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Housekeeping: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson
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Housekeeping: A Novel (original 1981; edition 2004)

by Marilynne Robinson

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4,4161451,109 (3.95)363
Member:dbvisel
Title:Housekeeping: A Novel
Authors:Marilynne Robinson
Info:Picador (2004), Paperback, 224 pages
Collections:Your library, To read
Rating:
Tags:fiction, american

Work details

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (1981)

Recently added bySalemAthenaeum, BOlewnick, JDHofmeyer, toomanybooks2, private library, improbable, Griefeater, ljhilke
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English (142)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  All (144)
Showing 1-5 of 142 (next | show all)
I read this twice in two days; it's lovely; it's set in an Idaho town in the mountains and by a lake, unfathomably deep, which drowned grandfather (in a derailment) and mother (in a suicide). Both the town and the lake are called Fingerbone. Overpassing the lake are both a bridge and train tracks along the bridge. Ruth, who narrates, and Lucille, who's a year younger, are sisters; the book begins: "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." This opening indicates at the outset the shapeliness and equipoise of Robinson's sentences and, in omitting Helen--suicide and mother who cared for the girls longer and earlier than grandmother, great-aunts-in-law, or aunt--does not mislead.

Water and air are everywhere. I mean both the elements--in Fingerbone--and the words--in the text. But of course they're everywhere anyway; people everywhere breathe air and drink water or they're dead. Light illuminates, too--Fingerbone--and how--and darkness enwraps; they're opposites; one or the other always obtains because physics. But water and air don't have opposites other than their absence, and they are never absent, not in Fingerbone.

Cold too is everywhere because geography--latitude, altitude, lake--but Sylvie is impervious. Characters ask her again and again isn't she cold and she never is. Yet at the same time she always is: her imperviousness is not only to physical cold but also to emotional currents. Though she can be pleased and can laugh.

She answers questions in letter but not spirit, technically logical but short of the point. "'Why are we staying here, Sylvie?' I asked." Here: in a boat under the bridge on the lake in the dark in the cold. "'Waiting for the train,' she said. If I had asked why we were waiting for the train she would have said, To see it, or she would have said, Why not, or, Since we are here anyway, we might as well watch it go by."

There is a remoteness, too, to Ruth's narration. We hardly notice it, because it is of a piece with Robinson's prose style and Fingerbone's natural disposition: all that water, air, cold, light, and dark.

These; and the bridge, the train, the lake: they loom. But Fingerbone--if a town is its people more than its natural disposition--is absent. Not even disregarded, simply unregarded, until the end, when it intrudes. Sylvie and Ruth and at first Lucille are insular and self-sufficient in their house on a hill on the edge of town set back from the main road. Lucille rebels midway through.

She tries to take Ruth with her; but Ruth is Sylvie's, in the end. Before that, though: "Sylvie did not want to lose me," Ruth reflects. "She did not wish to remember me. She much preferred my simple, ordinary presence"; "if she lost me, I would become extraordinary by my vanishing."

This is a lesson Lucille learns well; the book's last paragraph is a string of negatives that both affirm and deny. "No one watching this woman"--Lucille, the last sentence--"could know how her thoughts are thronged by our absence, or know how she does not watch, does not listen, does not wait, does not hope, and always for me and Sylvie." It is by their abandonment and absence, as much as by their clumsiness or cruelty, that family come to loom so large, and cast such long shadows. ( )
1 vote claritas | Feb 13, 2017 |
Beautiful prose. ( )
  bibliophileofalls | Feb 3, 2017 |
Exquisite. Rewards re-reading. In fact, it almost demands re-reading, as the writing is so intensely lyrical. ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
This was one of the most surreal novels I've read. Robinson has a very dreamy narrative style. At times it can be soothing, other times disorienting. The story line itself was interesting and the characters were well developed, I thought. Overall this was good, but I much preferred Robinson's other book Gilead . ( )
  homeschoolmimzi | Nov 28, 2016 |
A heady, evocative novel. You feel the chill in the air, and hear the swish of the water beneath the character's feet as they scramble above the river. Perhaps - fortunately - I'm reading this book at the wrong phase of my life, but its themes of loss, home, rejection, failed to resonate with me. One to revisit, along with Robinson's other work. ( )
  alexrichman | Nov 15, 2016 |
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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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réédité en français sous le titre "La Maison de Noé "
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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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