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102 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, poetic, mesmerizing
Housekeeping is traditionally and stereotypically the preserve of women, and it is women who dominate this wonderful, award-winning novel. (All men are dead or otherwise absent).

The Foster family is one beset by tragedy and isolation, both that which is thrust upon them and that of their own making. Generations of them have lived in the evocatively named...
Published on 3 May 2006 by Mrs. A. C. Whiteley

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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars yes, but...
I read this straight after Gilead. She writes wonderfully well. My reservations I suppose are that too many of the characters stay enigmas, and there's a certain repetition of theme running through them - men who vanish, women whose inner motivations are - well, enigmatic. And at times she attributes extraordinarily sophisticated - though interesting - metaphysical and...
Published on 5 Feb 2009 by Skeoghman


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102 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, poetic, mesmerizing, 3 May 2006
By 
Mrs. A. C. Whiteley "AllieW" - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Housekeeping (Paperback)
Housekeeping is traditionally and stereotypically the preserve of women, and it is women who dominate this wonderful, award-winning novel. (All men are dead or otherwise absent).

The Foster family is one beset by tragedy and isolation, both that which is thrust upon them and that of their own making. Generations of them have lived in the evocatively named lakeside town of Fingerbone, whose lake informs their identity and shapes their lives. Their story is told by Ruth, beginning with the accidental death by drowning of her grandfather, which occurred some years before she was born. This leaves her grandmother to bring up her three teenage daughters on her own. Eventually, all three grow up and fly the nest, leaving Mrs Foster alone with her housekeeping rituals and her thoughts. Helen, the middle daughter, marries, moves to Seattle and has two daughters of her own - Ruth and Lucille.

When Ruth is five, Helen takes her and Lucille back to Fingerbone and, having left them in their grandmother's care, drives her car off a cliff and into the same lake which took her father. For the next few years Ruth & Lucille are brought up by their grandmother. On her death, their paternal great-aunts take over the job for a while, but, feeling inadequate and uncomfortable, they send off for the girls' Aunt Sylvie, who eventually agrees to stay on and look after them.

Sylvie is eccentric, to say the least. She ignores (or, at least, is not bothered by) Ruth and Lucille's truancy, neglects conventional housework while performing other, unnecessary tasks in the name of housekeeping, has odd habits and dresses the girls inappropriately. As Lucille gets older, she gets increasingly fed up with such behaviour and eventually just moves in with a schoolteacher. Ruth is left alone with Sylvie whose influence on her gradually increases in intensity until the novel reaches its dramatic denouement.

Robinson's prose is deceptively simple: Many of her similes (as John Mullen has pointed out elsewhere on the web), for example, are new coinages and yet have the well-worn feel of those which have been in use for hundreds of years. 'As warped as water' is just one such instance. Her imagery generally is atypical: water, for example, is portrayed as an almost malevolent force, rather than something which cleanses or purifies. Written in an exquisite poetic style, the novel reads beautifully. Moreover, her exploration of grief and the damage which occurs when that is overly internalised is expertly done. The questions the novel raises about the nature of isolation and the way in which an 'abnormal' family may interact with the rest of the community are also intriguing. In short, this is an absorbing, thought-provoking novel, full of arresting images which will remain with me for some time to come. Well worth a read.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a book to reflect upon, 9 Sep 2008
This review is from: Housekeeping (Paperback)
This perhaps one of the most haunting, memorable and beautiful books written in the last century. It is also a strange book, and a mysterious one that will live with you afterwards and repays subsequent readings. It is a book like no other. Of no great size, it can be read in an afternoon, but is dense and complex,like the best poetry.

'Housekeeping' is actually about the abandonment of keeping house because keeping house is presented in the book to be a hopeless task. Time and change are far more powerful. It is far better, we are told to live lightly, to try to keep nothing, to be attached to nothing, because, as Sylvie says, 'in the end even our bones fail'.

Two little girls are abandoned by their mother, a suicide, and taken care of by her sister, their Aunt Sylvie who is a drifter, but shoulders the responsibility of the children the best she can. Gradually, and this is beautifully evoked, she allows the house to be invaded by the natural world, to decay and the girls to drift, give up school,regular meals, abandon contact with the small town where they live on the edge of great lake. The lake itself is an ominous presence in its vast depths and darkness. Ruth follows her aunt's example but Lucille wants a different, more conventional life and leaves the other two to their own mysterious ways, their love of solitude and preoccupations with the woods, the lake and the railway.

It is hard to do justice to the detail of the writing, its poetic quality and the haunting images and ideas that emerge from the story. I suppose the main theme is transience, the idea that nothing lasts, and that keeping house is a futile activity so it is better to accept this and find pleasure in the passing, the fleeting. This may sound to be a negative idea but it really isn't. The book asks you searching philosophical questions about the nature of reality and provides no easy answers. But it will change you and images will stay with you ever after.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that lasts a lifetime, 17 Aug 2009
By 
Mr. Pc Smith - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Housekeeping (Paperback)
"Housekeeping" has been my most treasured book for many years now, since I was a young man, and I have read it several times. Each time has been rewarding in different ways.

The word most often used to describe it is "haunting" and it is apt in the way that one can be haunted by memories of a lost friend returning unbidden in our dreams.

For me, the heart of the book is about the human hunger for a sense of belonging and the ways that our lives unfold, intertwine and unravel as we feed that hunger.

Allow yourself time to savour this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ephemeral and luminous, 29 Aug 2009
By 
Suzie (Scotland, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Housekeeping (Paperback)
This is an unusual book, written in flowing and at times almost poetic prose. Others have described it as haunting but for me that didn't seem quite the right adjective although it is difficult to find a better. It has an ephemeral feel though, the prose at times as luminous as the quality of light on the water that pervades the story.

It's a story of two sisters, Ruth - the narrator - and her younger sister Lucille, as they grow up in a wild and desolate part of America's north-west. I was never aware of quite when the story is set, but the style is such that the novel could have been written a century ago rather than in 1981. The girls are cared for by a succession of female relatives until Sylvie, their dead mother's unworldly sister, moves in to look after them. Sylvie lives a dreamlike existence, wandering the shore of the lake, or sitting alone in the darkened kitchen, her behaviour so unconventional that she seems at times almost deranged. The girls are self-reliant and close, and Sylvie drifts along seemingly unaware, or unwilling, to do anything about their truancy from school. There are moments when you fear for their safety. Eventually, Lucille rebels against their strangely claustrophobic existence but Ruth stays with Sylvie as the novel builds to an unexpected denouement. And always the lake and the railway line are an almost threatening presence in the background...

In many ways this is a sad and worrying tale, a story of loss and loneliness, but it is not a depressing read. It's a story that stays with you, so in that respect I suppose haunting is the right way to describe it. Certainly a book worth reading.
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book I have ever read, 1 Feb 2006
By A Customer
This book creates a magical, almost dreamy atmosphere, and certain sections are very poetic. It follows the lives of two girls who are orphaned and looked after by their aunt, who was formerly a vagrant. Set in the lakes, the scenery is described beautifully. Emotionally very intelligent - it was easy to empathise with the characters. It is a short book, which is a shame.
I read this book years ago, and it remains the best book I have ever read.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars yes, but..., 5 Feb 2009
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This review is from: Housekeeping (Paperback)
I read this straight after Gilead. She writes wonderfully well. My reservations I suppose are that too many of the characters stay enigmas, and there's a certain repetition of theme running through them - men who vanish, women whose inner motivations are - well, enigmatic. And at times she attributes extraordinarily sophisticated - though interesting - metaphysical and philosophical thoughts to a young girl. Nonetheless she's a terrific and stimulating writer. With those reservations, recommended...and read Gilead.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A quiet masterpiece, 21 Sep 2009
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Housekeeping (Paperback)
The beauty and rhythm of Robinson's prose often approaches poetry as she weaves her magical spell of landscape and feeling. This is an intensely lyrical book, but I could find only two instances throughout where the language seemed foregrounded for effect. For most of this narrative the beauty of the prose seems an effortless part of the whole and this makes the novel an extremely profound experience.

A settler family, grandfather, grandmother, three daughters, live lives of quiet and stoically-borne privation. Then the grandfather, a railway clerk is killed when the express steam train falls from the bridge high above the local river and the grandmother continues alone, caring for her children. One by one the children leave. The eldest to work as a missionary in China, the middle child marries and the third child, Sylvie, disappears. The middle daughter, Frances, has two daughters, but then her husband leaves her. Loading up the children in a friend's borrowed car she takes them to visit her mother. Arriving at the house to find her mother gone to work, she settles the children to wait outside and drives away. When she comes to the shore of the river she drives straight in.

The two children, Ruth and Lucille remain with their grandmother and go to the local school. When their grandmother dies two aunts come to stay to look after them, but they are city women and afraid of the countryside, especially when the flooding that perpetually threatens the small township and its environs, becomes worse that year than ever before. They send for the children's aunt, Sylvie, who has led an itinerant life as a drifter. Sylvie is different from the townspeople. She has odd domestic habits and does not mix. But there are compensations, for Ruth in particular, as Sylvie takes their mother's place.

There are journeys, partings, a night of fear and wonder, much more to this book than the outline above can convey. It is a book full of treasures and troubles, trials and triumphs. It is a quietly beautiful masterpiece.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lives up to all the acclaim, 23 Aug 2009
This review is from: Housekeeping (Paperback)
I was a little worried when I began reading this book that it would prove to be disappointing, after all the plaudits I knew it had received. I'd really been looking forward to reading it, probably more than with any novel I've read. But I was pleased to find that it really was worthy of the praise, though it's a very subdued, quiet sort of excellence, with an ethereal quality that grows on you as you read.

The story, about two sisters who fall under the care of a mildly-loopy aunt in the remote north of Idaho, after their mother drowns herself in the lake that claimed the life of her father, is only part of the appeal. Marilynne Robinson is known for the beauty of her prose, with good reason, though she keeps her books quite short so there's none of that feeling you get with Proust, for example, that reaching the end will be a considerable achievement. This book deserves its new-found status as a classic of American literature.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marilynne Robinson's 'Housekeeping', 18 May 2011
This review is from: Housekeeping (Paperback)
If you enjoy literature and you have not yet read Marilynne Robinson's 'Housekeeping', order a copy right away. It has been described by one critic as 'probably among the best 100 novels ever written'. I am generally sceptical of comments of this kind but I concur with this one. It is one of those rare novels that alters your mind in a significant way. It is riveting, profound, subtle, sad and beautiful. I had the rare privilege of meeting Marilynne Robinson yesterday at the Reader Organisation's conference on 'Getting into Reading'in New Brighton. She is as I expected: illuminating, gracious and distinctly lacking in the egotistical thrust of most modern authors in their public personae. Enjoy!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Certainly in my best novels of all time., 7 April 2011
This review is from: Housekeeping (Paperback)
I would just think that any free spirit must read this book. I have seen it described as a "woman's book" due to the absence of men...but it is a trip through the psyche of a person who happens to be a woman. There is no gender stereotyping here. It's like a dream. It is so honestly and delicately wrought. Essential reading for anyone who has ever dreamed or imagined or nurtured notions of freedom. It is utterly liberating. I just finished it and I think I need to read it again.
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Housekeeping
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (Paperback - 7 July 2005)
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