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Housekeeping: A Novel Paperback – October 14, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“So precise, so distilled, so beautiful that one doesn't want to miss any pleasure it might yield.” ―Le Anne Schreiber, The New York Times Book Review
“Here's a first novel that sounds as if the author has been treasuring it up all her life...You can feel in the book a gathering voluptuous release of confidence, a delighted surprise at the unexpected capacities of language, a close, careful fondness for people that we thought only saints felt.” ―Anatole Broyard, The New York Times
“I found myself reading slowly, than more slowly--this is not a novel to be hurried through, for every sentence is a delight.” ―Doris Lessing
Top Customer Reviews
The plot of the book is hardly the point, however. The words are. Reading this book was like looking at an impressionist painting or living inside someone's dream or reading her mind. Words and sentences on their own don't seem to make much sense, but in the context of the larger work, they swirl to form feelings, images, dreams, fears, and thoughts, bouncing from one to another to form a narrative whole. The resulting picture is utterly stunning, dripping with metaphor and stacked in layers.
This is one of the most skillfully written books I've ever read. Aside from a couple passages I found hard to get through, the book captivated me completely from beginning to end. Read it slowly to enjoy every word.
Housekeeping is not light entertainment. You will have to work and study it but it is so beautifully written that it is a joy. Settle down with your dictionary and enjoy it. I know I did.
A difficult book to understand? Yes surely. But very unusually in my experience, the jacket blurb includes a phrase which provides the perfect key to reading this book: "the dangerous and deep undertow of transience." It is, in fact, a meditation on impermanence, and it operates on a plane of recurrent and beautifully crafted imagery whose overall effect is almost surreal and certainly spiritual. The facts of this particular story are unimportant compared to the sense that everything we have and are in this world, and all the "housekeeping" we frantically undertake to keep hold of it, are temporary at best. I have certainly felt this myself, and I am not depressed but consoled to know that others understand this too.
Robinson's beautiful writing does have another side to it, however. Unlike other books about childhood, this one is narrated in a voice of exquisite sophistication. But the authorial voice does not square with what we know of the education and later life of the heroine, giving a self-conscious air to its artifice, despite the manifest poetic talent of the writer. Read as a sustained prose poem, however, the book is nothing less than superb, a minor masterpiece.
[Thinking again about this book a year after reading it, I also recognize that, although the details of its plot may vanish, it is one of those rare novels whose atmosphere and message grow and deepen in the memory, long after one has laid it down.]