Price mit seiner Familie in den Kongo geht, um dort als Missionar zu arbeiten. Die Geschichte wird abwechselnd von seiner Frau und den vier Kindern - nie von Nathan - erzählt. Man erfährt viel über die Personen durch die Art und Weise, wie sie über ihre Zeit in Afrika berichten. Die vollkommen fremde Kultur, die sehr primitive Lebensweise in dem Dorf mitten im Urwald, die exotischen und teilweise gefährliche Tier- und Pflanzenwelt - die Familie Price ist von all den neuen Eindrücken anfangs förmlich erschlagen. Es ist spannend, mitzuverfolgen, wie sie ihre Zeit in Afrika erlebt. So unterschiedlich die Charaktere der fünf Erzählerinnen sind, so unterschiedlich ist auch ihr Erzählstil. Die halbseitig gelähmte Adah etwa spricht kaum, ist aber eine sehr aufmerksame Beobachterin, die die Sprache der Einheimischen schnell lernt und deshalb mehr vom Leben ihrer Nachbarn versteht als die anderen. Ihre Zwillingsschwester Leah ist dagegen ruhelos, aber auch mutig und bereit, sich auf Neues einzulassen. Rachel, die Älteste der Töchter, ist deutlich weniger intelligent als ihre Schwestern und oberflächlich. Sie vermisst die amerikanische Zivilisation am meisten und kann Afrika nichts abgewinnen. Ruth May schließlich ist mit fünf Jahren die Jüngste der Familie, und entsprechend kindlich und neugierig erkundet sie ihre neue Welt. Orleanna Price, ihre Mutter, erzählt ihre Geschichte in Rückblenden und deshalb mit einer gewissen Distanz. Alle Erzählperspektiven haben eins gemeinsam: Sie sind sehr gut geschrieben und klingen glaubhaft.

Nicht nur der neue Alltag in Afrika macht den Frauen in der Familie Price das Leben schwer. Nathan ist ein engstirniger, vom Krieg traumatisierter Mann, der nur seine eigene Meinung gelten lässt und vor Frauen keinerlei Respekt hat. Seine anhaltenden Misserfolge als Missionar lassen den ohnehin verbitterten Mann nur noch verbissener weitermachen. Er ist ein leidenschaftlicher Prediger, der das, was er für den Willen Gottes hält, auch gern in seine Familie hineinprügelt. Das Familienleben ist in erster Linie von Angst und Verachtung geprägt.

Neben dem privaten Schicksal der Prices spielt die politische Entwicklung des Landes eine wichtige Rolle. 1959 zieht sich Belgien aus dem Kongo zurück, und statt der erhofften Unabhängigkeit und mehr Gerechtigkeit breitet sich das Chaos aus, in dem geldgierige und rücksichtslose Kräfte aus dem In- und Ausland leichtes Spiel haben. Auch wenn das Dorf, in dem die Prices sich niedergelassen haben, sehr abgelegen liegt, werden die politischen Veränderungen auch dort nach und nach spürbar. Ich wusste vor der Lektüre relativ wenig über das Land und habe einiges dazugelernt.

"The Poisonwood Bible" hat mich trotz eines etwas zähen Anfangs und einiger Längen im Schlussteil insgesamt beeindruckt. Es ist ein bewegendes und spannendes Familiendrama vor einem sehr interessanten Hintergrund. Am Ende hatte ich das Gefühl, nicht nur die Familie Price sehr gut zu kennen, sondern auch den Kongo ein bisschen kennengelernt zu haben. Es war mein erstes Buch von Barbara Kingsolver, wird aber sicher nicht das letzte sein.
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