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Gilead [Hardcover]

Marilynne Robinson
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 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. 'Gilead is a beautiful work - demanding, grave and lucid ...Robinson's words have a spiritual force that's very rare in contemporary fiction' James Wood, New York Times Book Review 'Serenely beautiful, and written in a prose so gravely measured and thoughtful, that one feels touched with grace just to read it. There's nothing flashy in these pages, and yet one regularly pauses to reread sentences, sometimes for their beauty, sometimes for their truth ...A portrait of the human condition - prey to isolation and loneliness, ever needful of faith and love' - Washington Post


Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Virago Press Ltd (7 April 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844081478
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844081479
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 279,494 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

'A beautiful novel: wise, tender and perfectly measured' -- Sarah Waters

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

'Gilead is no less a masterpiece than Housekeeping' -- Sunday Times

'Gilead is quite simply a beautiful and moving story... a completely engaging, superior piece of storytelling' -- Good Housekeeping

'Gilead reminds us that words have power to spare, to forgive, to do justice' -- The Independent

'Many writers try to capture life's universals... but Robinson truly succeeds in what is destined to become her second classic.' -- Publishers Weekly

'Subtle and potent...Gilead reminds us that words have power to spare, to forgive, to do justice' -- Independent

'Writing of this quality, with an authority as unforced as the perfect pitch in music, is rare' -- Sunday Telegraph

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 --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
70 of 71 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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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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6 of 6 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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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars small things half-seen 6 Aug 2007
Format:Paperback
An extraordinary book, even just in formal terms. Others have commented here on the human side of things (which I found very moving), but I'd add something about story-telling here. Like John McGahern's amazing 'That They May Face the Rising Run' (his last novel), 'Gilead' is astonishing in how the reader glimpses small scenes and fragments of the past almost subliminally, scenes which are then seen again, still from afar. It makes the reader lean in towards the story, peering closely, as if saying, 'what was that? Did I really see THAT?' So the story relies on reluctance, tact, and half-recalled things, and things of loveliness or disturbance glimpsed at the edge of life. Others have done this ('Beloved', so movingly), but Robinson is really wonderful at the fleetingness of things. I've rarely felt I've had to quietly attend to small things, as when leaning in towards this book. It's simply a marvel of technique. And most strange that she might have learned this art from the short lyric poems of George Herbert.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
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 1 month 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 3 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 3 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 3 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 7 months ago by pingfloy
4.0 out of 5 stars Slow paced, beautifully written
Gilead is a beautifully written, gently paced monologue. The narrator is an elderly preacher, coming to the end of his life, writing to the young son he will not see grow up. Read more
Published 8 months ago by BookWorm
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute treasure of a book
It's a slow absorbing and thoughtful book which unfolds beautifully. It was recommended to me at a seminar on preaching and I can see why but it stands alone as a wonderful, tender... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Ms. J. Tyson
2.0 out of 5 stars Good delivery service - just didn't like the book.
Perfectly Good delivery service just didn't enjoy the book. Too slow to engage me so I gave up after the first couple of chapters
Published 9 months ago by Claire Shore
3.0 out of 5 stars Poor son
I did not think that it was a very good letter to write to his son. I thought that she departed from the idea and got immersed in religious dogma. I liked the family history.
Published 11 months ago by noranne biddulph
5.0 out of 5 stars Book club choice
This was a really good story and I think we were all pleased to have read this book. Two words...... required
Published 12 months ago by Bardot
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