Housekeeping~Marilynne Robinson

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Honestly, this is the best book I've read in years.
She writes, And she would feel that sharp loneliness she had felt every long evening since she was a child. It was the kind of loneliness that made clocks seem slow and loud and made voices sound like voices across water. Old women she had known, first her grandmother and then her mother, rocked on their porches in the evenings and sang sad songs, and did not wish to be spoken to.
Anyone else love this book?

Beth Natale (Beth N), Monday, 19 June 2006 00:37 (eighteen years ago) link

sweet Jesus I must read this book

Roque Strew (RoqueStrew), Monday, 19 June 2006 01:28 (eighteen years ago) link

Sounds great (and a bit similar to The Hunting Gun, also a book about loneliness).

Nathalie (stevie nixed), Monday, 19 June 2006 06:50 (eighteen years ago) link

i read it a few months back and it didn't make much of an impression on me which surprised me since i would count "Gilead" (her one other novel) amongst my 10 or so favourite books. it (Housekeeping) has stayed with me though and i will probably re-read it soon. Scott Seward is a big fan of this book, maybe he'll say something when he checks in.

jed_ (jed), Monday, 19 June 2006 12:36 (eighteen years ago) link

what i mean to say is that the book seems better to me now, a few months later, than it did while i was reading it whereas, with Gilead, i had to stop reading tme and time again because it was just knocking the wind out of me time and time again.

jed_ (jed), Monday, 19 June 2006 12:39 (eighteen years ago) link

argh! i moved a "time and time again" then forgot to delete the old one.

jed_ (jed), Monday, 19 June 2006 12:43 (eighteen years ago) link

I agree, jed_ - I read Gilead first, then tracked down a copy of Housekeeping. While I enjoyed it, my mind kept going back to Gilead. A year later, more of Gilead has stuck with me, but I'd like to read Housekeeping again.

Jaq (Jaq), Monday, 19 June 2006 13:33 (eighteen years ago) link

my experience was exactly the same as jed's. although i read "housekeeping" a week after "gilead", which was probably a mistake.

toby (tsg20), Tuesday, 20 June 2006 06:25 (eighteen years ago) link

Time and time again, I wonder why I've never read either of these books. Into the pile!

Beth Parker (Beth Parker), Monday, 26 June 2006 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Since I've both sitting on a shelf, should I start with Housekeeping?

I'm Passing Open Windows (Ms Laura), Friday, 7 July 2006 06:26 (eighteen years ago) link

yes i'd say so.

jed_ (jed), Friday, 7 July 2006 09:41 (eighteen years ago) link


I'm Passing Open Windows (Ms Laura), Friday, 7 July 2006 17:44 (eighteen years ago) link

The film does a pretty successful job capturing the book's tone; and Christinte Lahti is wonderful.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn (Alfred Soto), Monday, 10 July 2006 17:30 (eighteen years ago) link

this is a horribly underrated and under-read novel, I think; the writing in it is heartbreaking and gorgeous. one of my favorite novels of the last 30 years.

kyle (akmonday), Tuesday, 11 July 2006 13:56 (eighteen years ago) link

two weeks pass...
I finally started reading this tonight - I'm liking it - even if I think sometimes the language gets a little too dictionary-like ("An old gentleman came to our door to ask for a slip of philodendron[...]"!?).

The chapter when their house floods is pretty impressive. I also enjoyed the bit involving the mother, a car and a cliff.

Jeff LeVine (Jeff LeVine), Monday, 31 July 2006 03:46 (seventeen years ago) link

philodendron is a flower/plant

kyle (akmonday), Monday, 31 July 2006 22:11 (seventeen years ago) link

And a slip is a cutting from which one may propagate that plant.

Aimless (Aimless), Monday, 31 July 2006 23:35 (seventeen years ago) link

right - i wasn't exactly confused by what he was asking for just doubting the likelihood that in the described small town America somebody would drop by to ask for "a slip of philodendron." obviously not impossible, just extremely unlikely (okay, impossible in the small town America I've lived in). read like literary show-off to me - a kind of writing that occassionally gets under my skin. I could find a lot more examples in the book, that just happened to be the last one I had read before posting so it was fresh in my mind / at my bookmark. 2/3 of the way through I think the book transcends Robinson's writing group quirks.

Jeff LeVine (Jeff LeVine), Tuesday, 1 August 2006 01:31 (seventeen years ago) link

one year passes...

Was looking for a thread about Gilead, but there doesn't seem to be one? In any case, I just found out about this:

I can't help feeling that it's going to be a disappointment, but on the other hand, I imagine I'll be buying it as soon as it's out.

toby, Tuesday, 15 April 2008 02:46 (sixteen years ago) link

her essay/speech in harper's this month is EXCELLENT! i read it out loud outside in the sun yesterday. my kids weren't impressed, but i was!

scott seward, Wednesday, 16 April 2008 16:14 (sixteen years ago) link

five months pass...

So - has anyone else read "Home"? I just finished it, and was pretty amazed.

toby, Wednesday, 1 October 2008 11:37 (fifteen years ago) link

Gilead was lovely. I need to take a look at Home. Robinson is for me sort of one line of connection between classical literature and fc2 type stuff.

s.clover, Wednesday, 1 October 2008 16:11 (fifteen years ago) link

five months pass...

I struggled for a month or two to make it through the first chapter of this book, then sat down last night and read the whole thing. What an amazing writer. So good.

badg, Tuesday, 3 March 2009 03:02 (fifteen years ago) link

one year passes...

So she was on The Daily Show last night?

kind of shrill and very self-righteous (Dr Morbius), Friday, 9 July 2010 11:59 (fourteen years ago) link

she was? she has a new book out, something to do with positivism and faith as world views.

jed_, Saturday, 10 July 2010 12:08 (fourteen years ago) link

just finished this and it's pretty wonderful, although I'm not completely sold on the character of Sophie.

like a ◴ ◷ ◶ (dyao), Thursday, 15 July 2010 12:29 (fourteen years ago) link

Sylvie -- why not?

kind of shrill and very self-righteous (Dr Morbius), Tuesday, 20 July 2010 00:44 (fourteen years ago) link

well she was this kind of a priori paragon of free-spirited feminine existence. she seemed to exist mainly for the purpose of being contrasted against. just a piston in the narrative's engine without any real force of its own.

(also, is she supposed to be an homage to plath?)

dyao, Tuesday, 20 July 2010 01:27 (fourteen years ago) link

Doesn't seem much like what I know of Plath...

But there WERE free-spirited women before feminism.

kind of shrill and very self-righteous (Dr Morbius), Tuesday, 20 July 2010 01:34 (fourteen years ago) link

hah don't get it twisted, I'm not critiquing feminism itself, just that sylvie the character seemed opaque (and robinson probably meant it to be that way) but it was in a way that I found unsatisfying

dyao, Tuesday, 20 July 2010 01:35 (fourteen years ago) link

There are free-spirited women NOW who exist outside the straightjacket of orthodox modern feminism (not to start trouble or anything).

kind of shrill and very self-righteous (Dr Morbius), Tuesday, 20 July 2010 01:41 (fourteen years ago) link

Morbs, you should read Gilead. Very different from Housekeeping, and an unforced masterpiece.

Would love to hear Bam babble about this (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 20 July 2010 01:52 (fourteen years ago) link

amen to that.

jed_, Tuesday, 20 July 2010 02:15 (fourteen years ago) link

one month passes...

she did it to me again, broke my heart with "Home".

jed_, Tuesday, 31 August 2010 12:51 (thirteen years ago) link

I wasn't as moved as I was by Gilead, but I haven't read two more finely wrought novels in recent years.

Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 31 August 2010 12:54 (thirteen years ago) link

Yeah I found it harder to get into and harder to love, but it was still masterful. I will try Housekeeping next. Her recent essays/lectures though, are bobbins.

ledge, Tuesday, 31 August 2010 13:04 (thirteen years ago) link


seriously don't read this if you plan to read the book.

when the event happens at the end of the novel it took my breath away, and i mean that quite literally. when i read the sentence describing D and her son in the car driving towards the house the shock produced a gasp and a sob that it took a few minutes for me to compose myself from before i read on. It's all the more affecting because of the way it's so deftly and quietly described; when you are a few pages from the end and you expect the thing to just ebb into silence. it was all tears for me from that point on. Did either of you anticipate it?

jed_, Tuesday, 31 August 2010 14:29 (thirteen years ago) link

I didn't, but I didn't find it that affecting either, I'm afraid. I think my problem with Home was one of sympathy and empathy. I could empathise with Glory, really understand the whys and wherefores of every issue she had - but still she seemed to me to be overthinking, obsessing over trivialities. I had trouble sympathising - in contrast to Ames in Gilead, who I thought brought just the right amount of thought to bear on each of his worries. As for Jack, of course I could sympathise, but empathy was completely lacking - perhaps understandably for such a black sheep, even one trying to make good.

ledge, Tuesday, 31 August 2010 17:29 (thirteen years ago) link

i can understand that. Maybe MR goes just too far in terms of Glory's reticence in relating her concerns. There's so much absent or merely suggested in the book, some of which is actually in Gilead, that perhaps a bit more of her inner monologue is needed to ground the thing.

jed_, Tuesday, 31 August 2010 19:22 (thirteen years ago) link

three years pass...

i mean~GODDAMN

But if she had simply brought us home again to the high frame apartment building with the scaffolding of stairs, I would not remember her that way. Her eccentricities might have irked and embarrassed us when we grew older. We might have forgotten her birthday, and teased her to buy a car or to change her hair. We would have left her finally. We would have laughed together with bitterness and satisfaction at our strangely solitary childhood, in light of which our failings would seem inevitable, and all our attainments miraculous. Then we would telephone her out of guilt and nostalgia, and laugh bitterly afterward because she asked us nothing, and told us nothing, and fell silent from time to time, and was glad to get off the phone. We would take her to a restaurant and a movie on Thanksgiving and buy her best-sellers for Christmas. We would try to give her outings and make her find some interests, but she would soften and shrink in our hands, and become infirm. She would bear her infirmities with the same taut patience with which she bore our solicitude, and with which she had borne every other aspect of life, and her silence would make us more and more furious. Lucille and I would see each other often, and almost never talk of other things. Nothing would be more familiar to us than her silence, and her sad, abstracted calm. I know how it would have been, because I have observed that, in the way people are strange, they grow stranger. We would have laughed and felt abandoned and aggrieved, never knowing that she had gone all the way to the edge of the lake to rest her head and close her eyes, and had come back again for our sakes. She would have remained untransfigured. We would never have known that her calm was as slight as the skin on water, and that her calm sustained her as a coin can float on still water. We would have known nothing of the nature and reach of her sorrow if she had come back. But she left us and broke the family and the sorrow was released and we saw its wings and saw it fly a thousand ways into the hills, and sometimes I think sorrow is a predatory thing because birds scream at dawn with a marvelous terror, and there is, as I have said before, a deathly bitterness in the smell of ponds and ditches. When we were children and frightened of the dark, my grandmother used to say if we kept our eyes closed we would not see it. That was when I noticed the correspondence between the space within the circle of my skull and the space around me. I saw just the same figure against the lid of my eye or the wall of my room, or in the trees beyond my window. Even the illusion of perimeters fails when families are separated.

johnny crunch, Friday, 14 March 2014 19:20 (ten years ago) link

one year passes...
four years pass...

Just finished this. A rum one. When it proceeds with action and dialogue it's so successful and evocative, with such a sly economy of emotive language, but too often I also felt myself wading through the many, often contrived, and often infuriating reflections of the narrator. If you went through this novel and took out every single single it would be so very improved. It tries to tell, so copiously, when it achieves everything it needs to through showing. I suppose this is a commonplace pitfall of debut novels; I'm told the Gilead uses the hokey-simile voice as well, but much more appropriately

imago, Monday, 6 January 2020 12:53 (four years ago) link

Every single simile, even. Some of them work, but to be safer they all need to go

imago, Monday, 6 January 2020 12:54 (four years ago) link


I suppose there's an argument that the unrestrained figurative tower is redolent of the unrestrainedly Other lifestyle our heroines fall into

imago, Monday, 6 January 2020 12:57 (four years ago) link

I didn't really get on with Housekeeping, possibly for similar reasons; as for Gilead I can't recall how simile prone the immensely likeable narrator is but concur with Alfred above that it is very different from Housekeeping, and an unforced masterpiece.

Paperbag raita (ledge), Monday, 6 January 2020 13:49 (four years ago) link

I said that, eh?

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 6 January 2020 14:51 (four years ago) link

three years pass...

40 pages into Gilead. This is the most any writer's prose style has improved between their first and second novels, ever

imago, Sunday, 9 April 2023 20:49 (one year ago) link

Glad you're enjoying it---I've read the four follow-ups as well, with Jack's 2020 publication encouraging my greed for just one more, despite the author's age and how far she's taken the cycle---I won't say who I'd like to be the central character of the next one, since you haven't heard about (x) yet---despite my being not even an atheist, no more than a dog or a cabbage is, I got hooked on Gilead, and MR's great subject as an Xtian novelist and artist period, has to do with many the toils and snares of faith, Religion, the human mind (re xpost Glory overthinking etc) as part of life---she's next to Graham Greene in that, maybe more consistent, less (or not at all?) the tricky yarnspinner with it.

dow, Sunday, 9 April 2023 21:32 (one year ago) link

Also coping with the weird American historical thickets that you gradually become aware of being in, greater and lesser awareness and pressure of that at different times.

dow, Sunday, 9 April 2023 21:35 (one year ago) link


dow, Sunday, 9 April 2023 21:36 (one year ago) link

But still need to read Housekeeping (kind of remember the movie, at least that Margot Kidder seemed good in it)

dow, Sunday, 9 April 2023 21:38 (one year ago) link

Sorry! Actually *three* follow-ups, not four: Home, Lila, and Jack.

dow, Sunday, 9 April 2023 21:57 (one year ago) link

Well, I picked up Home at the same time as Gilead, so that'll follow. Housekeeping annoyed me (see upthread) but in a way that made me interested to read more of the author, and this one is as I'd hoped a full embrace of formerly evident strengths with none of the weaknesses even detectable. Could change - I've only just begun it - but I suspect it won't

imago, Sunday, 9 April 2023 22:09 (one year ago) link

Jack's the weakest, most strained of the bunch.

If you haven't watched Bill Forsythe's adaptation of Housekeeping, waste not ime.

the very juice and sperm of kindness. (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 9 April 2023 22:12 (one year ago) link

I didn't know about Jack (the book)!

One thing I got from Gilead, as an atheist, was the value and efficacy of prayer. Not as a means to divine intervention, obviously, but as a way of meditating on a problem.

ledge, Monday, 10 April 2023 08:24 (one year ago) link

Yeah, and she (Rev. John's creator) gives him opportunities for that---I really enjoyed Jack shuffling, turning around in St. Louis, Memphis, Chicago, and Gilead's still on the map.

dow, Monday, 10 April 2023 17:58 (one year ago) link

was not expecting an extended comic setpiece about the underground railroad, this book continues to amaze

imago, Sunday, 23 April 2023 07:27 (one year ago) link

In Gilead? Can't say I remember that bit.

ledge, Monday, 24 April 2023 09:56 (one year ago) link

(And I've read it maybe three times)

ledge, Monday, 24 April 2023 09:56 (one year ago) link


the dreaded dependent claus (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 24 April 2023 10:11 (one year ago) link

the horse/tunnel bit!

imago, Monday, 24 April 2023 10:32 (one year ago) link

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