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Gilead [Hardcover]

Marilynne Robinson
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 April 2005

In 1956, toward the end of Reverend John Ames's life, he begins a letter to his young son, a kind of last testament to his remarkable forebears.

'It is a book of such meditative calm, such spiritual intensity that is seems miraculous that her silence was only for 23 years; such measure of wisdom is the fruit of a lifetime. Robinson's prose, aligned with the sublime simplicity of the language of the bible, is nothing short of a benediction. You might not share its faith, but it is difficult not to be awed moved and ultimately humbled by the spiritual effulgence that lights up the novel from within' Neel Mukherjee, The Times

'Writing of this quality, with an authority as unforced as the perfect pitch in music, is rare and carries with it a sense almost of danger - that at any moment, it might all go wrong. In Gilead, however, nothing goes wrong' Jane Shilling, Sunday Telegraph



Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Virago (7 April 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844081478
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844081479
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 734,989 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Marilynne Robinson was born in 1947. Her first novel, Housekeeping (1981) received the PEN/Hemingway award for best first novel as well as being nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Her second novel, GILEAD, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and her third, HOME, won the Orange Prize for Fiction.

Product Description

Review

Gilead is no less a masterpiece than Housekeeping (Sunday Times)

Stunning... there are gems on every page of Gilead, but it is the whole construction that marks it as a great work (Daily Telegraph)

The slow pulse of Robinson's writing slows the reader's eye and mind, and creates in the reading process a literary version of the narrator's spiritual experience. Gilead reminds us that words have power to spare, to forgive, to do justice (Independent)

A novel as big as a nation, as quiet as thought, and moving as prayer. Matchless and towering. (Kirkus Review)

Book Description

From the author of Housekeeping, Gilead is the long-hoped-for second novel by one of America's finest writers. Chosen by the New York Times Book Review as one of the top 6 novels of 2004. 'A beautiful novel: wise, tender and perfectly measured ' Sarah Waters

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
74 of 75 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Gilead is a superb novel. It's a book that grows in stature and interest as it proceeds - it is the journal of a man who is coming to the end of his life, written specifically for his young son. His son is the child of a second marriage - his first wife and child died - and he married his much younger second wife late, and so is an old man (77) with a young son (nearly 7). As the journal progresses, he tells stories of his relationship with his own father, and of his grandfather - three generations of church ministers, the grandfather having been involved in the Civil War, the father an ardent pacifist, the narrator trying to come to terms with his own life and what will happen when he dies. The strength of the book is in the power of this narrative - the relationships that are evoked by the understated but beautiful prose of the journal, and the man's own wrestling with his inner life as well as the life and lives going on around him. A specific story emerges, and the book becomes very moving in unexpected ways. There is a lot of Christian theology, and yet because of the main focus of the narrative, this is interesting and pertinent, and should not put off those who have no interest in religion - odd to have so much theology at the centre of a novel, but it's a very human take on theology, and the open-mindedness of the narrator gives a richness and thought-provoking depth to ideas about belief in God and practical issues of being human. I found it a very subtle book, and one that slowly enthralled me. There is very little dialogue, because of the nature of the narrative, but it never becomes monotonous. It is like a meditation on the nature of father and son relationships, yet written by a woman - I found it quite extraordinary, and definitely to be recommended to anyone looking for a slower, more thoughtful read. Anyone who has read Marilynne Robinson’s previous novel, the beautiful Housekeeping, will surely not be disappointed.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A spiritual life 22 Oct 2009
By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
"There is balm in Gilead,
To make the wounded whole ;
There's power enough in heaven,
To cure a sin-sick soul."
(Spiritual.)

The Reverend John Ames is 77 years old and conscious that he has not much longer to live. He had married a much younger second wife, and has a six year old son, Robby. (He is actually never named in this book, but we know that this is his name from Robinson's next book, `Home'.) The book is a long letter to Robby, obviously written over many days in quite short instalments, in the hope that he will read it one day when he is grown up.

In this letter he moves, apparently randomly, backward and forward through his life, speaking about his reverend grandfather who had been a militant abolitionist during the Civil War, and about his reverend father who had been a pacifist. In between, he will describe, often with a sense of wonder, some ordinary little event that happened that day; and he meditates about his own life and, serenely (except once), about the death which cannot be far away. He is deeply moved whenever he performs a baptism (except once) or bestows communion. Profoundly religious as he is, he is self-deprecating about the innumerable sermons he has delivered from written texts which are now all stored in boxes in the attic: he feels they so often were poor efforts to convey God's message to his flock - he says several times that religion is not something that can be taught, let alone proved, but can only be lived and experienced. But if he preached anything akin to his reflections in this book on, for example, the Ten Commandments, he really has nothing to be self-deprecating about. Now from time to time he does think that, with age, he has some wise things to communicate to his son.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars leisurely paced, touching 30 Nov 2004
Format:Hardcover
"Gilead" is Marilynne Robinson's second novel, written more than 20 years after "Housekeeping," which drew much critical acclaim as well as the 1981 PEN/Hemingway Award. "Gilead" takes the form of a long letter written in 1956 by a dying 76-year-old pastor to his 7-year-old son in the small town of Gilead, Iowa. The novel is very leisurely paced (think of Wendell Berry at his most leisurely) and meanders down the side roads of memory and reverie--telling a few tall tales, recounting the strange exploits of the narrator's firebrand abolitionist grandfather, and dwelling on the occasional theological issue (the narrator has wrestled much of his life with the humanist theology of Ludwig Feuerbach, a struggle made easier for the narrator by the works of Karl Barth). Being a slow-building, character-based novel, there is no plot to speak of in "Gilead." However, the story ultimately addresses the theme of the prodigal son and ends with a touching and nearly-unexpected poignancy. This is a thoughtful and deeply religious novel by a top literary talent: beautiful, if not a pinnacle work of the genre like Bo Giertz's "The Hammer of God."
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Pulitzer for Prose Over Plot 16 May 2009
By Simon Savidge Reads TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Gilead is a novel which is in fact the letter of dying Reverend John Ames to his son written in Gilead, Iowa in 1956. Knowing that he will not be around for much longer and will not be able to tell his son of his `begats' and family history he decides that he will write it all down for him. It's his final testament if you will for his son `who may not remember me in the future'. Now you would be thinking that with a novel like this there isn't going to be much joy, however actually despite there being no particular storyline this is really a book filled with the celebration of life. As John Ames memoirs come in stops and starts and have no particular structure you are given insight into the memories of an everyday man as he makes his way in the world and the trials and tribulations along the way.

I admit I was worried for the first 40 or so pages that this was going to be a beautifully written but ultimately boring read. Indeed was almost certain my `if you don't like it by page 80 put it down' rule was going to come into play but it didn't. Page 80 was suddenly 20, 40, 60 pages behind me and the prose was taking me along with it on its meandering delightful journey. Robinson's prose is possibly some of the most beautifully written prose I have the pleasure of turning pages too and undoubtedly is what kept me going to what is quite an ending (that is all I will say about the ending) and the final page.

Now it's rare that a book can make me emotional but this one did. I don't know if it's because I myself have looked after someone who is terminally ill or just the prose and the way Robinson puts you into the mind of a dying man but passages such as this set me off.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I have no idea how an author can sum up a person so beautifully in...
Gilead is one of those rare, rare novels where from page one you already feel you know its narrator intimately. Read more
Published 1 day ago by LT
5.0 out of 5 stars Religious musings in epistolary form
All went very smoothly with this order and I am appreciating the elegance and intensity of the writing. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mrs. Susanna Beer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
interesting
Published 2 months ago by Jessie Corson
5.0 out of 5 stars The Book of a Lifetime
Ambiguous, but it has been my constant bedside book - so rich and rewarding I bought a signed first edition! Read more
Published 3 months ago by Lorraine Clark
5.0 out of 5 stars Fab book.
This was a fabulous book - very moving and insightful. I think that in a different time and space, Marilynne Robinson and I would be great friends.
Published 3 months ago by Marilyn West
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
I have recommended this to a young friend who is studying for the ministry. Should be essential reading for anyone considering it.
Published 6 months ago by Theogeorge
5.0 out of 5 stars One to pass on
I loved this book. Rarely have I read a novel so saturated in grace. The plot is not riveting, but nor does it need to be. Read more
Published 8 months ago by CA ALEXANDER
5.0 out of 5 stars Gilead - Marilynne Robinson
Gilead is a beautiful little book, full of wisdom. It's a series of writings from a father to his young son, things he wants to leave with him, that he wont have the chance to... Read more
Published 8 months ago by RachelWalker
5.0 out of 5 stars Reverend John Ames
Although this beautifully evocative Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, "Gilead" by Marilynne Robinson has received many accolades, together with several hundred reviews here, I was... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Robin Friedman
5.0 out of 5 stars A book to look forward to
I am really rating the supplier here since I haven't begun to read the book which was recommended to me by a friend who is a great, critical reader of books and not lazy like... Read more
Published 12 months ago by pingfloy
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