Faber & Faber

Nicole Abadee reviews 'Unsheltered' by Barbara Kingsolver

Nicole Abadee
Thursday, 01 November 2018

American novelist Barbara Kingsolver is renowned for her ability to infuse her fiction with her politics, in particular a passionate concern for nature and the environment. Prodigal Summer, published in 2000, is a celebration of the relationship between humans and nature; Flight Behaviour, published in 2012, is about climate change. No surprise then that her latest novel, Unsheltered, is set during two periods of scientific upheaval – the 1870s and the present – in which humans are confronted by the undeniable evidence of their own limitations. ‘I wanted,’ Kingsolver said, ‘to look at a paradigm shift, at how people behave at these moments of history when all the rules they trusted to hold true suddenly don’t apply anymore.’

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Chopin is the greatest of them all,’ Claude Debussy told his pupil Marguerite Long, ‘for through the piano alone he discovered everything.’ This ‘everything’ had a long shadow, for Long described Debussy as ‘impregnated, almost inhabited, by [Chopin’s] pianism’. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the young Debussy ...

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1984 is back. George Orwell’s nightmare vision of governmental surveillance, secrecy, and deception clearly resonates with the revelations first leaked to the Guardian by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden. Indeed, it is practically impossible to find an account of the Snowden affair without at least one ‘Orwellian’ adjective ... ... (read more)

Auden wrote of the mature Herman Melville that he ‘sailed into an extraordinary mildness’. The same sort of thing could be found in Seamus Heaney, even though he has always written with a degree of calm, with hospitable decorum. It was this level-headedness that enabled him to write about sectarian violence in the magisterial Station Island poems (1984) ...

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