- We are a mother and daughter blog team, fellow bibliophiles, and avid readers. We write about/review books that we read for pleasure. Frances ~ I love novels, and I read a wide variety of genres. I read the classics, Southern Lit, historical fiction, sagas, and contemporary fiction. Rose ~ I am a lover of everything from fiction to non-fiction, classics to fantasy. Many of the books/series I read are historical fiction, modern classics, and mysteries. I also enjoy world literature, especially from India and Scandinavia.
- ▼ August (4)
18th Century Lit 1960s 2011 2012 2012 Challenges 2012 Olympics 2012 Reading Challenges 2912 A Farewell to Arms A Good Hard Look Ada Verdun Howell Adrienne Rich Agatha Christie Albert Joseph Moore Aleksandar Hemon Alexander Deineka Amor Towles Anita Brookner Ann Napolitano Attia Hosain Auguste Macke Austen Billy Collins Black Books Book Cover Art Book Covers Book Reviews Bookish Quotes Bookplates Books Boris Pasternak Carey Wallace Carl Holsoe Carl Sandburg Carol Ann Duffy Caroline Preston Challenges Christmas Holiday Classic Books Claude Andrew Calthrop Cooking Cooking School Czeslaw Milosz D. H. Lawrence Daniel F. Gerhartz Danielle Ganek Daphne du Maurier David McCullough Dean Cornwell Deborah Kerr Derek Jacobi Dezso Kosztolanyi Dia Frampton Dodie Smith Donna Tartt Dorothy Parker Dylan Thomas E. M. Forster Edith Wharton Edmund Wilson Edna Ferber Edna St. Vincent Millay Edward Docx Edward Hopper Edward Thomas Elizabeth at Table Elizabeth Bishop Erica Bauermeister Ernest Hemingway Eudora Welty Ex Libris Excerpts F. Scott Fitzgerald Fanny Burney Flannery O'Connor Food Frank O'Hara Frantisek Kupka Frenchman's Creek Garrison Keillor Gatsby Genevieve Taggard George Dillon George Plimpton Georges Pavis God Is An Englishman Grace Reading at Howth Bay Graham Greene Gregory David Roberts Guillaumin Armand Guy Gavriel Kay Harlamoff Alexej Harper Lee Haruki Murakami Hemingway Hemingway's Boat Henri Labasque Henry David Thoreau Henry James Henry Lamb Housekeeping I Go Back To The House For A Book Incidents in the Rue Laugier India Invitation to World Lit Iris Murdoch Italo Calvino J. K. Rowling Jack Clayton Jalna Novels Jamaica Inn James Joyce James Tissot Jane Eyre Jeremy Mercer Jodhi May John Donne John Keats John Lennon John Steinbeck Jonas Jonasson Joyce Sutphen Judging A Book By Its Cover Julian Barnes Julius LeBlanc Stewart Kate Morton Kathryn Stockett Ken Follett Kenneth Branagh L. P. Hartley Last Lines Leonard Cohen Librarians Library Loot Lists Literary Pursuits of a Young Lady Lola Ridge Lord Byron Lord Frederick Leighton Lorine Niedecker Louis Abel-Truchet Lovis Corinth Mademoiselle Guillaumin Reading Maeve Haran Maggie O'Farrell Marge Piercy Maria Mazzioti Gillan Marie Spartali Stillman Marilynne Robinson Mary Chapin Carpenter Mary Oliver Mary Webb Mazo de la Roche Meg and Dia Michael Ondaatje Michael Wallner Miklos Vamos Milena Agus Mississippi Monique Truong Mosses from an Old Manse Movie Adaptations Moxy Fruvous Muriel Spark Muriel Stuart My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors My Cousin Rachel Nathaniel Hawthorne National Novel Writing Month Nicholas Nickleby Ninette Aborde Les Haute Etudes Norman Rockwell Old Books Old School Olive Custance Oscar Wilde P. G. Wodehouse P.G. Wodehouse Paris 1920's Pascal Mercier Paul Hendrickson Paul Simon Paula McLain PBS Penelope Fitzgerald Penelope Lively Peter Cunningham Philip Larkin Photos Piccadilly Jim Pierre-Auguste Renoir Pilar Poetry Poldark Quotes R. F. Delderfield Race Relations Rainer Maria Rilke Reading in the Garden Reality and Dreams Rebecca Recommendations Rita Mae Brown Robert Browning Robert Frost Rules of Civility Rupert Brooke Sally Beauman Santa Montefiore Sara Teasdale Saturday Snapshot Sea of Lost Love Sena Jeter Naslund Shantaram Shirley Jackson Slings and Arrows Squirrels Susan Hill Susan Ricker Knox Sweden Tessa Hadley The Art of Reading The Beautiful and the Damned The Blind Contessa's New Machine The Book Group The Book Shop The Building of Jalna The Children The End of an Era in Publishing The End of the Affair The English Patient The Glimpses of the Moon The Grapes of Wrath The Great Gatsby The Guardian The Hand That First Held Mine The Help The King's General The Last of the Mohicans The Lord of the Rings The Painted Veil The Paris Review The Sandcastle The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt The Sense of an Ending The Sun Also Rises The Turn of the Screw Thomas Hardy To Kill A Mockingbird Tobias Wolff Truman Capote TV Shows Virginia Woolf W. Somerset Maugham Walden Waxing Poetic Why Did I Dream Of You Last Night? Why Read the Classics? William Butler Yeats William Carlos Williams William Orpen William Shakespeare Winston Graham Woman Reading by the Harbour Zelio Andrezzo
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Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 9:42 AM | By: GirlsWannaRead
Housekeeping is on the Guardian Unlimited list of the 100 greatest novels of all time. Time magazine also included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005. After reading it, I understand why. I only wonder what took me so long to discover it. The novel is like a intricately faceted jewel and Robinson's poetic language sets the mood for the beautifully haunting story about three generations of women.
Ruth narrates the story of how she and her younger sister Lucille are raised by a succession of relatives in the fictional town of Fingerbone, Idaho. First, they are under the care of their maternal grandmother, Sylvia. When she dies, they fall into the care of Syvia's two bungling sister-in-laws. They are spinsters who have no practice in or desire for caring for children. Eventually the girls' aunt Sylvie, their mother's sister, comes to take care of them. Sylvie is a free spirit who has been living as a transient, floating through life. Sylvie's stability as a caregiver is always in question because of her tendency to dream and wander rather than to engage the practical realities of day-to-day life.
The novel treats the subject of housekeeping, not only in the domestic sense of cleaning, but in the larger sense of keeping a spiritual home for one's self and family in the face of loss, as the girls experience a series of abandonments as they come of age. Ruth comes to accept this as an inevitable occurrence:
Then there is the matter of my mother's abandonment of me. Again, this is the common experience. They walk ahead of us, and walk too fast, and forget us, they are so lost in thoughts of their own, and soon or late they disappear. The only mystery is that we expect it to be otherwise.
But as Ruth says: Families will not be broken. Curse and expel them, send their children wandering, drown them in floods and fires, and old women will make songs of all these sorrows and sit on the porch and sing them on mild evenings.
The novel addresses the price of loss and survival, and the dangerous and deep undertow of transience. Life for Ruth and Lucille was a constant shifting. Nothing could be counted on; nothing was stable. Ruth speaks of this limbo:
I hated waiting. If I had one particular complaint, it was that my life seemed composed entirely of expectation. I expected — an arrival, an explanation, an apology. There had never been one, a fact I could have accepted, were it not true that, just when I had got used to the limits and dimensions of one moment, I was expelled into the next and made to wonder again if any shapes hit in its shadows.
The small town of Fingerbone is set on a glacial lake, 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 remote little town in which one is aware that the "whole of human history had occurred elsewhere." The Fosters had always been a thorn in the side of Fingerbone:
We had been assured by our elders that intelligence was a family trait. All my kin and forebears were people of substantial or remarkable intellect, thought somehow none of them had prospered in the world. Too bookish, my grandmother said with tart pride, and Lucille and I read constantly to forestall criticism, anticipating failure. If my family were not as intelligent as we were pleased to pretend, this was an innocent deception, for it was a matter of indifference to everybody whether we were intelligent or not. People always interpreted our slightly formal manner and our quiet tastes as a sign that we wished to stay a little apart. This was a matter of indifference, also, and we had our wish.
Initially, Syvie and the girls become a close knit group, but as Lucille grows up she comes to dislike their eccentric lifestyle and she moves out. When town reacts and Ruth's well-being is being questioned by the courts, Sylvie returns to living on the road and takes Ruth with her.
But the past always haunts us and moving on isn't easy or maybe even possible. Ruth tells the story years later and ends it wondering about Lucille who she hasn't seen since leaving Fingerbone. Another loss in a long list, another memory:
There is so little to remember of anyone - an anecdote, a conversation at a table. But every memory is turned over and over again, every word, however chance, written in the heart in the hope that memory will fulfill itself, and become flesh, and that the wanderers will find a way home, and the perished, whose lack we always feel, will step through the door finally and stroke our hair with dreaming habitual fondness not having meant to keep us waiting long.
Housekeeping is worth reading for the language alone, but the story rich and engaging, as well. An excellent read!