Marilynne Robinson's second novel Gilead won this year's Pulitzer Prize, and that fortunately lead to a rekindling of interest in her first, Housekeeping. Published in 1982 to much acclaim, it's now available on audio, read by Becket Royce with the sad lyricism the text demands. This is not an easy book, and I mean that as praise. Ruth and her sister, Lucille, were abandoned by their mother, first to a reclusive grandmother, then to inept grand-aunts and finally to Sylvie, their mother's younger sister. Sylvie cares little for society's norms, driving Lucille to rigid conformity and drawing Ruth into her world where transience is as permanent as imagination is illusory. Listen carefully as Ruth conjures up this odd girlhood and seamlessly weaves it into a meditation on the persistence and insistence of memory. Give it a go, you'll be well rewarded. Copyright 2005 BookPage Reviews.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2005 October #1
Their lives spun off the tilting world like thread off a spindle," says Ruthie, the novel's narrator. The same may be said of Becket Royce's subtle, low-keyed reading. The interwoven themes of loss and love, longing and loneliness--"the wanting never subsided"--require a cool, almost impersonal touch. Royce narrates natural and manmade catastrophe and ruin as the author offers them: with a sort of watery vagueness engulfing extraordinary events. Occasionally this leads Royce to sound sleepy or to glide over humor. But she expresses Ruthie's story without any irksome effort to sound childlike, and she avoids the pitfall of dramatizing other characters, such as the awkward sheriff, the whispery insubstantiality of Aunt Sylvie or the ladies bearing casseroles to lure Ruthie away from Aunt Sylvie and into their concept of normality. Originally published in 1980 and filmed in 1987, Housekeeping is finally on audio because of Robinson's new Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Gilead . The novel holds up remarkably and painfully well, and the language remains searching and sonorous. Anatole Broyard wrote back then: "Here is a first novel that sounds as if the author has been treasuring it up all her life...." And because the author's rhythms, images and diction are so original and dense, this audio is a treasure for listeners who have or haven't read the book. Based on the Picador paperback. (Aug.)[Page 54]. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.