Monday, November 13, 2006

Book Review: Housekeeping

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

This book kept coming to me, referenced with other books I've been enjoying this year and might prove inspirational for my current project, including Daniel Woodrell's Winter's Bone. Woodrell and Robinson share the same agent, which also pushed the novel in my direction.

I did not immediately like the book. A family history is delivered in a very distracted, detached way. It takes some time before we ever feel the narrator's feelings, but still her descriptions, her narration amount to little else than a description of activities and observations of the actions of others. It isn't really until the second half of the novel and the arrival of Sylvie that the novel begins to take off. And it ascends from there.

The book takes on a style that is nearly fantastical, where the reader cannot always find the barrier between reality and imagination. All scenes come to us nearly like a mystical trance. And these pages make for all the earlier faults.

I'd read the excerpt of her second novel Gilead when it appeared in the New Yorker and I was actually annoyed by it, peeved by the necessary religiosity and epistolary style of it. Now, though, I may have to give it a try.

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