Monday, October 4, 2010
#19 - "Housekeeping" by Marilynne Robinson
My race to finish 25 books by mid November has made some progress, but will have to continue at a feverish pace to be successful. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, my 19th book, has helped my cause, thanks to it being a little on the short side, and for the most part is an easy read.
It's the story of two sisters, Ruth and Lucille, who are orphaned after their mother's suicide. They move around between different relatives, until they settle in with their estranged aunt, Sylvie. Or rather, she settles in with them. The two sisters begin to grow in different directions, as one becomes closer to their aunt and one drifts farther and farther away, eventually running away from home to stay with neighbors. Aunt Sylvie, who speaks mostly of bus and train stations from her drifting days, is a bit odd to say the least. She returns to town to take care of her nieces, having arrived from places unknown. While she had been married, nobody knows what happened to her husband, and Sylvie isn't really interested in telling anybody. Aunt Sylvie isn't big on disciplining the girls, and for the most part lets them do as they please. While at first both girls love it, this laissez-faire attitude to practically everything is what eventually drives Lucille to run away, but it is also what brings Ruth and Sylvie together.
Housekeeping reminds me of a couple other books on The List, The Sun Also Rises and Tropic of Cancer. Not because it's about sexually frustrated ex-pats, living in Paris, but because nothing really happens in the book. Housekeeping just seems to drift along, without any real plot twists or any pivotal events. The end of the book is merely a little later in time than the start. This isn't to say, however, that it is enjoyable to read this book. It flowed very well, and I found myself very interested, despite realizing early on that nothing would happen. I was still interested in reading it for its' style and I enjoyed the characters. I suppose this is a sign of a well-written book and one of the reasons it is on The List, and I need to get a little better and recognizing 'good writing' when I see it. I'm thinking 'writing quality' is what separates this book from say, a Clive Cussler novel. Sure, lots of things happen in Raise the Titanic!, but in terms of style, it's likely a little lacking, much like a good movie over, say, "Death Wish." So to summarize, not a lot happens in Housekeeping but I enjoyed it, and it isn't anything like "Death Wish." (I think that's inside cover material!)
You can read the original TIME magazine review from February 2nd, 1981, here.
Next up, will be my 20th book on the list, a milestone of sorts I suppose. Seeing as how there are a few books left on The List that I have already read, and there are some whose story I am very familiar with, I've decided to try and space those out a little, trying to read one every tenth book. So, my next read will be James Dickey's Deliverance. I've seen the movie several times, and even played the role of "Hillbilly Santa" in my Grade 8 Christmas Concert, in a skit entitled "A Christmas Deliverance." I'm not kidding, that actually happened. It was brilliant.