Gilead by Marilynne Robinson -- Book Review

"I was struck by the way the light fell that afternoon. I have paid a good deal of attention to light, but no one could begin to do it justice. There was the feeling of a weight of light--pressing the damp out of the grass and pressing the smell of sour old sap out of the boards on the porch floor and burdening even the trees a little as a late snow would do. It was the kind of light that rests on your shoulders the way a cat lies on your lap. So familiar."

I'm a little embarrassed to say that I gave up on this one. I know it won a Pulitzer, and the last Pulitzer Prize-winner I read was amazing, click here to see my review of Oscar Wao, but I just couldn't do it. I made it to page 76, but I kept falling asleep on the couch.

The language is beautiful and stark, but nothing is happening. The premise of the book is an elderly father recording the story of his family for a very young son, who the father knows he will not be able to watch grow up. It's a touching idea, and works well for the beginning, but I would have liked to have read more family stories and less, I'm watching you and your mother blow soap bubbles at the cat. Maybe I should have given it a few dozen more pages, but the New Year is right around the corner, and I wanted to return it to the library and get a fresh stack of books to choose from.

Feel free to explain to me what a terrible mistake I made, that the book actually gets good on page 80, because I really did want to like it, and might pick it up again at some point.

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for The Time Traveler's Wife. The deadline in January 31, 2009.

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Teresa said...

I adore this book--it's one of my all-time favorites, but it's certainly true that not much happens in it. For me, the beautiful writing and the theological musings (I'm a theology student) were enough to hold my interest.

I think for a lot of people, Robinson's follow-up book, Home, would be more accessible. The writing is just as good, and there's a bit more of a plot. And I think Glory, the central character, is easier to relate to than Rev. Ames.

meg89 said...

I really did like the writing, and wanted to like the book, there just wasn't enough going on for me. I think I'll Home on my TBR list, thanks for the suggestion!

Jonathan said...

I think it's worth going back to. I think there's more in it than first appears. What I found on reflection after finishing it myself is that there is clearly a lot of backstory to Gilead (some of which no doubt appears in Robinson's new sequel, Home). In the 24 years since Housekeeping, Robinson has created a community with a rich history and characters with rich biographies -- in Gilead she deliberately only reveals the details in little drops.

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