A modern classic, Housekeeping is the story of Ruth and her younger sister, Lucille, who grow up haphazardly, first under the care of their competent grandmother, then of two comically bumbling great-aunts, and finally of Sylvie, the eccentric and remote sister of their dead mother. The family house is in the small town of Fingerbone on a glacial ...
A modern classic, Housekeeping is the story of Ruth and her younger sister, Lucille, who grow up haphazardly, first under the care of their competent grandmother, then of two comically bumbling great-aunts, and finally of Sylvie, the eccentric and remote sister of their dead mother. The family house is in the small town of Fingerbone on a glacial lake in the Far West, the same lake where their grandfather died in a spectacular train wreck and their mother drove off a cliff to her death. It is a town 'chastened by an outsized landscape and extravagant weather, and chastened again by an awareness that the whole of human history had occurred elsewhere.' Ruth and Lucille's struggle toward adulthood beautifully illuminates the price of loss and survival, and the dangerous and deep undertow of transience.
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Was anxious to see what all the hype was about-----well it is a story of a dysfunctional family, with 2 young sisters caught in the middle. In some ways it is frightening to know that some people even exist, and can live off the grid quite serenely, taking along young psyches, who cannot make a conscious choice. I found it mind boggling!
Jul 23, 2008
Can you hear the trains?
I bought this book for a graduate class Fall of 2007 but I didn't have to read it so it lingered on my shelf for quite some time. I'm not entirely sure why but I always told myself when I had the time I was going to read this novel. Perhaps it was because of the haunting picture on the cover, with train tracks fading into the fog, but I had a feeling it was going to be different than other novels I have read.
Well, I was definitely right about that.
Told through the viewpoint of Ruth or "Ruthie", this novel discusses the importance of family, transience, loss, and the importance of communication. Ruth and her younger sister Lucille lose their mother Helen (she drives off a cliff) and live with their grandmother, then their two great-aunts, then finally with Sylvie their eccentric and transient aunt. The entire time they live in their grandmother's home by a glacial lake. Their grandfather died in a train wreak and drowned in that same lake before they were born.
The entire novel centers around trains. Sylvie never knows what time it is unless she hears a train go by, there are hobos hanging around the trains, and they talk about the people at the bottom of the lake that died in the train wreak. The town of Fingerbone lives and dies around the world of trains. Also, what I did like about Robinson's writing style is that her sentences are long and full of syllables, much like the cho-cho-choo of a locomotive keeping pace.
The title for the novel Housekeeping comes about when Sylvia realizes that she may lose custody of Ruth (since Lucille willingly decided to leave and live somewhere else) and attempts to clean herself and her life up. The town feared that her transient lifestyle began to affect Ruth (and they were correct). So she began to do all methods of housekeeping in an attempt to clean up and look presentable to society, in the process she tries to change her very nature.
I don't think I would recommend this novel to a friend just because I didn't personally feel any sort of connection with it. Robinson's connections with the lake, family, people, nature, and darkness are all very clever and written in a unique style, but I personally did not enjoy it. One critic remarked that Robinson wrote about the most ordinary things in her own perspective, and I do agree, but at times she drones on and on and on which makes it is very difficult to connect to the characters; at times it feels she is just trying to make her own point in Ruth's voice.
Publishers Weekly, 2005-10-03 Their lives spun off the tilting world like thread off a spindle," says Ruthie, the novel's narrator. The same may be said of Becket Royce's subtle, low-keyed reading. The interwoven themes of loss and love, longing and loneliness-"the wanting never subsided"-require a cool, almost impersonal touch. Royce narrates natural and manmade catastrophe and ruin as the author offers them: with a sort of watery vagueness engulfing extraordinary events. Occasionally this leads Royce to sound sleepy or to glide over humor. But she expresses Ruthie's story without any irksome effort to sound childlike, and she avoids the pitfall of dramatizing other characters, such as the awkward sheriff, the whispery insubstantiality of Aunt Sylvie or the ladies bearing casseroles to lure Ruthie away from Aunt Sylvie and into their concept of normality. Originally published in 1980 and filmed in 1987, Housekeeping is finally on audio because of Robinson's new Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Gilead. The novel holds up remarkably and painfully well, and the language remains searching and sonorous. Anatole Broyard wrote back then: "Here is a first novel that sounds as if the author has been treasuring it up all her life...." And because the author's rhythms, images and diction are so original and dense, this audio is a treasure for listeners who have or haven't read the book. Based on the Picador paperback. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly, 1997-08-18 A reissue of the contemporary feminist classic. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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