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Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
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Housekeeping (original 1981; edition 1984)

by Marilynne Robinson

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4,3021401,147 (3.95)353
Member:kiwidoc
Title:Housekeeping
Authors:Marilynne Robinson
Info:Bantam (1984), Mass Market Paperback
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:Fiction. American.

Work details

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (1981)

  1. 10
    Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood (sturlington)
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    The Swimmer by Zsuzsa Bánk (Emydidae)
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    A Student of Weather by Elizabeth Hay (Miels)
    Miels: Both are lyrical, heavily atmospheric novels. Both concern the relationship between a strange, bookish protagonist and her more sensible sister. In Robinson's book, it's an eccentric aunt who comes between them. In Hay's, it's a charming, seductive man. Both books are very much about love, loss, social ostracism, and ephemeral/elemental beauty.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 137 (next | show all)
A shockingly good narration of this wondrous novel -- and scribd has an amazingly generous listening-sample.
  lulaa | Sep 25, 2016 |
Written in 1980, HOUSEKEEPING is Marilynne Robinson's first novel. I absolutely love and adore her Gilead Trilogy, and you can truly see kernels of those three novels here. This is a brief (less than 250 pages), atmospheric novel that envelops you in its quiet, dreamlike, and poetic prose, like a hand-crocheted, infinitely soft blanket. The ethereal way with which Marilynne Robinson describes the surrounds of Fingerbone imbues them with a quiet, palpable power. In this way, her writing is reminiscent of Emerson and Thoreau. Their transcendentalism proposed that the existence and grace of a Supreme Being is evident throughout the natural world. This grace permeates all of Fingerbone, from the way the sunlight passes through curtains, to the ways that the townspeople move to assist one of their own who they see as being in need.

The narrator of this novel is Ruthie, but we are first introduced to her grandparents and the town of Fingerbone, Idaho. The town is a character in the novel, and the most beautiful and haunting descriptions are of the landscape and the large lake within its borders. Her grandmother was born and raised in Fingerbone, and her grandfather came to town with the railroad industry. In fact, the railroad bridge that transverses the lake plays a major role in two events which bookend the novel. It is her grandfather, an amateur painter/carpenter, who builds the family home, on a fruit orchard and near the lake. They have three daughters: Molly, Helen and Sylvie, before Ruthie's grandfather passes away suddenly.

The three daughters go away from Fingerbone on separate paths, but it is Helen first who returns home with her two young children, Lucille and Ruthie. When an event takes place involving Helen, the grandchildren are brought up and looked after by a succession of female relatives in the house of their grandfather. The final relative to arrive is their itinerant Sylvie, who is less of a mother-figure and more of a shadow in the house. She allows Lucille and Ruthie to skip school, to stay out all night, and mostly leaves them to feed and conduct themselves as they see fit. Sylvie herself demonstrates highly unusual behaviors compared to the rest of the townsfolk of Fingerbone - repeatedly stealing a neighbor's rowboat; collecting newspapers, tin cans, and other ephemera in piles around the house; sitting quietly in complete darkness; obsessively watching the trains pass over the lake. She prefers her own company to that of anyone else in Fingerbone, so she has no friends.

As the girls grow up, Lucille begins to challenge Sylvie's lifestyle and distance herself from Ruthie and Sylvie. Lucille eventually goes so far as to completely move out of their family’s house in order to live with a maiden teacher, Miss Royce. Sylvie's eccentricities amplify, and eventually draw Fingerbone's attention in unwanted ways. There is a confrontation that takes place near the end of the book, and leads to a decision that changes the lives of everyone in Fingerbone forever. ( )
  BooksForYears | Sep 9, 2016 |
Recommended to me by a friend. I can see why she did so--matches my housekeeping style :)
At first this reminded me of Alice Hoffman books, which I enjoy, but this was much more a tale made of thoughts than of actions. By mid-book I was bothered by such philosophical ponderings by a supposedly young girl. Yes, this tale is told by her older self, but with continuously (I feel) projected interpretations of what she must have felt. Or maybe a 10(?) year old really wonders about life and death. Could be, her mother abandoned her with family, her grandma dies, her great-aunts can't deal with raising children, her aunt is continually perched on the verge of leaving. I forced myself to finish, but didn't enjoy it tho I did note some interesting quotes to save, e.g. thoughts about transience/homelessness vs the homebound mundane.
The writing is very poetical, if you are the kind of person who can slow down enough to savor every sentence. ( )
  juniperSun | Sep 3, 2016 |
I am in the minority. Well crafted and with beautiful prose. She writes very desriptively. I just didn't like the story itself and couldn't wait for it to be finished. I kept wondering what the point of the story even was. ( )
  2kidsandtired | Aug 2, 2016 |
I am in the minority. Well crafted and with beautiful prose. She writes very desriptively. I just didn't like the story itself and couldn't wait for it to be finished. I kept wondering what the point of the story even was. ( )
  2kidsandtired | Aug 2, 2016 |
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Epigraph
Dedication
For my husband,
and for James and Joseph, Jody and Joel,
four wonderful boys.
First words
My name is Ruth.
Quotations
Having a sister or a friend is like sitting at night in a lighted house. (p 154)
My grandmother['s]...eyes would roam over the goods she had accumulated unthinkingly and maintained out of habit as eagerly as if she had come to reclaim them. (p. 27)
Sylvie...considered accumulation to be the essence of housekeeping, and because she considered the hoarding of worthless things to be proof of a particularly scrupulous thrift. (p.180)
...fragments of the quotidian held up to our wondering attention, offered somehow as proof of their own significance (p73)
...leaves began to gather in the corners...Sylvie when she swept took care not to molest them. Perhaps she sensed a Delphic niceness in the scattering of these leaves and paper, here and not elsewhere.... (p.84-85)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312424094, Paperback)

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 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:12 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

"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 illuminates the price of loss and survival, and the dangerous and deep undertow of transience."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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