Saturday, September 6, 2008


Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson was originally published in 1980. My paperback copy is 219 pages. Housekeeping was a winner of the Pen/Hemingway Award. First, it must be noted that Robinson is indeed a very good writer. Her prose is lyrical and beautiful. However rich prose alone can not carry a novel. I felt the plot was lacking in clarity and the characters were never fully developed. I'm going to admit that while I may have been a bit distracted while reading Robinson's novel, it was not holding my rapt attention and the plot, what little of it there was, was remote and lacking substance. Sadly, I really didn't care what happened to this family. Although I appreciate that the novel is full of symbolism and literary allusions, I still want a plot and character development Rating: 3

Synopsis from cover:
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, their eccentric and remote aunt. The family house is in the small Far West town of Fingerbone, which is set on a glacial lake, 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 transience.

"My name is Ruth. I grew up with my younger sister, Lucille, under the care of my grandmother, Mrs. Sylvia Foster, and when she died, of her sisters-in-law, Misses Lily and Nona Foster, and when they fled, of her daughter, Mrs. Sylvia Fisher." pg. 3

"If heaven was to be this world purged of disaster and nuisance, if immortality was to be this life held in poise and arrest, and if this world purged and this life unconsuming could be thought of as world and life restored to their proper natures, it is no wonder that five serene eventless years lulled my grandmother into forgetting what she should never have forgotten." pg. 13

"She put our suitcases in the screened porch, which was populated by a cat and a matronly washing machine, and told us to wait quietly. Then she went back to the car and drove north almost to Tyler, where she sailed in Bernice's Ford from the top of a cliff named Whiskey Rock into the blackest depth of the lake." pg. 22

"Fingerbone was never an impressive town. It was chastened by an outsized landscape and extravagant weather, and chastened again by the awareness that the whole of human history had occurred elsewhere." pg. 62

"Then, too, for whatever reasons, our whole family was standoffish. This was the fairest description of our best qualities, and the kindest description of our worst faults." pg. 74

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