Keeping the House
Set in the conformist 1950s and reaching back to span two world wars, Ellen Baker’s superb novel is the story of a newlywed who falls in love with a grand abandoned house and begins to unravel dark secrets woven through the generations of a family. Like Whitney Otto’s How to Make an American Quilt in its intimate portrayal of women’s lives, and reminiscent of novels by Eli...more
Dolly and Byron Magnuson just moved to Pine Rapids, WI. It is 1950, and Dolly is desperately trying to be the perfect wife. While working on a quilt with the town's old biddies, she learns of the other family.
The Mickelsons lived in Pine Rapids also. Wilma and John were married in 1896 and lived in a grand house in the small town. They had four children, two of whom served in WWI and two grandchildren, one of w...more
It is sort of a cross between "How to Make and American Quilt" and "Drowning Ruth." As in "How to Make and American Quilt," there are intermittent quilting scenes where one of the story-lines unfolds. And it is like "Drowning Ruth" somewhat because it is post Great War and that influences much of what happens, but mostly because I spent a good deal of my reading time trying to figure out where, exactly, in Wisconsin that book was set.
I can imagine Oprah taking a shine to this...more
Lonesome in a new town while her husband works selling cars, newlywed Dolly Magnuson follows the "rules" for married women found in the popular press of the 1950's and quoted throughout the book. She works hard to keep a pleasant home for her husband and takes on all the responsibility for making her marriage work. Despite her sincere efforts, she feels lonesome. Her growing interest in the beautiful abandoned Mickelson home across the street provides her...more
Quick summary: Dolly moves with her husband Byron to Pine Rapids, WI as newlyweds, and she struggles to find herself and to find friends while her husband is out working all day. She i...more
The Mickelson's history is rich and tragic, and has many twists and turns over the decad...more
Our book club read this and had a hoot with the discussion. Ellen Baker was part of it via speakerphone. It was utterly delightful to have the "creator of the world" in which we had all been su...more
How do I sum up what I thought about this book? I am going to have to turn to Kristen Chynoweth and Idina Menzel for the answer to that. “What is this feeling? Fervid as a flame, Does it have a name? Yes! Loathing. Unadulterated loathing”.
I hated every second of this book for a plethora of reasons but here are just a few for you.
Stagey whispering/shouting in the narration
The narrator has an irritating voice and reads the book as if she is on a stage in front of a large audience...more
What I thought was fun was that the author would then shift the reader to a newlywed couple, married in 1950, who recently moved to the same town. As the wife is working to get the whole 'marriage thing' figured out, and realizing that everyone in...more
A young bride finds that making marriage work is much more than her "Bible" for being a good wife, the Ladies Home Jo...more
Keeping the House takes the reader back in time from the late 1890's to 1950. Told in a non-linear fashion, the story anchors with the story of Doll...more
While one revelation in the story was completely out of left field and pretty soapy, I otherwise...more
This story had amazing potential. The notion of working in 1940s-50s women's magazine 'advice to wives' as a chapter header: really well done.
The lead characters were interesting. The flashbacks timed beautifully. The places and time, descriptive. And how could anyone not fall in love with the idea of that big, beautiful, abandoned, supposedly cursed, house?
The relationships are stitched to...more
However, when a forward-thinking friend (thanks Nergis!) told me this book had so much more to offer I d...more