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Come and chat to BARBARA KINGSOLVER in a Q&A, Tue 25 June, 9-10pm - and read her latest book, FLIGHT BEHAVIOUR

(74 Posts)
TillyBookClub Wed 15-May-13 10:29:34

Barbara Kingsolver is a particularly fearless author. She tackles complex subjects with passion and vast knowledge. She is also one of America's most feted writers, author of the global bestseller The Poisonwood Bible, and the Orange Prize winner The Lacuna. Her latest book, FLIGHT BEHAVIOUR, is on the shortlist for the 2013 Women's Fiction Prize. It tackles one of the most contentious and tricky contemporary issues: climate change. Dellarobia Turnbow, a young, inquisitive mother of two small children is living on her in-laws farm in rural, Bible-Belt Appalachia. A shotgun marriage has left her dissatisfied and trapped, a stay-at-home mum who was the 'loneliest kind of lonely, in which she was always and never by herself.' Everything changes on the autumn day that she sees a miracle on the mountain - a burning lake of fire that turns out to be millions of orange butterflies. The insects have been diverted from their usual journey to Mexico by the unpredictable weather that is also creating havoc on the failing farm. The media soon leaps on the story of 'Our Lady of the Butterflies', and scientists arrive to study the phenomenon, battling against the farmers who need to clear the land for their livelihood. Kingsolver's understanding of her subject combined with her empathy for those on struggling on the breadline, makes this a meaningful, deeply affecting novel.

You can find details on every Kingsolver book at her official website. It includes a fascinating autobiography with slides, giving an insight into how close she came to throwing her first novel away...

Faber have 50 copies to give to Mumsnetters - to claim yours please go to the book of the month page. We'll post here when all the copies have gone. If you're not lucky enough to bag one of the free books, you can always get your paperback or Kindle version here.

We are thrilled that Barbara will be answering questions about her writing career and all her novels, including FLIGHT BEHAVIOUR, in an emailed Q&A. So please feel free to discuss the book here throughout the month, pop up your questions (about this book or any of her others) by Tue 18 June, and we will post the answers on the bookclub night, Tue 25 June, 9-10pm.

linkainka Wed 19-Jun-13 11:17:35

What inspired you to write the book?

kokorako Wed 19-Jun-13 11:25:08

Hi Barbara - I loved FLIGHT BEHAVIOUR. thank you (and have given it to at least 4 friends now). Two questions:
1) Do you think it has had the impact you hoped re how people respond to climate change? At our book group (in my kitchen) the mums mostly enjoyed it but still didn't seem to make the connection re flying off for work-holidays/their carbon use/choice of lifestyles (I work as an eco-bunny campaigner so they had an extra clue).
2) Although I adore the butterflies I worry that all your book is based on sound science - except the butterflies. I'm sure you angst-ed about this, but in retrospect does it feel like it gave climate deniers an opportunity to poke holes in the narrative?

PS - thanks to your book "Animal,Vegetable, Miracle" my family now always has homemade pizza on friday night!!!

Hullygully Wed 19-Jun-13 11:31:07

I haven't finished Flight Behaviour yet, But I have read all your other books, Barbara, and I would just like to take my hat off and sweep the ground with it in a low bow of admiration for your prodigious talents.

funmummy48 Wed 19-Jun-13 16:14:22

I could have sworn I'd already posted a question last week but can't see it here so I must have had a "mummy moment" and forgotten to press "post message". I'd like to ask Barbara whether she felt there was a connection between the Monarch butterfly and Dellarobia in that they both had drifted off course and had ended up somewhere other than where they should have been. Dellarobia seems to have felt misplaced for most of her adult life.......was this something Barbara intended or did it evolve during the unfolding of Dellarobia's story? Thank you!

Cecilia1963 Wed 19-Jun-13 16:36:32

I don't have a question as such. However, Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favourite modern authors (favourite un-modern authors being George Elliot, Mrs Gaskell, etc.).

I haven't yet read her new book, am looking forward to that pleasure in the holidays! But absolutely loved 'Pigs in Heaven', 'The Bean Tree', 'La Lacuna', 'The Prodigal Summer'. And, of course, 'The Poisonwood Bible'. A few years ago, I met a journalist whose family came from the Congo, who recommended that book to me, saying it was the 'best work of fiction about the Congo'.

I know she's a trained biologist, I know she researchers her subjects thoroughly. I've heard her interviewed a few times.

So - just taking advantage of the chance to say, on record, Great Writer!

DoItTooJulia Wed 19-Jun-13 19:48:45

Wow! I have had to reregister because I am so excited to see Barbara Kingsolver here! I am a huge fan. I even had to play around with my username, happily I think I prefer my subversion!

I think my favourite works are the essay collections, especially High Tide In Tucson. I was wondering if Barbara (if I may be so casual!) had any plans for more non fiction/essay collections?

Also I am really interested to know more about where it comes from. Where does the story come from? Has everybody got a story to tell? Do you see untold stories everywhere and collect them up, picking the very best to expand on and research and eventually craft into a novel? Or not?

Finally, I would love to know who you read! Do you read a lot for work? Do you read for pleasure? Any recommendations?

I haven't read Flight Behaviour yet but I can't wait to.


valiumredhead Wed 19-Jun-13 20:03:32

Oh goodness, The Poisonwood Bible is very well thumbed in this house, I think I've read it about 5x! Each time I read it I discover something new.

Where did the story come from, was it based on your experiences? It felt so real.

Can't wait to read the new booksmile

Excuse any typos I'm posting from my phone!

Trinski Wed 19-Jun-13 20:12:43

I finished Flight Behaviour last night and very much enjoyed it. Thank you!
My question:
Was it your aim from the start to educate about climate change or did this develop as you went along?
It's handled so well and as others have said, not at all 'preachy'.
Can't wait to start The Lacuna now.

coffeeanybody Wed 19-Jun-13 22:39:49

Really excited about this interview, Poisonwood Bible is one of my all time fav's. My question would be: What kind of process does Barbara go through to research her books?

Sapeke Wed 19-Jun-13 23:46:32

I was lucky enough to receive a free copy so Flight Behaviour went right to the top of my (very long) list of books to read one day. I loved it right from the start. The climate change theme makes this an important book but the way that theme is woven so perfectly into the story of complex and real characters makes it a great read. What really spoke to me were the telling details of Dellarobia's life - I can't think of another book that puts the daily grind of being a hard up mother of 2 kids centre stage.
I think one of the joys of a good book is not being able to predict the ending and I was surprised when D had her talk with Preston about her plans for the future. I confess I was a bit sorry that she wasn't going to stick with Cub (who could suddenly become worthy of her!), and I wondered whether you considered any alternative endings. Thank you!

disciple Thu 20-Jun-13 08:54:54

I read most of Barbara Kingsolver new book 'Flight Behaviour' and I really liked the descriptions and the colours she used. The rusty oranges and all the browns. Also her descriptions of the character, you can really relate to her and also the colours and the quality of her clothing. It made me feel I want to go away and see those wonderful colours BK is describing!

richardsmith Thu 20-Jun-13 12:08:24


maggiecockbain Thu 20-Jun-13 13:40:23

I would like to ask Barbara Kingseller where she gets her inspiration to write and how she prepares to write her novels? Cheers Maggie at Tutor Doctor Private Tutors.

Hullygully Thu 20-Jun-13 19:54:05

Ok, I've just finished. I wonder why you plumped for the optimistic ending? I can see it was necessary, fictionally, it felt like hope was necessary and the growth and change of Dellarobia, and of course that decision to move and grow and fight for life fits with the butterflies, adapting and hanging on in there, AND I would have been bitterly disappointed without a happy(ish) ending as who wants realism in their escapism? BUT the truth is we are doomed, the planet is doomed...doesn't ending with hope let people off the hook? Doesn't it allow the fiction of possibility to continue? Or is it so hopeless there isn't even any point in telling the truth?

I loved the book, btw. Dellarobia a superb creation, wonderful for simple explication and point-making and still human.

I loved Lacuna too.

What are we having next?

fasterthanthewind Thu 20-Jun-13 20:34:50

I loved some of Kingsolver's early books, and have read some them many times. Turtle and Taylor stay with me as 'real people', as do several characters from Prodigal Summer.

Couldn't bear Animal, Vegetable, Mineral - horribly horribly smug, and the worse because I recognised parts of myself in the life she was recounting.

I found Flight Behaviour very patchy. There was much too much 'telling' in it for me - I had to be told how Dellarobia and (particularly) Cub were feeling. Indeed I felt that what we were shown of them together - mending fences, working on the farm - was of a familiar, united couple.

My question: To what extent are your books autobiographical?

valiumredhead Thu 20-Jun-13 20:41:11

Whoa! Don't sugar coat it!wink

HazelDormouse Sun 23-Jun-13 11:01:59

Thank you Mumsnet for introducing me to such a great author. I doubt that I will be able to finish the novel before the bookclub night. I really don't want to rush reading it. I would rather savour the words and images. I will look out for her other novels.

Would most people try 'The Poisonwood Bible' after this?

valiumredhead Sun 23-Jun-13 11:05:06

TPB is the most visual book I have ever read, it is so 'real,' you'll enjoy it for suresmile smile

gailforce1 Sun 23-Jun-13 17:16:30

I would like to ask Barbara which authors she reads and could she recommend any "up and coming" American authors we should be watching out for in the UK? Thanks.

TillyBookClub Sun 23-Jun-13 21:14:15

Thanks to all for their excellent questions.

Anyone who still hasn't popped theirs up here yet, please do it by tomorrow eve (that's Monday 24 June) as the final list will be going to Barbara first thing Tuesday morning.

To give everyone a little more time, we're also moving the discussion night (when we'll post Barbara's answers) to next week - I'll post the new date as soon as we've confirmed.

Gargamella Mon 24-Jun-13 22:04:23

Way-hay. Thanks for the extension, Tilly. Only finished this one today and I've stated away from here for fear of spoilers.

I loved this book - really beautiful and thought-provoking. The most moving scenes for me were those centred on parenting on a tight budget. Did anyone else feel like this or was that more peripheral to the ecological messages for others? I guess some of it just really struck a chord with me. My parents often used to get our Christmas presents second hand shops, for example, and there was one time I was delighted with a board game that was really popular - only some pieces were missing. My mother told me if I wrote to the manufacturer explaining I was sad about this they'd be more likely to help me than they would a grown up. I did and they sent spares. So I was really behind Preston haggling for the encyclopaedia set...

Anyway, a question for Barbara at last: did you set out to raise awareness of living in poverty, or was that more of a side issue for you too?

Gargamella Mon 24-Jun-13 22:05:09

oops - stayed away...

TillyBookClub Tue 25-Jun-13 13:13:17

OK, the deadline for questions is now officially closed, and we've sent all the above messages to Barbara.

We'll post her answers on Tuesday 9th July, 9-10pm - and that'll also be the time to come along and discuss Barbara's books with everyone, tell us what you think of her latest novel, etc.

Meanwhile, hope you all also joining us to talk about our July choice, Kevin Powers exceptionally powerful THE YELLOW BIRDS. I can't recommend it highly enough, absolutely one of my top books of 2013.

TillyBookClub Tue 09-Jul-13 20:24:12

Evening everyone

Tonight's bookclub will kick off a little earlier than advertised, at 8.30pm. That gives us time to post Barbara's answers to the questions above, and then everyone can discuss FLIGHT BEHAVIOUR, or Barbara's other novels, or anything they like, as they wish.

Meanwhile, as a quick taster, here are Barbara's answers to the two Mumsnet standard questions we ask all our authors:

What childhood book most inspired you?

I'll join virtually every female American writer I know in the choice of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. I read it as a restless seven-year-old cramped in the back seat during a long car trip, and it's my earliest memory of utterly leaving my present circumstances to become someone else inside the wide spaces of a book. Holy cow, I thought, here lies magic. Jo March as apotheosis.

What would be the first piece of advice to anyone attempting to write fiction?

Read ravenously, and well. Read the kinds of books you wish you had written yourself.

BarbaraKingsolver Tue 09-Jul-13 20:33:11


Hello Ms Kingsolver

I read The Poisonwood Bible about 15 years ago now, but parts of it are still firmly in my head. I'm looking forward to starting Flight Behaviour.

I was reading the biography on your website and saw that you nearly threw your first novel, The Bean Trees, in the bin. My question is, if you had thrown it away do you think you would still have gone on to write your other books?

Absolutely. And I might have thrown all those in the trash bin also, if I hadn't figured out the slightly more pro-active option. I write stories for essentially the same reason I breathe: no other version of living seems manageable. Audience is not the motive. I love you all, but I don't even think about letting you into my office to peer over my shoulder when I'm writing.

Realistically, though, if I hadn't published that first novel and gotten paid for it, I wouldn't have had the freedom to quit my day job and support my family as a full-time novelist ever since. So I'm very grateful for readers, and the subsequent books you've underwritten with your support.

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