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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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4,1221241,219 (3.95)336
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)

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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 122 (next | show all)
After reading Gilead and Home, I finally have read the novel that kicked off Robinson's career. I loved the other two, and this was anything but a disappointment. Sad, beautiful, intriguing, profound. Hope it's not too long before she writes another... ( )
  bibleblaster | Jan 23, 2016 |
Robinson has to date published four novels. Having read two of them, and knowing that the fourth was linked to those two, I had thought I knew what to expect with her debut, Housekeeping. It seems I was wrong. It’s set in the town of Fingerbone, Idaho, sometime during the late 1940s or early 1950s, and is about two young girls whose mother commits suicide, and their grandmother then dies of old age, so they end up being looked after by their aunt, who has plainly spent many years travelling the US on trains as a hobo (the novel describes her as a “transient”, but also features men called hoboes; although from her behaviour she may well be suffering from a mental illness). So in story terms, there’s no overlap with Robinson’s later novels. But there’s certainly that lovely clarity of prose which distinguishes her writing, although some of the prose in Housekeeping is perhaps even better than in her later novels – perhaps because I’m a sucker for landscape writing, and there’s so much more of that in Housekeeping. To be honest, the writing throughout is wonderful. Sylvie is something of a cipher, but the two girls, Ruthie (the narrator) and Lucille, are beautifully drawn. Although a charity shop find, this book is definitely a keeper. It was also apparently made into a film. I shall have to see if I can track down a copy. ( )
1 vote iansales | Dec 13, 2015 |
This book had been on my shelf for a while, bought because of reputation, and anticipated. Perhaps I expected too much of a first novel because, though it has amazing reviews, I struggled to connect with the story. The writing, however, is beautiful, poetic, elegiac.
It is the story of Ruth and Lucille, orphans, who grow up beside a haunting lake in the vast open countryside of mid-America. The lake dominates the life of everyone who lives around it, it floods every year, and floods the house where the two girls live, first with their grandmother and then with their Aunt Sylvie. We see Sylvie’s attempts at housekeeping dwindle as the house floods each winter, as her care for the house fails, so the two girls are uncared for. Not abused, but not clean, not sent to school, not disciplined. It is a novel about the failure of housekeeping in this house, and in the family, and it is the two who girls who suffer.
The sad story moves at a slow pace, and until halfway through I had no clear picture of how the two girls were different. It is Ruth who narrates, much of which is description of the house which lays at the heart of the story.
All the description, though, is poetic. Ruth’s grandmother in her elderly years “continued to settle and began to shrink. Her mouth bowed forward and her brow sloped back, and her skull shone pink and speckled within a mere haze of hair, which hovered about her head like the remembered shape of an altered thing.”
This is not an easy read, often obscure. There was no strong thread to pull me through the book, to keep turning the pages. Two other Robinson books sit on my shelf ‘Gilead’ and ‘Lila’ – I don’t know now what to expect from them. I think I will wait a while before attempting them.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/ ( )
1 vote Sandradan1 | Oct 30, 2015 |
I finished Housekeeping last night. I have read Marilynne Robinson's other fiction books (which I have loved) so I thought I would give this one a whirl. Many years ago we had seen the movie ( made from the book) and I remember thinking it was quirky and interesting. So I looked up the DVD in the library today and it is listed under the "comedy" section. Wow! Now that was a big surprise to me as I did not find this book funny or written with humourous intent at all. I found it moving, sad, and tragic. I found some of the writing heavy going and a little impentetrable and other writing perfect so that I wanted to use a highlighter marker on passages and sentences that were expressed so well. Would I read another of her books? Yes, in a heartbeat. She seems to see inside human beings. ( )
2 vote mdoris | Jan 19, 2015 |
At its heart, Housekeeping is a beautiful little story inflated with gorgeous big words. The focus in this novel is definitely on language. While the characters are good and the story certainly stands on its own, the language is what makes this novel striking. At times, the words Robinson uses are perfect; at other times, I think they're a stretch. Nevertheless, the book is lush with language.

What did not work for me at all was the narrative style. It's almost entirely exposition, light on dialogue, lacking scenes. And when I think exposition told from the first person, I think of the oral tale. And Housekeeping, with its fifty-cent words, sounds nothing like an oral tale. The story was very rural, yet the style was all professor. Did the language paint the setting brilliantly? Absolutely. But when it came to the characters and their story, I felt the language failed them. One can tack a lot of words onto a book like this—words like lush and intelligent—but it lacks some of the words that I feel are most important to a story—words like relatable and warm. Housekeeping paints a pretty picture, but it doesn't do much else. ( )
  chrisblocker | Jan 16, 2015 |
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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.
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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)

» see all 6 descriptions

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