Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

I bought Housekeeping because of an article at the end of last year where Bryan Appleyard made some suggestions of great artists working today. One of his two greatest living novelists was Marilynne Robinson; I don’t always find myself in sympathy with Appleyard, but with a recommendation like that it seemed worth a punt.

detail of Hiroshige’s ‘Two men by a gate in the mountains’

It is a remarkable novel. It’s a first-person story of a girl growing up in a bleak town somewhere in the north-western US in a household that gradually dissolves around her. It’s humane and atmospheric and deeply sad.

Most of all, it’s beautifully written: full of striking images and unexpected, often bleakly humorous details. And elusive and gradual and minor-key.

Is she one of the two greatest living novelists IN THE WORLD? Umm, I don’t know. But I’m willing to consider the possibility that she might be.

» the picture is a detail from Hiroshige’s Two men by a gate in the mountains, found on Wikimedia.

4 Comments

  1. 20 February 2008 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    I read this book a few years ago for much the same reason you did, that is, its reputation. And I agree with all you say about the writing, the images, the humor. I felt I was under a sort of spell all the while I was reading it. But when the spell was broken, when I closed the book, my experience had the quality of a dream. I was totally unsure what it was I’d just gone through. Not saying that’s bad. Just saying.

    Maybe, like the unsubtle American I am, I wanted the symbolism of the house to just sort of slap you in the face the way it doesn in The Shipping News

  2. Harry
    21 February 2008 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    I haven’t read The Shipping News, so I don’t know about that…

    I agree about the dream-like, elusive quality of the writing; I tend to see it as a virtue, though.

  3. Harriet
    10 March 2008 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    I read Housekeeping as my english wide reading assignment. It was a hard book to get into, I felt. The writing was just so hard to understand in the beginning. It was just confusing because of the guardians they went through. But after getting to like chapter 4 or so, I found the book to be quite interesting and I wanted to read on. There wasn’t much of a plot though and so I didn’t really see a purpose for the book. The ending was really weird too. Well, for anyone reading it, enjoy. It’s good!

  4. Harry
    10 March 2008 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    “There wasn’t much of a plot though and so I didn’t really see a purpose for the book.”

    Interesting comment. I tend to disagree, but trying to explain why would be quite difficult, I think.

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, I bought this on the basis of a Bryan Appleyard article where he mentioned Hazzard as […]

  2. By Heraclitean Fire » Books of the Year 2008 on 3 January 2009 at 5:54 pm

    […] Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson […]

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