10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A quiet masterpiece,
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.