Marilynne Robinson’s book Housekeeping is difficult to pin down. I appreciated the book for it’s precise and beautiful use of language, its amazing descriptions, and its inclusion of a setting that became one of the main characters in the book. The more I think about it, the more I admire Robinson’s use of language – she managed to make the words and coherence of the story cave in at the end just like parts of the physical setting did (this is why I titled the post unHousekeeping – the book is more about the UN keeping of house than the keeping thereof). I don’t mean that in a negative way. I think the ability to render description in such a carefully considered fashion is admirable.
That said, if you are a person who prefers plot-driven novels, Housekeeping is not for you. Even though I don’t usually care if a novel is more character driven than plot driven, I still felt overwhelmed at times by the sheer weight of the beautifully turned phrases. When you’re reading and every page or two you think, “ah, that was lovely” it’s wonderful. But when nearly every phrase feels like it might have taken two weeks to turn out and not much is actually happening in the story, you can get bogged down. You really have to read this book slowly and in very short snippets.
If you’re someone who appreciates writing for pure language use, you would probably love this book. It’s not light reading, so don’t pack it along to the beach, but do let me know what you think if you read it!
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