The structure of this book is sufficiently complex and the scope ambitious enough to qualify as serous literary fiction. Unfortunately, all the narrative required to achieve this distinction nearly covers up the historical fiction contained within the book. I’m sure an English student can have a field day with this book searching for motifs, symbols and themes. Likewise the political science student can find plenty of politics in the story. But in the meantime the poor average reader is forced to wade through a lot of filler narrative to get to the action.
I found it interesting that Barbara Kingsolver did not follow the advice of her own fictional main character in this book. In the book, Harrison Shepard at one point explains to his secretary that when writing a novel it’s important to grab the reader’s attention early in the book. That failed to happen for me through the first half of this book.
With that said however, the history covered by this book was interesting. It was a tour through just about every American domestic political horror from 1930 to 1950. The red baiting of the late 40s and early 50s was almost too much to stomach. I frankly didn’t have much interest for those two Mexican artists, Diego Rivera and Frieda Kahlo. But I did find the description of Trotsky's death of interest. I knew he had been assassinated, but I didn’t know previously any of the details about how it happened.
I usually can appreciate good writing, but I guess in this case I was too impatient for the end. This book does have a good ending. It wrapped things up with a tie to the beginning of the book to make a neat package. It’s just too bad the ending couldn’t have arrived sooner.