Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

Housekeeping is the story of two sisters, Ruth and Lucille. The death (or perhaps suicide) of their mother has forced them to live with a series of relatives who each move into the family home to look after the girls. The final relative to arrive is their Aunt Sylvie, a drifter whose eccentricities make her a questionable mother figure. Aunt Sylvie collects rubbish in the living room and kitchen, rarely cooks or cleans and doesn't care whether the girl's attend school. While one sister rebels against this kind of life and searches for normality, the other, Ruth, seems to embrace it and is drawn to Sylvie terrified she may also leave like their other relatives.

The above makes Housekeeping sound like some kind of misery memoir but it really isn’t, its certainly not a tearjerker anyway. While there is an overwhelming sense of sadness throughout it is a haunting, lyrical and a beautifully written book. For such a short novel this seemed to take me an age to read as the writing demands that you read it slowly and indeed I also had to reread many passages when my concentration had lapsed. But the imagery that the writing invokes makes the alienation the small family experience all the more real and profound.

If you are looking for a novel with a gripping plot (or any king of strong plot) or for the ending to be tied up neatly at the end then I wouldn’t recommend this one. This is one where the writing and the story needs to envelop you, it was slow in places but overall this turned into a thought-provoking book.

Posted by Jess


  1. I think that does sound interesting, and I really like the cover. I wonder why the two girls had such different reactions?

  2. Have you read Home or Gilead? How do they compare? I have those on my shelf now so will start with them. This one sounds good though.

  3. I haven't read any of her novels yet, she seems to be a bit of a marmite author. I should really take the plunge! This one does attract me. Thanks for the review. :-)

  4. I so loved this book, intense and haunting, left me feeling sad though, not necessarily a bad thing. As you so, beautifully written.
    thanks for sharing

  5. I like thought provoking, so although not an author I know anything about I would probably pick this up thanks to your review, if it came my way.

  6. Sam - I think I would have been the girl that craved normality, I would have wanted a warm, clean home so I dont blame that sister. They were just very different people really I think.

    mynovelreviews - I haven't no, I did hear that Gilead is meant to be better though.

    lovely treez - this one is quite short so its a good one to see if you like her.

    martine - totally agree with everything you said!

    LindyLouMac - as long as you dont expect lots of plot you should be ok, I can see why ppl who like plot would hate this.