Friday, June 7, 2013


My copy at a jaunty angle on the coffee table where
I am currently working

Seeing as this blog is turning into a housekeeping blog, I think it might be opportune for me to review one of my favourite books: Housekeeping, or at least, favourite authors, Marilynne Robinson. I prefer her Gilead and Home, her religion-themed books. But her prose more generally does for religious writing what Shakespeare does for literature, amplifies and clarifies in one. 

Housekeeping is a different kind of MR story. I remember escape and family collapse as themes, a girl and a mother? I must re-read it soon.

The obsession continues as long as the leaves...
The cover of the book describes it as a 'classic'. The Observer rates it one of the top 100 novels 'of all time' no less. I would say that of her other books but not this one. Both Gilead and Home (two in a series) should go in the top 100, along with Mocking Bird, Catcher, Portrait, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Waves, Howard's End , Grapes of Wrath, and so on

However I might simply have been in the wrong mood for Housekeeping (not difficult!). The cover is bleak and the contents seemed also bleak to me. I don't really do bleak books if I can help it. Dark, yes, but not bleak. Bleak is without hope, I think Housekeeping lacked hope. Darkness is far from hopeless.

Housekeeping: Winner of the Pen/Hemingway Award

A modern classic, Housekeeping is the story of Ruth and her younger sister, Lucille, who grow up haphazardly, first under the care of their competent grandmother, then of two comically bumbling great-aunts, and finally of Sylvie, the eccentric and remote sister of their dead mother. The family house is in the small town of Fingerbone on a glacial lake in the Far West, the same lake where their grandfather died in a spectacular train wreck and their mother drove off a cliff to her death. It is a town "chastened by an outsized landscape and extravagant weather, and chastened again by an awareness that the whole of human history had occurred elsewhere." Ruth and Lucille's struggle toward adulthood beautifully illuminates the price of loss and survival, and the dangerous and deep undertow of transcience.
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