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3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  28,922 Ratings  ·  3,851 Reviews
A modern classic, Housekeeping is the story of Ruth and her younger sister, Lucille, who grow up haphazardly, first under the care of their competent grandmother, then of two comically bumbling great-aunts, and finally of Sylvie, their eccentric and remote aunt. The family house is in the small Far West town of Fingerbone set on a glacial lake, the same lake where their gr ...more
Paperback, 219 pages
Published November 1st 2004 by Picador (first published 1980)
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Apr 07, 2007 laura rated it it was amazing
written in exquisite detail, as everyone has noted, but a lot of the rest of what's been written in the more recent reviews i find sort of troubling and, frankly, misleading. recommended for 'women who like descriptive writing'? gross. this novel was given to me by a dude, and further recommended by a (male) writer i know-- a guy who counts earnest hemingway among his favorite writers-- as one of the best novels of the 20th century. this is not, as has been implied, some kind of lady-book.

Oct 28, 2009 Bram rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2009
I might as well cut to the chase here: this book was a pretty significant and unexpected disappointment for me. Housekeeping falls into one of my favorite literary sub-genres: mostly plotless, character-driven novels (e.g. To the Lighthouse, In Search of Lost Time). I'd seen the Pen/Faulkner Award, the "best of" status among recent American books voted on by “writers, critics, editors and other literary sages” (, and the high ratings from friends with imp ...more
Marilynne Robinson's first novel Housekeeping were it a piece of music, would ressemble Sibelius' Violin Sonata in D Minor - slow and foreboding, full of winter's solitude and loneliness. The setting, Fingerbone (most likely in Idaho) is quite reminiscent of Finland actually. There is the small town surrounded by snow-covered mountains with a huge lake not far from which live Ruthie, the narrator and her sister Lucille. They have been surrounded by death and loss: their grandfather died during a ...more
Oct 05, 2008 RandomAnthony rated it really liked it
Two things you should know about my thoughts on Housekeeping:

1) I think Housekeeping is a great book.
2) Finishing Housekeeping gave me a palpable sense of relief.

Housekeeping is darker and more intense than the author’s better-known Gilead . The former is also a tougher read; even the most careful reader would, I imagine, find herself returning to some passages a few times in an attempt to follow the beautiful but difficult language. So while I don’t regret reading a tough and rewarding n
Paul Bryant
Mar 07, 2015 Paul Bryant rated it liked it
Shelves: novels

This is Literature with a capital L in the form of a Doric column so high you’ll get a crick in your neck trying to see to the top of it. You really do feel like you are becoming a better person as you read this novel, even as you fight the drowsiness which is baked into each and every sinuous delectable palpable sensuous lapidary paragraph. Huh? What? What was that??

The story, such as it is, and it really isn't, is that two little sisters are orphaned and then looked after by their grandmamma w
May 31, 2008 Nick rated it it was ok
I'm going to throw the gauntlet down and say that I thought this book was terribly overrated considering how many of my friends--whose taste I've come to respect--recommended it to me. All the critics from 1980 seemed amazed that this was a debut. Seemed like a first novel to me.

The thing that people praise most about the book was the beauty of her language. I'll admit that there were some wonderful passages, and some great imagery, but there was just as much "writerly" prose, overwritten prose,
Aug 23, 2008 Sarah rated it did not like it
About a girl who really hates to talk and never talks but the author can't stop babbling. She just goes on and on and on and on and on.

The ending really sucks, just like the middle and the beginning.
Jun 08, 2009 KFed rated it it was amazing
Another reviewer labeled this book as good for "Women who love descriptive writing." Well. I loved this book, so either I'm due for an identity crisis or someone here is a little misguided about writing and gender. Or both.

Either way, I can't say enough about this luminous, challenging and sobering book.

Robinson starts her novel with a cross-generational tale of loss. The narrator, Ruthie, recounts the story of the death of her grandfather, who went down with a train that sailed off of the brid
Mar 16, 2011 Sue rated it it was amazing
I have been thinking about this book since I finished reading it and still am unsure what to say. I believe it has some of the finest prose I've read....causing me frequently to stop, go back, read again once, twice, or more, before I continued with the story. There are parts that are woefully sad, in fact the story is one of total sadness and trying to eke out a life through the melancholy. But these women somehow seem to transcend (or outrun?) the melancholy in their own way. Grandmother by be ...more
David Schaafsma
"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."

Wow. I knew of this book in 1980 when it came out, and knew of its author, a Christian someone told me, and in that year I m
Dec 03, 2015 ·Karen· rated it really liked it
Look at that. And it’s not Versailles. It’s a brick wall with a ray of sunlight falling on it.

A summary of Marilynne Robinson's aesthetic in The Paris Review emphasises the ability of an artist to make us view the quotidian with a sense of wonder. It's what she does, it's what her characters experience, it imbues them and us with a sense of the numinous in everyday life.
One evening one summer she went out to the garden. The earth in the rows was light and soft as cinders, pale clay yellow, and
Sara Steger
I finished this book last week and have been traveling through its landscape ever since, much like Sylvie rode her railcars from town to town. Marilynne Robinson creates characters that beg you to live with them, to dig deep and touch their souls. They are unlike any people you have ever known, and yet they are every person you have ever met. They struggle with how to connect to one another and how to suffer the loneliness of the connections they cannot make. The worlds that are most real are th ...more
Until recently, I thought I would like to one day live in a hotel. Not a cheap, seedy places with the lingering smell of stale cigarette smoke where people go to have affairs, or not one of those ultra sleek and modern trendy boutique hotels, where they sell “sensual massage kits” with the minibar items, but one of those classically glamorous places, with a piano bar, that one’s grandparents would stay in, like the Waldorf Astoria or the Carlyle in New York. (Also, the fact that I’ve never found ...more
When she remembered that we were there and that we were children she sometimes tried to make her stories useful.
This is a highly regarded and much accredited piece, judging by the lists and the prizes and the place among the few females on many a personal favorite and/or grudgingly obliged pedestal. This is also a target of the Emperor's Clothing logos, judging from the MFA appraisals and sentence length critiques and the usual waving about a book like a dog worrying at tissue and string. I'll
Ahmad Sharabiani
Housekeeping ,c1980, Marilynne Robinson
عنوان: خانه داری (رمان)؛ نویسنده: مریلین رابینسون؛ مترجم: مرجان محمدی؛ تهران، آموت، 1393، در 272 ص، شابک: 9786006605395؛
پشت جلد کتاب: برنده ی جایزه کتاب ملی 2008؛ برنده اورنج طلایی انگلیس 2009؛ نامزد جایزه ایمپک دوبلین 2010؛ بهترین کتاب سال واشنگتن پست؛ پرفروشترین کتاب نیویورک تایمز؛ بهترین کتاب سال و برنده جایزه کتاب لوس آنجلس تایمز؛ بهترین کتاب از طرف روزنامه سان فرانسیسکو کرونیکل، بزرگترین روزنامه شمال کالیفرنیا
Dec 27, 2008 Matthew rated it it was amazing
Housekeeping has a distancing voice--brittle, isolationist and isolating--and the book is steeped in both death and its premonition, life seen as an unforgiving and unforgiveable thing tolerable only in ritualization or complete letting go.

Somehow, though, it remains also one of most humane and often even humorous books I know, still gentle in its ironies, humane and sympathetic in its treatment of the women and girls who make up the whole of the book, all of them suicides or suicides waiting to
Jul 31, 2007 Mark rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Marilynne Robinson won great praise a couple years ago for "Gilead," and much was made of the fact that it had been 23 years since she had written her first novel, "Housekeeping." While this was an evocative tale about a family in an isolated rural area and the writing was often poetic, I found it a struggle to get through. Heavy on atmospherics and light on plot, it was the kind of book where I often found myself nodding off on mid-page. Not my cup of tea.
Jul 29, 2015 Alex rated it it was amazing
Marilynne Robinson shrugged and thought "Maybe I'll write a book" and then just did it, in longhand, and then she showed it to her friends who lost their minds, and one of them was an author whose agent pounced on it and she got a call, like, "This is brilliant, get ready to be famous," and she was like "Oh, okay."
The deep woods are as dark and stiff and as full of their own odors as the parlor of an old house. We would walk among those great legs, hearing the enthralled and incessant murmuring
Feb 08, 2013 Mariel rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: sleep is best when you're really tired
Recommended to Mariel by: You don't just sleep. You die
Having a sister or a friend is like sitting at night in a lighted house. Those outside can watch you if they want, but you need not see them. You simply say, "Here are the perimeters of our attention. If you prowl around under the windows till the crickets go silent, we will pull the shades. If you wish us to suffer your envious curiosity, you must permit us not to notice it." Anyone with one solid human bond is that smug, and it is the smugness as much as the comfort and safety that lonely peop
Jul 08, 2014 James rated it really liked it
Perhaps in future generations when the American-MFA style of programme fiction writing comes to a grinding and welcomed halt, and as critics look back upon this period of American literature and wonder from when did it all begin, they might pluck from the threads of the post-war era. Although MFA programmes have been a long part of the establishment, it's only relatively recently - say in the last few decades - where the popularly and uptake of such programs have turned it into an almost blister ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
Honestly, I can recommend 'Housekeeping' only to readers of experimental literature and to budding new writers and students of MFA programs. And to the curious wilders and primitive self-taught readers of literature like me. It is a book of gloriously lyrical language, but it is also dense with description and atmosphere and no real action. Days pass, seasons pass, but time has stopped, nonetheless.

Water and dead tree leaves are among the things at effortless rest in the world, almost like dande
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
So. Yeah. Literary Fiction.

But listen. I had three criteria which lead me to pick up Housekeeping today ::

First, I needed something to cut through the masculinity and violence of The Devil to Pay in the Backlands. And it served this end exceedingly well. Can't get much more polaric. I would imagine it might serve equally well in other similar circumstances. Have a copy on hand to this end.

Second, I wanted something short.

Third, I wanted something that lent itself to one of my larger reading obje
Jan 30, 2013 Jeremy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-fiction
Marilynne Robinson actually strikes me as more of a northern European writer than a North American one. Her sentences have this steely, clear eyed quality to them that is reminiscent of writers like Tomas Transtromer, Par Lagerkvist, even W.G. Sebald at times (though unlike Sebald, the history which shades and haunts Housekeeping is that of a deeply private set of tragedies, not a continent-wide catastrophe). Literary comparisons aside, she brilliantly balances the luminous mysteriousness of the ...more
Interesting story - poetic feel to the writing. Enjoyed it, but it was not enthralling. Best way to put it - I wanted to finish it to see what happened, but I was not excited to come back to it.

One key characteristic was that it was odd enough that I would have a hard time figuring out exactly what was happening. When I finally did, a new chapter would start, and it would get odd again.
Aug 05, 2014 Mark rated it really liked it
Recommended to Mark by: Esther Lowe
My niece Esther bought me this book for a present earlier this year, she and I often like the same books and certainly share recommendations and discoveries but I have to hand it to her, she stepped out into the unknown with this one.

It could have been such a disastrous gift, it is odd and unsettling and unclear and meandering, it is full of half concepts and half views. The first person narrating is a touch of brilliance here which I do not find is always the case. As the reader you see the wo
K.D. Absolutely
Jun 29, 2009 K.D. Absolutely rated it liked it
Recommended to K.D. by: Time's 100 Best English Novels from 1923 to 2005
Different from most of the books that I've read recently. Why? This novel is narrated using present tense thus while reading, it feels like you are witnessing the events as they unfold before your very eyes. It intrigued me so I checked the Wiki entry for this book and the style is called transparent eyeball pioneered by Ralph Waldo Emerson who was one of the major influences of Marilynne Robinson (born 1943). Transparent eyeball is like communing with nature and it is not just about looking at ...more
Mar 11, 2014 Stuart added it
There's a certain style of writing that emerged in the 1980s and is particularly prevalent in MFA programs. I didn't know where it came from. It focuses on precise language and mood, has a strong American cultural feel, ignores plot, and has an overpowering sense of sadness. A close friend suggested I read Housekeeping. Bingo. I feel like I've found the motherlode of this style.

I'm neither American enough nor sad enough for this kind of fiction, plus I tend to need a plot to enjoy a narrative. W
Nov 11, 2009 Cynthia rated it it was amazing
This is not a one read book, even as I read passages over and over to myself I knew there was still lots I‘d missed. In “Housekeeping” parents disappear into death and into their own walled silence and kids are left to fend for themselves; it happens generationally. There’s a river that perpetually swallows folks and a train running through this isolated town that helps them escape as well as swallows them. Loneliness and extreme individuality, alternately, open up wells of enriching thought or ...more
Will Byrnes
Aug 21, 2009 Will Byrnes rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Her 1980 novel, Housekeeping, won a Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for best first novel and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Her second novel, Gilead, was acclaimed by critics and received the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the 2004 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, and the 2005 Ambassador Book Award.

Her third novel, Home, was published in 2008 and was nominated f
More about Marilynne Robinson...

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“To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is a foreshadowing -- the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one's hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again.” 265 likes
“Because, once alone, it is impossible to believe that one could ever have been otherwise. Loneliness is an absolute discovery.” 193 likes
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