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Lila Hardcover – 9 Oct 2014

4.3 out of 5 stars 145 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Virago (9 Oct. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844088804
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844088805
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 2.5 x 22.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (145 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 130,555 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


A masterpiece . . . Lila is a superb creation (Publishers Weekly)

One of the greatest living novelists . . . [Lila is] just as wise, moving and genuine as its predecessors (Harper's Bazaar)

Robinson brings [the story] to pulsating life in prose of great and luminous beauty . . . a book that leaves the reader feeling what can only be called exaltation (Neel Mukherjee Independent)

This superb novel can only add to [Robinson's] already stratospherically high reputation (Daily Mail)

Lila is a really beautiful book: beautiful prose, beautiful story; morally beautiful too. After reading it the world seems more dazzling, fuller of wonder and mystery than it did before, as if you were newly in love. I wish I could persuade everyone who ever buys a book to read this one (Cressida Connolly Spectator)

Deeply moving, almost transformative . . . frank and direct, but occasionally moved to ecstasy by the spirit (Sunday Times)

Tinged with heartbreaking beauty (Scotsman)

Although Lila revisits the characters of Robinson's previous books, Gilead, a Pulitzer prizewinner, and Home, a finalist in the American National Book Awards, and brings a certain completeness to their journeys, the book stands well on its own as a powerful search for the meaning of life as well as a touching and unlikely story of love and, ultimately, hope (The Times)

Robinson is a glorious writer . . . This novel, different in tone from its predecessors, stands beautifully alongside them (Claire Messud Financial Times)

There is no one quite like this American writer, or quite as good as her . . . extraordinarily fluent and pitch perfect prose (Tablet)

Measured and lyrical; the sound of this book is akin at times to the Cormac McCarthy of The Road . . . Robinson writes brilliantly about the way people dance warily around each other, never quite coinciding, stricken with longing and love (Literary Review)

This third novel in the sequence is, in many ways, the most adventurous of all . . . Lila is the work of an exceptional novelist at the peak of her capacity (Rowan Williams New Statesman)

Lila is a deeply affecting exploration of existence, love and the inevitability of loneliness. And although enriched by the two preceding books, it has the strength, beauty and originality to be read, enjoyed and appreciated as a standalone work. Written in beautiful, poetic prose, it's a remarkable achievement (List)

A sumptuous, graceful, and ultimately life-affirming novel (James Kidd Independent on Sunday)

Robinson has made a world so palpable and full that each book can stand alone...Taken together, these books will surely be known as one of the great achievements of contemporary literature (Observer)

Told with measured and absorbing elegance, this account of the growing love and trust between Lila and Reverend Ames is touching and convincing. (Scotland on Sunday)

Searching and full of grace (Daily Telegraph)

Robinson explores eternity, and she does so in a quiet, ruminative style that takes over your heart as well as your head. Once you've fallen under her spell, she's not just mesmerising but indispensable (Maggie Fergusson Intelligent Life (The Economist))

Robinson's writing can light up consciousness, and make even the most passing thoughts feel indelible. Her older sister in American literature is Emily Dickinson (Prospect)

Lila is a deeply affecting exploration of existence and love (List)

The Gilead novels provide insights into a people whose fates are bound to the land they live on. Iowa must be proud to have such a chronicler among them (Sarah Franklin Sunday Express)

As a reader you feel very well looked after by Marilynne Robinson: you are knocked out by the weight of thought, the care, the worry she puts into her work. You find yourself wandering into vast new rooms, as if you're in a fabulous museum you've dreamt up for your own pleasure. There's really no one else writing like this today . . . Lila is just so damnably beautiful (Herald)

Lila has a power beyond words (Stylist)

Mesmerising . . . reminiscent of the great Victorian novelists . . . Robinson's exquisitely wrought prose resonates (Mail on Sunday)

Her questioning books express wonder: they are enlightening, in the best sense, passionately contesting our facile, recycled understanding of ourselves and of our world (Sarah Churchwell Guardian)

Subtle shifts of loyalties, strange moral priorities make [Robinson's] books compellingly powerful (Joan Bakewell New Statesman)

The giant themes and big questions that sit beneath the surface of Lila's incredibly moving story are compelling (Amma Asante Observer)

My novel of the year can only be Lila by the inimitable Marilynne Robinson . . .my favourite living author and this once again demonstrates her remarkable gift for psychological depth (Salley Vickers Observer)

Exquisitely observed, an ultimately optimistic journey through the corrosive power of shame to divide and distort (Naomi Alderman Observer)

Lila by Marilynne Robinson is the heartbreaking conclusion to her Gilead trilogy (Robert McCrum Observer)

Lila was the book of books this year, an amazing achievement (Todd McEwen Sunday Herald)

One of the finest writers in America (The Economist)

Intricate and beautiful (William Leith Evening Standard)

The novel of the year for me was Lila by Marilynne Robinson, revisiting the fictional Gilead of her three previous novels. The prose, as always, is magnificent, pitch-perfect, carrying a moral authority, a gravitas and a spiritual depth. There really is nobody else writing like this (Alan Spence Herald)

Book Description

Marilynne Robinson, one of the greatest novelists of our time, returns to the town of Gilead in an unforgettable story about a girl who lived on the fringes of society in fear, awe, and wonder.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Antenna TOP 500 REVIEWER on 24 Jan. 2015
Format: Hardcover
Marilynne Robinson's writing fascinates me. For a celebrated professional creative writer she has produced relatively few novels, of which three produced over a decade examine and rework the lives of two families in the quiet Iowan town of Gilead, each book focussing on the inner thoughts of a different character. Lila, a newcomer who has married the Reverend John Ames in his old age and borne him a son, is a minor figure in "Home" and "Gilead", but comes to the fore in this latest novel. Best read in turn with Lila last, to understand all the references, they can be treated as standalone novels.

Carried on a stream of consciousness which catches Lila's distinctive voice, we learn how she was abducted as a young child from a neglectful and possibly violent household by Doll, an itinerant casual worker. On the run for years from some real or imagined pursuer, they attach themselves to a small group who find jobs where they can in what sounds like the dustbowl America of the `30s, although the author is vague as to time and place. Despite having been barely tolerated by everyone apart from the protective Doll, Lila retains a nostalgic longing for her childhood, lived mostly out in the open, with a keen sense of nature and the seasons, and what little they all had shared in common.

By comparison, in the reverend's comfortable old house, with his kind and patient attention, she often feels lonely and reluctant to confess details of her past for fear this may turn him against her. It appears he has married her out of his own loneliness and a sense of her reflective nature, drawn to the same spiritual questions which perplex him.
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By Anne TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 10 Feb. 2016
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
"Lila" is the third book in this author's series set in the small American town of Gilead in the 1950s. Lila is married to the much older preacher John Ames who was the subject of the first book "Gilead". This novel is narrated by Lila and she explains how she came to make this marriage and what led her to this position in life - it is not an easy story.

Lila was a neglected child who was taken in by a mysterious woman called Doll. The two of them fled the home town and became vagrants, joining with a group of others and seeking work on farms as they moves from one place to another. It was the time of the depression and many people were in severe poverty. The author really makes you feel how fragile their existence was and how reliant they were on others. When Doll is arrested for murder Lila has to make her own way in life without the mother figure on whom she has depended. She finds work in a brothel - making her own place there as a cook and maid because she is not suited for the main activity of the business. The author has no illusions about that type of life and this is clear as she describes what happens to Lila both in the brothel and later as she escapes and lives a precarious life on her own. Parts of this narrative are heartwrenching as Lila loses her mother figure and we begin to realise what Doll has done to preserve the life of this young woman.

The book also talks about the slowly developing relationship between Lila and John Ames. How she has to learn to trust and how he has to realise that his attraction to her does not mean that she is not her own person.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This novel doles out many profound truths about the nature of loneliness, the wonder of finding love in the most unexpected places, the inexplicable relationship between blessings and misfortunes, and the mystery of grace freely given. Delivered through Robinson's finely wrought prose, it should make for an enriching and enjoyable experience. Unfortunately for this reader, I experienced more of the former and less of the latter.

Let me explain. Lila is a fully-realised character that demands our sympathy, beginning with her wretched beginnings as a neglected child who is spirited away by the enigmatic vagabond, Doll, who raises her against all odds while wandering the countryside with a band of drifters, all the time casting an anxious backward glance in case Lila's family wants her back. They do eventually track her down and Doll knifes Lila's father. The knife becomes a sort of heirloom that Lila hangs on to as she eventually wanders into Gilead and meets the old Reverend Ames. Together, these two make the strangest couple, and unlikely as that relationship is, it forms the core of the novel. The problem with the story is not the improbability of it all but the way it is told.

It is all told through Lila's perspective, and she is very unreliable as a narrator. We follow her meandering thoughts as they turn inwards and backwards, before returning to the present without so much as a signpost. The entire novel is not marked out by chapters, and it is 260 pages long. That is a lot to process, considering the richness of themes explored. Perhaps I would revisit this book someday to savour it properly, but for now I found it a struggle, because it was a demanding read.
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