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