In 1956, toward the end of Reverend John Ames's life, he begins a letter to his young son, a kind of last testament to his remarkable forebears. 'It is a book of such meditative calm, such spiritual intensity that is seems miraculous that her silence was only for 23 years; such measure of wisdom is the fruit of a lifetime. Robinson's prose, ...
In 1956, toward the end of Reverend John Ames's life, he begins a letter to his young son, a kind of last testament to his remarkable forebears. 'It is a book of such meditative calm, such spiritual intensity that is seems miraculous that her silence was only for 23 years; such measure of wisdom is the fruit of a lifetime. Robinson's prose, aligned with the sublime simplicity of the language of the bible, is nothing short of a benediction. You might not share its faith, but it is difficult not to be awed moved and ultimately humbled by the spiritual effulgence that lights up the novel from within' Neel Mukherjee, The Times 'Writing of this quality, with an authority as unforced as the perfect pitch in music, is rare and carries with it a sense almost of danger - that at any moment, it might all go wrong. In Gilead, however, nothing goes wrong' Jane Shilling, Sunday Telegraph
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This book is an endurance test; the ramblings of a 76-year old preacher man, enlivened occasionally by small burps of humor or crankiness, culminating in a final chapter that delivers no major aha-moments, it felt like hard, but boring work. I read the whole thing because the reviews had been so positive, but now
I kind of would like my hours back!
Jan 27, 2011
I loved this book the first time I read five years ago, and loved it just as much rereading it recently. Have recommnded it and the author to everyone I know.
Aug 23, 2009
Marilynne Robinson's "Gilead" is a beautiful, surprising work. The novel's structure is that of a letter written by an aging rural pastor to his young son. He knows he will be passing away before his son grows up, and wishes to write him his "begats," all those things which he would have imparted to his son as he grew up, had he lived. Throughout the novel, the narrator discusses his family's somewhat fraught political and religious history, and the schisms between fathers and sons that preceded him. Through these stories he tries his best to impart a sense of his faith and love to his young son, whom he holds so dear.
However, sepulchral this is not. This is a rumination on joy, faith, and recognizing the sweet beauty of living. Savor the words in this novel rather than devouring or rushing through them. Give yourself the time and opportunity to be moved by Robinson's masterly depiction of real, pulsing, beating-in-the-arteries humanity. I am very glad that I did, because it's a rare book that can impart both a visceral sense of calm and a churning impulse to experience life.
Oct 23, 2008
Wonderful heartfelt read
I picked this book when I learned the author had written another book (Home) which is a companion book to Gliead. This story is well-written and is basically a letter written to a young son, whose father is dying and will not be there as the boy grows up. Not sentimental, but plain beautiful words.
Sep 3, 2007
Across the Great Divide
The narrator of Marilynne Robinson's Gilead is a Congregationalist minister, and the novel is a sustained monologue from father to young son. The author writes in an austere Midwestern plainsong. The cleavage beween parent and child is evident, which mirrors the larger conflict of the Civil War, and the anti-slavery movement. The novel is compelling in both the apparent simplicity of its prose and its moral complexity, though the use of the first person may cause the reader's attention to flag a bit, especially if one is accustomed to the multivocal narratives of modernist and postmodernist fiction.
Publishers Weekly, 2004-09-27 Fans of Robinson's acclaimed debut Housekeeping (1981) will find that the long wait has been worth it. From the first page of her second novel, the voice of Rev. John Ames mesmerizes with his account of his life-and that of his father and grandfather. Ames is 77 years old in 1956, in failing health, with a much younger wife and six-year-old son; as a preacher in the small Iowa town where he spent his entire life, he has produced volumes and volumes of sermons and prayers, "[t]rying to say what was true." But it is in this mesmerizing account-in the form of a letter to his young son, who he imagines reading it when he is grown-that his meditations on creation and existence are fully illumined. Ames details the often harsh conditions of perishing Midwestern prairie towns, the Spanish influenza and two world wars. He relates the death of his first wife and child, and his long years alone attempting to live up to the legacy of his fiery grandfather, a man who saw visions of Christ and became a controversial figure in the Kansas abolitionist movement, and his own father's embittered pacifism. During the course of Ames's writing, he is confronted with one of his most difficult and long-simmering crises of personal resentment when John Ames Boughton (his namesake and son of his best friend) returns to his hometown, trailing with him the actions of a callous past and precarious future. In attempting to find a way to comprehend and forgive, Ames finds that he must face a final comprehension of self-as well as the worth of his life's reflections. Robinson's prose is beautiful, shimmering and precise; the revelations are subtle but never muted when they come, and the careful telling carries the breath of suspense. There is no simple redemption here; despite the meditations on faith, even readers with no religious inclinations will be captivated. Many writers try to capture life's universals of strength, struggle, joy and forgiveness-but Robinson truly succeeds in what is destined to become her second classic. Agent, Ellen Levine. 5-city author tour. (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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