Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver

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Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Robin Leggett
Reviewed by Robin Leggett
Summary: Set in red-neck, bible-belt Tennessee, Kingsolver pits science against faith in this story of global warming and its implications, while also exploring the very personal feelings of a wife trapped on a failing farm.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 Date: November 2012
Publisher: Faber and Faber
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0571290772

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Set in rural Tennessee, Dellarobia Turnbow is a young mother, trapped in the result of a shotgun wedding in a largely loveless marriage on her husband's failing family farm dominated by the disapproval of her God-fearing mother in law. She dreams of escape with equally unsuitable younger men until one day on her way to acting on this impulse for the first time, she encounters an act of nature that will change her life for good. Barbara Kingsolver perfectly captures in the opening paragraphs the sense of entrapment and dissatisfaction of Dellarobia and doesn't let up for a moment.

Kingsolver's books often involve an element of politics and frequently this is politics that the West in particular would rather ignore. Less frequently her books utilise Kingsolver's pre-novelist past of a degree in biology and time spent working as s scientist, but this is used to good effect here as she convincingly looks at the issues of global warming. In setting her book in the bible belt, she is also able to weigh science against faith. The act of nature she sees is at first attributed to God's intervention and blessing on the farm, but soon we discover a rather less attractive scientific explanation with the arrival of scientist, Ovid Byron. And before you question the unusual names, apparently they are all derived from Kingsolver's own family tree.

As with her previous book, The Lacuna, which pretty much exhausted the various meanings of the word, her title here of Flight Behaviour has multiple meanings. It not only refers to the explanation for the science behind the strange phenomenon on the farm and to Dellarobia's initial aim of fleeing her life, but also to the flight or fight response that causes most people to fail to address the warnings of global warming.

Although she addresses major issues in the book, the novel is first and foremost about characters. The reader genuinely feels for Dellarobia's situation and every character is well drawn and convincing. In particular there's the plucky childhood friend of Dellarobia, Dovey who provides much of the comic relief to the story. In fact it's a slight shame that she doesn't feature more frequently in the book. This is another strength of the book for while she is dealing with serious and often depressing issues, there's plenty of light-hearted moments and some genuinely funny moments, not least the young protesters who turn up at the wrong house.

The great strength of the book is that it combines important issues with a very good story. The only slight let down for me was in the ending which is a little anti-climactic. It's not the first time that I've thoroughly enjoyed a Kingsolver book only to be slightly disappointed by the ending - endings are not her forte. But this shouldn't put you off. It's an engrossing read and one that will make you think as well as being an extremely enjoyable story. Her characters come to life and with Dellarobia in particular there is a satisfying arc to her story.

Our grateful thanks to the kind people at Faber and Faber for sending us this Women's Prize for Fiction long listed book.

For more climate change driven fiction, Solar by Ian McEwan is well a very different approach to the issue, while the science/faith question gets an equally engrossing run in the moral thriller The Heart Broke In by James Meek. You might also enjoy Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

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Buy Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver at Amazon.com.


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