!!> PDF / Epub ☉ Housekeeping ✩ Author Marilynne Robinson – 1sm.info

Housekeeping I was craving a book like thishad wanted to read it forever I can t express how much I appreciate this book The story itself had me in the palm of my hands The writing was so rich and breathtaking I felt like I was being taken out to an expensive fine dining experience savoring every bite No POV alternating chapters not a long winded 500 page novel This powerful novel with many themes family, loss, death, abandonment, unconventional lifestyles, small towns, with memorable character I was craving a book like thishad wanted to read it forever I can t express how much I appreciate this book The story itself had me in the palm of my hands The writing was so rich and breathtaking I felt like I was being taken out to an expensive fine dining experience savoring every bite No POV alternating chapters not a long winded 500 page novel This powerful novel with many themes family, loss, death, abandonment, unconventional lifestyles, small towns, with memorable characters and an ending I never saw coming was only 219 pages A PERFECT FLAWLESS NOVEL Two things you should know about my thoughts on Housekeeping 1 I thinkHousekeepingis a great book.2 FinishingHousekeepinggave me a palpable sense of reliefHousekeepingis darker andintense than the author s better knownGileadThe former is also a tougher read even the most careful reader would, I imagine, find herself returning to some passages a few times in an attempt to follow the beautiful but difficult language So while I don t regret reading a tough and rewarding n Two things you should know about my thoughts on Housekeeping 1 I thinkHousekeepingis a great book.2 FinishingHousekeepinggave me a palpable sense of reliefHousekeepingis darker andintense than the author s better knownGileadThe former is also a tougher read even the most careful reader would, I imagine, find herself returning to some passages a few times in an attempt to follow the beautiful but difficult language So while I don t regret reading a tough and rewarding novel, by any stretch, there were moments when I felt like I was reading the damn book because it was good for me but not very much fun And even though I marked and will later photocopy some passages, and I would gladly recommend Housekeeping to anyone up for a caliginous and meticulous exploration of loss, depth, and identity, I d sure as hell point out the ride wasn t going to be easy Not a resounding recommendation, eh Well, I m giving the book four stars,than I give most books, and I might read the book again someday Housekeeping seems like the type of book I d want to read again And although the psychological and metaphorical I m deathly afraid of drowning, thank you very much, and underwater metaphors lurk on just about every page explorations are intense, the book will haunt me in ways that I can appreciate for the foreseeable future Check it out You are warned Marilynne Robinson s first novel Housekeeping were it a piece of music, would ressemble Sibelius Violin Sonata in D Minor slow and foreboding, full of winter s solitude and loneliness The setting, Fingerbone most likely in Idaho is quite reminiscent of Finland actually There is the small town surrounded by snow covered mountains with a huge lake not far from which live Ruthie, the narrator and her sister Lucille They have been surrounded by death and loss their grandfather died during a Marilynne Robinson s first novel Housekeeping were it a piece of music, would ressemble Sibelius Violin Sonata in D Minor slow and foreboding, full of winter s solitude and loneliness The setting, Fingerbone most likely in Idaho is quite reminiscent of Finland actually There is the small town surrounded by snow covered mountains with a huge lake not far from which live Ruthie, the narrator and her sister Lucille They have been surrounded by death and loss their grandfather died during a railroad accident on the rail bridge across the lake representing a way out of the life in Fishbone death or escape , their mother committed suicide by driving herself in a borrowed car off a cliff into the lake, their father walked off never to be heard from again and neither girl had memories of him, and their grandmother dies clutching at life in her sleep The motif of housekeeping is evoked by the pristine state of the awkward house built by the not so talented hands of their deceased grandfather while they are cared for by their two aunts Lily and Nona who escape as soon as another aunt Sylvie comes to take care of the girls From this point on, the house deteriorates there is a flood which rots away the furniture and books and Sylvie is so dislocated in her own mind that she collects garbage and paper and the girls start skipping school The atmosphere in the story is relatively mournful and heavy A narrow pond would form in the orchard, water clear as air covering grass and black leaves and fallen branches, all around it black leaves and drenched grass and fallen branches, and on it an image in an eye, sky clouds, trees, our hovering faced and our cold hands p.5 Fingerbone was never an impressive town It was chastened by an outsized landscape and extravagant weather chastened again by an awareness that the whole of human history had occurred elsewhere p.62 Ruthie becomesandpulled under the addictive detachedness of Sylvie it seemed to me that there need not be relic, remnant, margin, residue, momento, bequest, memory, thought, track, or trace, if only the darkness could be perfect and permanent p.116 Neither Sylvie nor Ruthie are attached to anything of value in the house for To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow p.152 but rather filled it with detritus because she considered accumulation to be the essence of housekeeping p.180 Lucille has since abandoned Sylvie and Ruthie to live a normal life in town while the other two women ruminate about sorrow Every sorrow suggests a thousand songs, and every song recalls a thousand sorrows, and so there are infinite in number and all the same p.194 sometimes I think sorrow is a predatory thing because birds scream at dawn with a marvelous terror p.198 The town becomes alarmed and yet timid about threading the labyrinths of their privacy p.182 and all that is left to do for Sylvie and Ruthie is flight across the fateful railroad tracks over the lake to a life of vagrancy.Perhaps this book is too depressing given the current political climate, but perhaps it also explains a mindset of the small towns of the red states that are so terrified of change and their vengeful god that they will cling to anything to maintain a semblance of normalcy because the alternative of rootlessness represented by Sylvie and Ruthie scares them even.A beautiful book and one that makes me with to read her Pulitzer winning Gilead I might as well cut to the chase here this book was a pretty significant and unexpected disappointment for me Housekeeping falls into one of my favorite literary sub genres mostly plotless, character driven novels e.g To the Lighthouse, In Search of Lost Time I d seen the Pen Faulkner Award, the best of status among recent American books voted on by writers, critics, editors and other literary sages , and the high ratings from friends with imp I might as well cut to the chase here this book was a pretty significant and unexpected disappointment for me Housekeeping falls into one of my favorite literary sub genres mostly plotless, character driven novels e.g To the Lighthouse, In Search of Lost Time I d seen the Pen Faulkner Award, the best of status among recent American books voted on by writers, critics, editors and other literary sages , and the high ratings from friends with impeccable taste But while reading, my emotions were never really aroused, and I feel that Robinson s flirtations with profundity remain just that, occasionally failing to ring true at all My requirements for this sub genre are few but demanding I ll go ahead and split them into three groups, although all three bleed together 1 I need to feel something at some point 2 the prose should be exceptional in some way, which for me is actually very much tied into 1 3 my understanding of humanity and myself should be expanded through contact with the characters and their minds This book failed me to some degree on each of these points, which is not to say that I think this book isn t good or wouldn t fulfill all of these requirements andfor another reader Regarding point 1, I felt strangely empty and uninvolved throughout, despite reading this under ideal conditions long, unbroken stretches It s very difficult for me to analyze this lack of response, but I think it s primarily tied to the prose and the characterization I should be clear about this the writing is good, even very good Perhaps I ve become spoiled or overly influenced by Modernist stylists Woolf , but the prose is often plain, occasionally beautiful, and sometimes clunky in its strivings for transcendence In the end, Robinson s nondescript approach and this is a very relative claim didn t capture my imagination Perhaps my greatest disappointment with the book, and this was a BIG surprise, was with the characterization Robinson gathers everyone into two main groups, the conformists and the nonconformists, with whom we are meant to identify via Ruthie s narration With the possible exception of Ruthie and Lucille s grandmother, each character fits neatly into these two types Can anyone who s read the book tell me what the difference is, really, between Ruthie, Sylvie, and Helen They each fall into a very specific outsider by nature category drifters or transients with a strong connection to the past, a weak connection to the present, and a malaise that somehow seems a little too pleasant considering the ever present specter of suicide I felt as if I couldn t quite follow this specific idea of non conformity, that it didn t feel true real, and that I couldn t really access or understand their lives, their desires, their concerns We re gently directed to see Lucille as intolerant, as misled in her desire for a normal life and for friends After stepping outside the fantasy of dreamy living contained within the book, however, I find her desires entirely reasonable and I think her concerns with her living situation are probablythan reasonable Now, one aspect of reviewing that s always annoyed me is when people complain about disliking characters or being unable to relate to them as a reason for disliking a book, when often the book is crafted to elicit such responses Perhaps in the past I ve been too judgmental in this respect Or maybe the important thing is simply that the characters cause you to feel some emotion, any at all, and that you can feel these people to be real, multidimensional beings I didn t get that from Housekeeping I couldn t feel the pain that Ruthie may have been experiencing because I was never sure what she was feeling, no matter how grave the situation The fallout from bad events and neutral events feltor less the same Sylvie and Ruthie s instincts felt foreign, removed, and with Sylvie in particular, borderline insane the imaginary kids storyline was a particularly forced attempt at profundity that struck me as silly and unrelatable And my chief annoyance with Robinson is that she seemed bent on pushing me toward one limited character type and away from another when, if I m forced to live in this dichotomous world she s created, I d almost certainly choose the other path the one of Lucille, the one that would lead me out of Fingerbone to the promise of Boston rather than to greasy diners, truck stops, and train cars Robinson doesn t exactly romanticize the latter type of living, but it s still portrayed as the preferable way of leaving a trapped existence When I say that I have limited access to these characters and this world, and that it ultimately felt untrue, here s what I mean this is Ruthie in the final pages of the book I have never distinguished readily between thinking and dreaming I know my life would be much different if I could ever say, This I have learned from my senses, while that I have merely imagined Really It s character revelations and discoveries like this that pepper the book, and for each one that I could say Yes, I get this, I m with you, there were two or three like that quote above where I just couldn t grasp the experience or couldn t relate to the introspection For me, that ring of truthiness was missing It s tempting to view this story broadly and crudely We see the decay that occurs when one stays in the same place the same small, sleepy, petty town Ruthie must, at some point, become active and move on toward something different or face troubling consequences Yet a similar impetus drives Lucille, the conformist What are we to make of this Is the point that different personalities have different paths, and these shouldn t be limited or overly determined by society Why is Lucille placed in a negative light when the choice that faces both sisters whether to stick with family, the past, decay presents so many difficulties Perhaps I expected the wrong things from this book, and I would ve been better off by just letting it float by without over considering some of these themes and meanings And yet, awards and reputation aside, Housekeeping often does ask to be taken seriously within the text itself I m missing something Housekeeping is an introspective, almost ethereal coming of age story that navigates the hazy division between presence and absence, loss and survival, radiance and darkness Lucille and Ruthie have been left to the care of their elderly grandmother in Fingerbone, their mother s natal village in Idaho When the old woman passes away, their eccentric aunt Sylvie returns to Fingerbone with her unorthodox personality and her particular way of understanding life that will open a chasm between the Housekeeping is an introspective, almost ethereal coming of age story that navigates the hazy division between presence and absence, loss and survival, radiance and darkness Lucille and Ruthie have been left to the care of their elderly grandmother in Fingerbone, their mother s natal village in Idaho When the old woman passes away, their eccentric aunt Sylvie returns to Fingerbone with her unorthodox personality and her particular way of understanding life that will open a chasm between the two sisters Sylvie discards everything she considers superfluous and acts accordingly to her transient essence She meanders at night, listening to the silence of darkness, finding comfort in it, not minding the impression she might be making to the disapproving neighbors Her priorities do not correspond to the tangible aspects of daily life.As they grow, Lucille and Ruthie will be confronted with the uncertain nature of existence and they will have to choose between the rituals of a socially accepted normality or embrace Sylvie s deeper vision of a parallel world where memories, dreams and reality become a permanent heritage in detriment of material stability The story is replete with symbols that acquire mystical magnitude a lake that floods the region recalling Biblical myths, the dark, dense woods of the nearby area, an abandoned house with a life of its own with ghostly children that only those who are in tune with silence can hear.The recurrent idea that we feel absent family memberskeenly when they are gone resonates throughout the book with spiritual force and the unfathomable deep waters of a lake become a kind of heaven where those we loved find shelter, never to return to us physically, although they remain forever present in our dreams and memories, evoking the best version of any alternative reality Reading Robinson s prose is like a sensory experience The unruly quality of abstract thoughts captured in immaculate words makes it beautiful like the wilderness, like some untamable creature that can t be caught, only admired from afar It has a life beyond the reader s consciousness.Sometimes, it also reads like poetry, for there is total harmony in the slow paced hues of the narrative voice and the uncommon sensitivity that gives sustenance to the sinuous meditations on identity, loneliness and belonging the novel revolves around.Robinson reminds us how useless it is to hoard material richness as we will leave this world in the same way that we came into it Unwillingly, helpless, bared, innocent Her solitary chant is easy to forget in the hasty, superficial practicalities of living, but we should tune our ears to the sound of her music, which transcends corporal boundaries There is nodoleful or beauteous melody than that, than hearing a soul sing This is Literature with a capital L in the form of a Doric column so high you ll get a crick in your neck trying to see to the top of it You really do feel like you are becoming a better person as you read this novel, even as you fight the drowsiness which is baked into each and every sinuous delectable palpable sensuous lapidary paragraph Huh What What was that The story, such as it is, and it really isn t, is that two little sisters are orphaned and then looked after by their grandmamma w This is Literature with a capital L in the form of a Doric column so high you ll get a crick in your neck trying to see to the top of it You really do feel like you are becoming a better person as you read this novel, even as you fight the drowsiness which is baked into each and every sinuous delectable palpable sensuous lapidary paragraph Huh What What was that The story, such as it is, and it really isn t, is that two little sisters are orphaned and then looked after by their grandmamma who ups and dies and then they are looked after by elderly great aunts they were my favourites but alas they didn t last long I think they couldn t wait to get out of this book too and then by their mother s sister Sylvie who is like this kind of elegant bag lady drifter who lets the house go to rack and ruin and cares not a fig if the girls go to school There is a lot of mooning about in this novel This is the third novel I read in recent times in which the protagonist is a teenage girl and who kind of narrates the whole thing I Capture the Castle and We Have Always Lived In the Castle were the other two Maybe this one should have been called Castlekeeping Okay, maybe not When you look at movies narrated by teenaged girls they seem to have a lotzest, and hardly any mooning about I m thinking of Badlands, Clueless, Amelie, Freeway, True Grit, Mean Girls, Easy A,etc Girls with some pep to them In Housekeeping, sisters Ruthie and Lucille mostly troop about boredly observing small examples of nature, like bees and ripples and each other s coats About three quarters the way through, Lucille gets a little hacked off with this teenage novocaine Walden experience and slings her hook The reader looks longingly after her but knows he must trudge on Here is how you can tell this is literature Lucille almost ran down the stairs We heard the slish and moil of her steps in the hallYes, the hall is flooded, but slish and moil, hey Here s another Every spirit passing through the world fingers the tangible and mars the mutable, and finally has come to look and not to buy.That s on the same page as slish and moil Okay, here s another good one She seemed to dislike the disequilibrium of counterpoising a roomful of light against a worldful of darkness Not a world full of darkness, a worldful of darkness Important difference This actually means that the aunt liked to eat her evening meal in the dark and not switch on the light Here s another one Lucille would say I fell asleep, but I did not I simply let the darkness in the sky become coextensive with the darkness in my skull and bowels and bones Everything that falls upon the eye is apparition, a sheet dropped over the world s true workings.This is some fancy hifalutin chat coming from such a callow youngster And it never stops Here she is thinking about her mother and her aunt thinking about the mother and the aunt accounts for around 88% of Ruthie s thoughts, with another 12% spent on her sister She s the only teenage girl ever who didn t once think about pop music They were both long and narrow women like me, and nerves like theirs walk my legs and gesture my hands.Eventually the profound musings became like a form of transcendental muzak Thoughts bear the same relation, in mass and weight, to the darkness they rise from, as reflections do to the water they ride upon, and in the same way they are arbitrary, or merely given.Did I think this was any good Well, you know, some people like Albert Ayler, some people like Jeff Koons, some people even profess to like the films of Eric Rohmer What is Art Rock Hudson said Art is a boy s name Maybe we could rephrase that question then Did I like it No I m going to throw the gauntlet down and say that I thought this book was terribly overrated considering how many of my friends whose taste I ve come to respect recommended it to me All the critics from 1980 seemed amazed that this was a debut Seemed like a first novel to me.The thing that people praise most about the book was the beauty of her language I ll admit that there were some wonderful passages, and some great imagery, but there was just as much writerly prose, overwritten prose, I m going to throw the gauntlet down and say that I thought this book was terribly overrated considering how many of my friends whose taste I ve come to respect recommended it to me All the critics from 1980 seemed amazed that this was a debut Seemed like a first novel to me.The thing that people praise most about the book was the beauty of her language I ll admit that there were some wonderful passages, and some great imagery, but there was just as much writerly prose, overwritten prose, pyrite prose I felt like I was possessed by the spirit George Orwell as again and again I read poor word choices achromatic for colorless simulacra for semblance These words are not poetic substitutes but verge on jargon Blandishment Come on That s about as poetic as esophagus I also thought the philosophical meanderings of Ruthie bordered on pretentiousness So memory pulls us forward, so prophecy is only brilliant memory there will be a garden where all of us as one child will sleep in our mother Eve, hooped in her ribs and staved by her spine Whenever it appeared, this vague, didactic prose seemed to stifle what little story there was And let s not forget that these ideas could never have come from the mind of Ruthie, teen aged or aged One who spends her days trying desperately to be ignored and can barely speak does not later become a meditator on memory and the Garden of Eden I probably would have beenforgiving of the novel in these aspects if I thought there was a strong story There is not Rather, Robinson decided that a gauzy, limp tale of loss would preclude the need for any kind sustained dramatic tension We are treated to uninspiring characters with no real redeeming qualities The only dynamo in the story is Lucille and because of her conforming attitude, we are distanced from identifying with her Instead, we get to hang out with Ruthie, the world s most inactive protagonist.Now, I will qualify everything I will say that I did enjoy chapters 4 8 I actually enjoyed them a lot The conflict between the two sisters was wonderful But a good middle does not make a good book The first two chapters were all but unnecessary drawn out exposition that could easily have been woven into the rest of the book and the ending just fell flat What was Robinson trying to say That grief makes you drift That the power of memory can drag you towards oblivion I think my frustration stems partly from dashed hopes that the ending would unite and triumph Instead, I was left with a handful of images, nothing A 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 About a girl who really hates to talk and never talks but the author can t stop babbling She just goes on and on and on and on and on.The ending really sucks, just like the middle and the beginning. Every memory is turned over and over again, every word, however chance, written in the heart in the hope that memory will fulfill itself, and become flesh, and that the wanderers will find a way home, and the perished, whose lack we always feel, will step through the door finally and stroke our hair with dreaming habitual fondness not having meant to keep us waiting long Wow I knew of this book in 1980 when it came out, and in that year I must have picked it up in Shuler s Bookstore In Grand Every memory is turned over and over again, every word, however chance, written in the heart in the hope that memory will fulfill itself, and become flesh, and that the wanderers will find a way home, and the perished, whose lack we always feel, will step through the door finally and stroke our hair with dreaming habitual fondness not having meant to keep us waiting long Wow I knew of this book in 1980 when it came out, and in that year I must have picked it up in Shuler s Bookstore In Grand Rapids and read the opening page and found it rich and deep and I set it back down About to descend into my own Dark Night of the Soul, in the next 3 4 years, I perhaps anticipated how unprepared I was to read this book And now I am ready, and it was amazing to experience This book has some of the most breathtaking and astonishing sentences I have read in a long time I first read it two years ago and now have reread it again for a class.Maybe it is because I have been reading so many graphic novels, I have been reading quickly, maybe too quickly, but this book forces you to read very very slowly you didn t want to miss a single word The book takes place in a small western city, Fingerbone, on a lake Ruthie is the narrator, and for much of the book she is almost inseparable from her sister, Lucille Early on we learn that their grandfather, Edmund Foster, a trainman, has died, his train plummeting off the bridge into the lake Then, his daughter, Helen, Ruthie and Lucille s mother, returns from Spokane to Fingerbone to visit her own mother living there, leaves the young girls with their grandmother, and drives her borrowed car off a cliff into that same lake Grandmother is in no shape to raise two grandkids she doesn t even know As the story goes, she will later live with two odd and also constitutionally unable to parent great aunts and then Sylvie, another odd aunt Seem crazy But maybe crazy is the wrong word Robinson herself does not think any of her women are fundamentally crazy, but they do endure some trauma, of course.What are the ripple effects of this trauma for Helen, Sylvie, Lucille and Ruth, of having lived through tragic death What is memory and experience in the shaping of a life In the process of our answering these questions, we meet along the way, usually just briefly, literally dozens of often seemingly broken women, seen by Ruthie and Lucille and Ruth on passing trains, or talked to on trains by Sylvie, who was a drifter, a transient, a hobo This parade of sad mad women in the background of the main story provide a kind of thematic or imagistic backdrop to the tale, something I missed in my first reading This is a book especially for and about women in a world of loss How do they go on Men hardly figure in the book, after Edmund s early death We hardly meet them at all, except by reportage This is a book about women s survival, coping and sometimes failing to cope with grief The lake, the house, are also very much alive and I think female presences in this book Oh, and the crazy night Sylvie and Ruth spend on the boat on the lake, after waiting for the 9 52 train to come through, and reflecting on all those losses The lake must be full of people I ve heard stories all my life And you can bet there were a lot of people on the train no one knew about Sylvie is referring to the people who besides her father who died when the train plunged off the bridge into the lake And a ripple effect of grief and loss for all the families who suffered these losses, and some of them, like her, transients, sleeping in the freight cars.Ruthie, of her departed mother Helen She was a music I no longer heard, that rang in my mind, itself and nothing else, lost to all sense, but not perished, not perished Are we talking of ghosts here If you like, sure, but this is what we all know, the presence of the departed in our every day lives.The image of Ruth, our narrator, a young girl, is unforgettable in this book It was a source of both terror and comfort to me then that I often seemed invisible incompletely and minimally existent, in fact It seemed to me that I made no impact on the world, and that in exchange I was privileged to watch it unawares Ruth s ghost like presence is mirrored in the ghost of her mother and grandfather and all of her female family rendered ghost like and nearly invisible through tragedy.There is a Walpurgisnacht scene of burning that happens later in that is both frightening and breathtaking The pace of the book is slow, very little seems to happen, but then there are these moments of very real drama and remarkable emotional effects in a few places, and in the climax of the book I thought it was sometimes difficult I need to read it once again for all the Biblical references but finally astonishing and empathetic.What does it mean to live in that house, in Fingerbone, or live on that water, in that town, with that past, with that darkness, with all that waiting, with memories, with that sudden need to leave, to get out, that most of the women come to feel It took me 35 years to finally read this book, and it was worth the wait And it was even better and deeper as I read it again.PS In this last reading I began to see the gothic influences in this book the dark, the wild forces of nature, the tinge of the supernatural and the edge of madness Ruthie says this is a town of murders and accidents, and Sylvie says there must be dozens of bodies in the lake, she s heard stories Ruthie says she feels like she has become a ghost, like she describes most of the drifters passing through But I don t think of it primarily as a ghost story I think of it as a book about the trauma that comes to these women, and many women And after three readings I am still haunted by and can t fully understand the ending, which I love because Ruthie and Sylvie, fingers crooked, beckon me, back to Fingerbone.Spoiler alert I think in the end Ruthie has joined her aunt Sylvie on the road, each traumatized by the death of a parent, not quite able to participate meaningfully in civilized society, increasingly invisible and ghostlike to the rest of the world, Ruthie cut off perhaps forever and sadly from her sister Lucille


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