Thursday, 19 March 2015

Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver

Dellarobia is a frustrated housewife, living in the Appalachian mountains. One day she is walking through the woods intending to meet up with a lover when she notices a mass of colour and movement in the trees. Without her glasses she can't recognise what she's seeing and interprets it as some kind of divine sign that she should return to her husband and children.

Down in Mexico, the Monarch butterflies have been driven from their traditional over-wintering roosts by climate change and forest destruction and have moved to the Appalachians as an alternative site. These butterflies are what Dellarobia saw in the woods.

Soon tourists and then scientists come to the hills to enjoy and study the insects. Dellarobia becomes involved in the scientific study of the butterflies and gets caught up in the scientists' concerns about whether they can survive an Appalachian winter.

At one point an over earnest climate change campaigner turns up to petition the tourists to reduce their carbon footprint. His conversation with Dellarobia neatly demonstrates how many environmental  activists are out of touch with people who are struggling just to survive and who in that struggle may be being environmentally friendly, not entirely by choice but through lack of money and choices.

This is a moving story about climate change and the effects that it can have on the natural world. Unfortunately I found the story much less compelling when the Monarch's were out of the frame. Many of the scenes, specially the very domestic ones and those set in various shops, felt overlong, notwithstanding the insights they offered into consumerism and dull domesticity.

Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver published by Faber


Rabbits' Guy said...

Well, some good message there anyway!

Have you seen the recent book "Cowed" about raising cattle? If/when you do, I will enjoy your review/comments.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Hi Rabbits' Guy - no I've not heard of that book, I'll try to look out for it.

Lynn said...

Have you read Barbara Kingsolver's other books? This one was not one of my favorites, but I remain a devotee of her books. Monarchs actually migrate to South America or Mexico (I forget which) so this storyline was a little cooked up.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Hi Lynn, I've read most of her books in fact! About the Monarchs, it's Mexico and she explains in the appendix that she invented their overwintering in the Appalachians as a believable consequence of near-future climate change

Bill said...

Her premise is only too probable. And, in the US, we have a major political party that resolutely refuses to accept the scientific consensus on climate change. And their argument? "I am not a scientist."

Actually, that's an improvement. They used to say it was all a hoax. Great kidders, those scientists.