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An utterly compelling read, beautifully written: I want to say 'poetic', but I tend to abandon books of that description, and I loved this - so let's just say gorgeous prose. Narrator Ruthie describes life on the edge of a lake in Idaho. After a city upbringing with her mother, she and sister Lucille are dropped off with their grandma. Ultimately they find themselves cared for by unstable aunt Sylvie; the watery environs are a constant theme (floods; strange boat trips; thoughts of the two family members who lost their lives to the lake.) Meanwhile the dysfunctional family are at odds with society as Sylvie turns grandma's home into a hoarder's paradise and the girls play truant by the lake. Ultimately the exclusive friendship of the two erodes as Lucille seeks a conventional teenage life elsewhere, while Ruthie allies herself with Sylvie... It' a weird read; I read and enjoyed Robinson's 'Home' but this is a much more unusual and dreamy work. I can't imagine being able to write like this- it's fabulous!
In the small, desolate, lakeside town of Fingerbone, northwest America, two orphaned sisters find themselves in the care of their remote and enigmatic aunt. I enjoyed this a lot in 2007, but re-reading it now as a book-group choice, I found it a good example of how the same book can captivate at one time and not at another. It is beautifully written, but its tone and mindset are precisely those I am currently taking pains to hold at bay. In busy, crowded times of social noise and accompanying obligations and stresses, the protagonist’s dreamy, at times hallucinatory, passive withdrawal into silence, nostalgia, mystical thinking and eventual vagrancy would be soothing and mesmerising. In my current extended self-isolation from the pandemic, it actually lowered my mood, I skimmed rather than savoured, and turned the last page with relief. Don’t let me put you off. It is a beautiful book. Just choose your psychological moment to read it
What a beautiful story, the descriptions of the lake, mountains and small town are perfect. A refreshing change to read a book with a strong female cast. The male characters tended to be relevant by their absence – fathers, grandfathers and husbands. Take your time to read and absorb the atmosphere. This is a book about mental health and about how you chose to live your life. Yes it is sad in parts but also very accepting. The author did not succumb to the temptation to sensationalise the very simple plot which in my opinion made it even more powerful. Highly recommend.
Lucille and Ruth, who is the narrator of this novel, have been orphaned and are being cared for haphazardly by various female members of their family when their aunt Sylvie, who is a drifter, becomes their carer. The live together in the family home in the town of Fingerbone which is almost surrounded by water - water has taken the lives of previous family members. Sylvie is not a born housekeeper or guardian and the two sisters grow up strangely, fitting in nowhere - one sister takes to this way of life and the other finds it more difficult and finds her own way forward.
This is a strange but compelling book. It is full of images of water and eventually the water that killed the family members will try and overcome this little family too. The book is a little detached from reality and everything just a bit exaggerated but we can also see and understand that the women in this family are trying to live their own lives away from their traditional roles but that it isn't always easy. The tensions between the different ways of living are interesting and I am absolutely sure that I would not like to live as the sisters do with Sylvie yet I understand that this may be comfortable for her and them.
It is difficult to describe this book because the key to it is the writing which is elegant and clever. I am also not entirely sure what the message is, if any, that the author is putting across unless it is that we must all do our own thing and what way of life suits us best. Nevertheless I very much enjoyed this book and maybe a future rereading will reveal more of the author's purpose to me.
It was, of course , about more than abandonment but rightly or wrongly, that was the theme that stood out for me in this novel. Marilynne Robinson is such a gifted, talented and insightful writer whose books I do, for the most part, thoroughly enjoy and appreciate her ability to draw a story out. I did find it hard though, at times, to persevere with this book. It just seemed to go on and on for far too long before getting to what it seemingly was setting out to express on a number of occasions throughout the book. I am glad I persevered though because of the after effect of having read it. Which is often the way with her writings. It is quite a harrowing tale really of events which take place down the line of one family, all involving some form of abandonment of being left behind through an accidental or suicidal death by a parent or a child and the long term effects that this has on different members of the family through the years.
A slow burn but worth it in the end of you can persevere.
This clearly isn't to everyone's taste (having read some of the 1-star reviews) but I have to say that it is one of the most exquisite and satisfying reads in a long time (and it was her first novel!). It needs space and focus to get the most out of it - and it is not a light read. But it brings its main characters (including the locality) to intense life, and many of the descriptive passages still resonate in my mind. Her writing style is like nothing I have come across before - technically skillful and "otherworldly".
A modern classic. Character driven with not much in the way of plot. Excellent descriptions of both people and their town. A coming of age tale dealing with loss and survival, as well as the intransience of a place.