Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
While I was at the library a couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to have a conversation with one of the librarians. The 2017 reading challenge that I'm working through includes a category for 'a book recommended by a librarian.' I am always curious about what someone considers their favorite book, so I asked her what a favorite book was rather than for a recommendation of a current book.
She recommended Housekeeping. I remember the movie coming out in the 80s, but I didn't see it, so I had the idea that the book would be a somewhat funny, quirky story of two young sisters and their aunt.
I am now exactly halfway through the book, and I am really struggling. And I think I remember trying to read it in the past and giving up. Rather than being character or action driven, it is description driven. Rather than the aunt buying inappropriate and cheaply made clothing for the girls, she purchased things for which... "the deterioration of things were always a fresh surprise, a disappointment not to be dwelt on. However a day's or a week's use might have maimed the velvet bows and plastic belts, the atomizers and gilt dresser sets, the scalloped nylon gloves and angora-trimmed anklets, Sylvie always brought us treasures."
And while the prose are lovely, the sheer abundance of such description is overwhelming to me. It is not clustered around one character to highlight her difference, but covers every single page about every single character...the grandmother, the aunts, the great aunts, the neighbors, the deceased grandfather, the house, the furniture, the hobos under the bridge.
It is one of those books that if you love it, you love it for the beauty of the moments it describes in such stunning detail. And if you hate it, you hate it because of the overwhelming sensory stimulation assailing the reader and masking the plot.