Riveting - do read in a heat wave as it's a cold and wet setting that can chill you to the bone - emotionally and physically!
The writing in this is stunning, but too over-the-top. It's relentless, even when stunning description is not needed, and it gets in the way of character development and story telling. And the tone is so dreary and sad. I know this is greatly praised by people who are qualified to praise good writing, but I was not sorry to have the book end.
If I hadn't already read "Gilead," "Home," and "Lila," I'd probably have given this book five stars. But having read them all first, and going back to Robinson's first novel, it's easy to see that it IS her first novel. The promise is obviously there, the fluid writing, the wrestling with important themes. But her later books show so much more maturity as a writer. Even so, I enjoyed this immensely, for its range of vision and emotion, and its ability to make human odd and twisted characters.
I think you are going to either love this book or rate it, as I did, as a bit above average only because the writing itself is so evocative. There is little 'housekeeping' in the usual sense in this book. In fact the majority of the story takes place when the house is definitely the last thing on the characters' minds. Two girls, Ruthie and her younger sister Lucille, are orphaned when their mother commits suicide, and left with a grandmother who does housekeeping but is distant with them. Next a couple of maiden great-aunts who know nothing about children take over. Finally their mother's eccentric sister, Sylvie, arrives. Now we literally start wading through themes - loneliness and aloneness, belonging, not belonging, death, loss, and water, water everywhere and seemingly nothing to slake the thirst of the soul. Quite a tough read but thankfully not too long. If you can handle the subject matter, you will probably like the images and writery prose found on almost every page.
she weaves a beautiful story with very memorable imagery.
Marilynne Robinson's debut novel, which the NYT called one of the best novels of the past 3 decades. I prefer her second, the Pulitzer prize winning "Gilead." This reminded me a bit of Willa Cather's books, especially "O Pioneers" and "My Antonia."
Simply put: Marilynne Robinson is a genius, and I would do just about anything to be able to put a sentence together the way she does.
I have recommended this book to everyone I know. It's hauntingly beautiful. Simple as that.
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