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Housekeeping (1980)

by Marilynne Robinson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,4351821,421 (3.93)424
An unabridged audio edition of this classic work on the 25th anniversary of its first publicationA 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.… (more)
Recently added byprivate library, kerryfine, MAR67, booksforbrunch, abner.hagen, TCAPLIB, jordanr2, chrisvia, njahumphrey, jmb70
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    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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» See also 424 mentions

English (177)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  Swedish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (181)
Showing 1-5 of 177 (next | show all)
I am having trouble giving “stars” to this book. The language is beautiful, poetic and dreamy. The narrator musings were profound without becoming phoney. The characters are utterly human. But… I have a deep fear of anything that portraits mental illness as an elevated state of being; an order above the mundane; an escape from the normalcy and mediocrity of most people’s lives.

I knew this girl once – I cannot say we were friends, but we had friends in common – and I remember the aura we perceived as coming from her. Her strangeness was, for us, a sign of her “specialness”. If she dressed completely unfit for the occasion, it was because she was above social conventions. If she talked nonsense, it was because she was an aspiring poet. When her parents put her on a mental hospital, we could not understand their cruelty and lack of understand of her uniqueness. She committed suicide eventually. And it took me years to understand that instead of helping her, we all had fed into her inability to cope by glorifying it; as if mental illness were a deeper understanding of the world, when it is really the opposite.

I am older and more cynical. The hero of this book is Lucille, who perceives that she needs help and searches for help.

Maybe Robinson deserves credit here for humanizing the wanderers, the homeless that we keep seeing here and there, and that we all know are ill. I am certainly guilty of ignoring them, mainly because I don’t know what the solution is. So I see them sitting at a public library, pretending that they are reading, or riding in the subway downtown, in the stretch that the city does not charge a ticket. Out of charity I try not to stare, but I try to make normal eye contact – but then, what is normal. And I often wonder about their families. Anyway…

I am going to give it five stars because it did make me think. And because I want other people to read it too.
( )
  RosanaDR | Apr 15, 2021 |
The praised poetic prose of this book didn't impress me. It was ok, not bothering me but I wasn't particularly enjoying it either. The one thing that bothered me was the emptiness. It's not about the lack of plot, no, it's about lack of feeling. I just didn't feel anything towards the characters, I didn't feel their emptiness and I couldn't relate. I felt like someone without imagination was describing me a painting without making the persons in it alive. The only character that seemed somehow real in this story was Lucille. Perhaps it was because she had an inner conflict that she tried to solve, but her story didn't grow either. In the end this book didn't really give anything to me. ( )
  Lady_Lazarus | Mar 18, 2021 |
What a strange book! Reading it felt like going through a weird and depressing dream. The writing is poetic and often beautiful but it just seems to be a collection of the author's thoughts on life very loosely hung onto a plot where very little happens. ( )
  Patsmith139 | Mar 15, 2021 |
Ruth and Lucille are two young girls left with their grandma in Idaho shortly before their mother drives off a cliff. They are raised by a strange collection of women, including their Aunt Sylvie a wild soul who knows nothing of children. The writing is lyrical and paints a vivid portrait of a girl's youth where she's always waiting for the next person to leave her.

“Every sorrow suggests a thousand songs, and every song recalls a thousand sorrows, and so they are infinite in number, and all the same.”

“Why must we be left, the survivors picking among the flotsam, among the small, unnoticed, unvalued clutter that was all that remained when they vanished, that only catastrophe made notable?”

“Their lives spun off the tilting world like thread off a spindle, breakfast time, suppertime, lilac time, apple time.” ( )
  bookworm12 | Feb 18, 2021 |
Okay, everyone loves this book--and I thought much of the writing was really beautiful. But for me it was just too writerly. The writing seemed to me to be as present as character or sense of place, and I found it distracting. ( )
  giovannaz63 | Jan 18, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 177 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robinson, Marilynneprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dielemans, WimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vezzoli, DelfinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

Belongs to Publisher Series

Mirmanda (144)
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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)
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

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

An unabridged audio edition of this classic work on the 25th anniversary of its first publicationA 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.

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