Flight Behaviour

A review of the Orange prize winning book by Barbara Kingsolver.

The excerpt on the back of the book starts “A certain feeling comes from throwing your good life away” but as I started to read Flight Behaviour I quickly began to wonder just how ‘good’ Dellarobia’s life was to begin with.

Dellarobia, as you probably already realised, is the central character in the book, the rest of which revolves mainly around her family consisting of husband Cub, children Cordelia (Cordy) and Preston and her in-laws Hester and Bear. Della’s own parents having died some years ago.

The novel caught me by surprise slightly, when a mobile phone was first mentioned; I hadn’t realised it was set in current times. Della’s best friend of many years, Dovey, liked to text her little funny messages especially ironic little things she found outside churches. Things such as ‘Did you know that Moses was a basket case?”. Dovey is about the only person that Della can talk to outside the family.

From page one, the flame haired Della. is on her way up the mountain behind her home, to do something that is going to change her life. It does, but it is not what she set out to do when she left home. When the mountain bursts into ‘flame’ all around her It changes everything; not only her life but her family’s too, in ways neither she, nor anyone else would have imagined. Della’s life up until then had been that of a smart, unfulfilled woman who does not have the opportunity to live up to her potential, married to a good man but, probably, the wrong man.

Flight Behaviour intersperses Della’s tale with the ecological story of a swarm of Monarch butterflies; King Billies as Hester calls them, that have taken up residence on their land. With adept, sometimes subtle storytelling using the King Billies, Barbara addresses, and dispels a few myths along the way, one of the big contentious issues of our time: climate change.

Barbara Kingsolver has written a number of books and essays, poetry, non-fiction and novels, of which The Poisonwood Bible is perhaps the most well known. Flight Behaviour was Barbara’s seventh novel and in 2012 was a New York Times best seller and went on to win the The Orange Prize for Fiction in the same year.

As readers of my earlier reviews might remember, I review subjectively not attempting to take an objective, impartial view of a professional reviewer/critic.

Whilst I didn’t dislike this book, and can appreciate some of the careful and detailed descriptive passages, It is not one which grabbed my attention in a way that made me want to keep turning the page. If I hadn’t been reading it to discuss at Journey Book Group, I could have easily put Flight Behaviour down, at almost any point in the story, and not picked up the book again.

Dovey remarked to Della that
“there was 
no end to the amount of effort a
would put into saving himself some work.”


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