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A Good Place To Start

Housekeeping 4
Gilead 1

A Bad Place To Start

Home 1


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Categorization is odious. There is tremendous overlap among genres. These pigeonholes are offered only as a convenience.

Marilynne Robinson

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Please consider recommending where to begin reading this author, or where not to. A few words about your experiences reading this author and why you make the recommendations you do will be helpful to other users. If you are the author or have studied this author extensively, please say so.

mowrites March 3rd, 2006 08:50 AM PST

Gilead is one of the most beautiful books that I have ever read. It was a pleasure reading a book with such a memorable voice and story as that of Rev. John Ames.

alexismacnab March 2nd, 2010 06:17 PM PST

Marilynne Robinson has written only three novels but it is arguable that each one is one of the best books ever written. I haven't yet finished Home - which is described as a "companion book" to Gilead though I'm sure stands well on its own - but I vote that it's a bad place to start because you might as well fall in love with some of those same characters first in Gildead. But it's almost a toss up whether to start with Housekeeping or Gilead. I, of course, started with Housekeeping because until recently it was her only work of fiction. Doris Lessing says in her author blurb "I found myself reading slowly, then more slowly - this is not a novel to be hurried through, for every sentence is a delight" and I had a similar experience. One starts Housekeeping at a jog and by the end one is tip-toeing with held breath, not wanting the characters to notice you behind the hedge, peering in, for fear that they might start and disappear. With Gilead, however, I found that it took me a long time to get into the voice and head of Rev John Ames. But once there I carried his voice around with me each moment of the day, dreading any activity that would take me away from his story. For this reason I think it's best to start with Housekeeping because it will hook you faster, but I do think that Gilead actually surpasses it as a novel (but only barely! They are both Pulitzer worthy). Housekeeping stars all women and (for the most party) Gilead stars all men so if you are more interested in reading one gender or the other that could help you decide as well.

editor May 8th, 2011 07:06 AM PST

I just reread "Housekeeping" after a gap of some 30 years. It is just as engaging and beautiful as I remembered but much, much sadder. I suspect what has happened in the meantime to influence this is that I have become a parent. I do recommend it as an introduction to the (all too scant) writings of Marilynne Robinson, but I'm also aware that I never got into "Gilead" as others have. (Full confession: I just plain put it down after 50 pp. or so.) For that reason, I suggest trying "Housekeeping" first, but moving swiftly on to "Gilead" if it doesn't grab you.


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Marilynne Robinson (1943-) is an American author who is a member of the permanent faculty at the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa. Her 1980 novel Housekeeping (see 1980 in literature) won a Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for best first novel and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Her second novel, Gilead (see 2004 in literature), was acclaimed by critics and received the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the 2004 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, and the 2005 Ambassador Book Award. Her third novel, Home, published in 2008, was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award, and won the 2009 Orange Prize for Fiction. Robinson is also the author of Mother Country: Britain, the Welfare State, and Nuclear Pollution (1989) and The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought (1998). She has written articles and book reviews for Harper’s, The Paris Review, and The New York Times Book Review. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marilynne_Robinson)

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