HomeGroupsTalkMoreZeitgeist
Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Loading...

Housekeeping (1980)

by Marilynne Robinson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,3562131,507 (3.93)439
Ruth and her younger sister, Lucille, grow up haphazardly, first under the care of their competent grandmother, then of two comically bumbling great-aunts, and finally of Sylvie, the eccentric and remote sister of their dead mother. The family house is in the small town of Fingerbone on a glacial lake in the Far West, 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 transcience.… (more)
  1. 10
    Surfacing by Margaret Atwood (cransell)
  2. 00
    So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell (Jesse_wiedinmyer)
  3. 00
    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)
  4. 11
    The Swimmer by Zsuzsa Bánk (emydid)
  5. 00
    A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley (sturlington)
AP Lit (173)
1980s (189)
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 439 mentions

English (208)  Italian (1)  Swedish (1)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  All languages (212)
Showing 1-5 of 208 (next | show all)
I've read two out of the four Gilead novels. The last one I read, Jack, I didn't like nearly as much as Gilead. So I thought I would try this earlier novel of Robinson's to see if it was her early writing that I liked. This book was more engaging than Jack was but still not up to the standards of Gilead.

The novel's main character is Ruth. She and her sister Lucille were brought to the small town of Fingerbone, on the edge of a largish lake, by their mother. She dropped them off at her mother's house, who wasn't home at the time, and then drove off. A few hours later she drove her car into the lake in what was probably suicide. The lake had also claimed the life of the girls' grandfather when the train on which he was crew went off the bridge across the lake with no survivors. The grandmother looked after the girls up until her death. Then two maiden great-aunts came to take over looking after them. They were completely unused to children and were consumed with nervousness. They contacted the girls' Aunt Sylvie who had been living a nomadic life around the western United States. When she finally turned up the great-aunts lost no time in fleeing the house and the children and the town. At first, Sylvie seemed like a much better choice but as the weeks and months went by, she proved that she had no aptitude for living in one place or looking after two young children. Ruth was quite taken with Sylvie but Lucille finally had enough and went to live with one of her teachers. Ruth and Sylvie kept living in the house but in no sense of the word did they "keep house". When Ruth started skipping school and spending more time with Sylvie, sometimes on the lake in a borrowed rowboat, it was obvious that the end of their living in Fingerbone was coming near. And so, one day, they hopped on a train and took off.

This was quite a sad book what with the child abandonment and failure to provide the necessities of life by all the adults in Ruth's life. Also, the men just seemed to have dropped out of existence which does happen but certainly impacts how children grow up.

I have to say that there were some wonderful passages in this book. Robinson is a fine writer, maybe even a gifted writer, but she will never be a favourite for me. ( )
1 vote gypsysmom | Apr 7, 2024 |
I previously read Marilynne Robinson's four Gilead novels, and only now this Housekeeping, written 25 years earlier, and that may be the wrong order. I definitely recognized the very controlled, refined writing style; Robinson is a first-class craftswoman who writes heavily charged sentences in a misleadingly poetic upmake. And I also recognized the emphasis on sensorial introspection: just as in the Gilead novels, the main character (here Ruth Foster) constantly alternates between registering her own sensory experiences and reflecting on what that does to her, and on the things she struggles with. Here Robinson approaches what the 19th century naturalists and symbolists did, by focusing on the threat posed by the environment in which this story takes place: the remote, chilly village of Fingerbone (the name alone), on a large lake in Idaho, connected with the outside world by a railway bridge that runs over the water. The tone is set right from the start: Ruth tells how her grandfather died when a train derailed on the bridge, ended up in the lake and was never recovered (and neither the bodies of the passengers within). And less than 20 pages later we read how her own mother committed suicide by driving her car off a cliff into the lake. The 'gothic flavor' of this novel is also emphasized further on, including in an unparalleled nocturnal scene in which the house is half flooded; darkness and obscurity clearly are recurring themes in Robinson.
But the main body of this novel describes how Ruth, together with her sister Lucille, subsequently came under the care of her aunt Sylvie, a confused, chaotic and very dreamy character. Robinson writes quite emphatically: “it was the beginning of Sylvie's housekeeping”, and in doing so she immediately provides us with a key to reading this novel. After all, it is not only about the struggle to keep the house (literally), but also about keeping it 'in order', and by extension also one's own life. Looking back on it, you notice that all the characters in this novel struggle with this: getting a grip on their own lives, curbing the inherent chaos of life and steering it in the right direction, and what you have to give up and sacrifice in doing so, and whether such an orderly life is actually the right choice. And all that aggravated by the struggle with loss, grief, isolation and loneliness, especially as a woman or a girl.
In other words, through Ruth Foster's coming-of-age story, Robinson opens up a reflection on what this life is all about and whether it makes sense to control it. To be clear: she does not give simple, obvious answers, but above all - through Ruth - asks the right questions. And thus there is a link with the Gilead novels, which essentially deal with the same theme, but with a clear, more religious - read Calvinist - slant, in which the question of good and evil, damnation and grace are more central. I think that Robinson definitely shows even more mastery in some of those Gilead novels, both stylistically and substantively, but with this 'Housekeeping' she already showed that her novels are among the best of what has been written in recent decades, worldwide. ( )
  bookomaniac | Mar 15, 2024 |
This was upsetting on many levels. Stories about women who aren't mothers but do have children are the most devastating things on the face of the planet. I also can't help but think about Ada or Ardor re: Lucille, Lucette who wanted more and more and then is left/leaves. And of course, the red hair. When Ruth is left overnight outside in the dark will haunt me for the rest of my life. ( )
  adaorhell | Feb 27, 2024 |
Finely written, poetic and in some ways very sad, though not without touches of humour and light. I enjoyed it, but perhaps not quite as much as some of Robinson's later books. ( )
  breathslow | Jan 27, 2024 |
Reading this book was a real chore. The writing seemed to be good, but it never took my mind anywhere. No plot to speak of. Characters that were just strange and unconnected. A very different, morbid, sad tale. Gilead was a much better read. It is amazing how different a reaction you can have to a writer's work from one book to another. ( )
  wvlibrarydude | Jan 14, 2024 |
Showing 1-5 of 208 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robinson, MarilynneAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dielemans, WimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krupat, CynthiaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vezzoli, DelfinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
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)
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
réédité en français sous le titre "La Maison de Noé "
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Ruth and her younger sister, Lucille, grow up haphazardly, first under the care of their competent grandmother, then of two comically bumbling great-aunts, and finally of Sylvie, the eccentric and remote sister of their dead mother. The family house is in the small town of Fingerbone on a glacial lake in the Far West, 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 transcience.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Current Discussions

None

Popular covers

Quick Links

Rating

Average: (3.93)
0.5 5
1 23
1.5
2 103
2.5 25
3 271
3.5 83
4 449
4.5 72
5 502

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 204,454,600 books! | Top bar: Always visible