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The Keepers of the House

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  4,321 Ratings  ·  377 Reviews
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1965, The Keepers of the House is Shirley Ann Grau’s masterwork, a many-layered indictment of racism and rage that is as terrifying as it is wise.

Entrenched on the same land since the early 1800s, the Howlands have, for seven generations, been pillars of their Southern community. Extraordinary family lore has been passed down to Abigail Howl
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Paperback, 320 pages
Published November 11th 2003 by Vintage (first published 1964)
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Ann Reed I enjoyed this book immensely. It tells the story of a multi generation family in the south , where bitter feelings still ran high about the…moreI enjoyed this book immensely. It tells the story of a multi generation family in the south , where bitter feelings still ran high about the segregational problems between Blacks and Whites. it showed the difficulties for both sides fo this family. I simply could not put this book down. One of the most interesting books I have read in a long time. It touched my heart.(less)

Community Reviews

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Brina
Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau is the October 2016 pre 1980 read for the Southern Literary Trail group on Goodreads. The 1965 Pulitzer Prize winner for literature, Grau's third novel brings the multiple sides of race relations in the south bubbling to the surface. A novel featuring exquisite prose and a captivating story, Keepers of the House weaves a tale of many generations of one interlocking family in a rural southern community.

The Howland family had first come to Madison City in
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Margitte

When Money and Power hurts really badly, it lashes out and destroys as much as it has lost. When Money and Power looks back on the cadavers left behind after the battle was concluded, it sees a drought-shrunken river which turns back the sky, dully, like an old mirror.

Over the vast expanse of the Alabama heartland, belonging to seven generations of William Howlands, destiny spanned invisible woven threads over Howland Place, Madison City and the county. Abigail Howland Mason Tolliver, a Howland
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Diane Barnes
Sep 27, 2016 Diane Barnes rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-reads
I first read this book about 15 years ago when I assigned it for my bookclub. It was one of the best discussions we ever had about racism, hatred and Southerness. I decided to re-read this when it was a choice for On the Southern Literary Trail group here on GR.

It was every bit as good this time around, maybe even better. A family saga of the Howlands, a family who settled in what sounds like northern Alabama, although the locale is never named. With 200 years of living on the same land, in the
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Kirk Smith
I'm the foolish one who let this set on their shelf unread for 10 years! What an incredible book that I never hear of (OK well one friend mentioned it)that needs more attention.-- I am going to say that after To Kill A Mockingbird as number one, this book should be number two on a list of books about the South. If I had to nominate any single book to represent and capture the American South, this would be it.--There are eccentric family secrets and they are indelicate, but the delicacy of the v ...more
Perry
Aug 23, 2016 Perry rated it liked it
1965 Pulitzer winner, I Found akin to Being Made to Eat a Heaping Helping of Turnip Greens [yuck!] Because I was a "Growing Boy"

The Unfair Bait-and-Switch

I read this novel for two reasons: it won the Pulitzer the year I was born, and it's set in a fictional county in the deep American South during a time of racial hatred and violence. I'm sure The Keepers of the House had quite an impact back then; and, the nation's posture at the time screamed for Pulitzer to give its prize to Ms. Grau for this
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Josh
WOW!! Go get this book!! If you like short reviews stop here and follow that suggestion. For more thoughts, read along:

There has got to be a glitch in the Goodreads rating system (as of the writing of this review this book is rated at 3.82). Seriously, this is an epic tale that is not to be missed. Had it not been a selection within the group "On the Southern Literary Trail", I would have no doubt missed it. An epic story of how a long family line amassed not only good fortune, but heartache, lo
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Sue
This is a wonderfully written book which tells the story of a house, the land it sits on and the Howland family who lived in it for well over a century. Grau has created her own corner of the South here, presenting men and women of varying strengths and weaknesses, all caught up in the ongoing history of that area including the complications, terrors and pain of race relations.

Multiple generations have lived and died on this land and the white family has always had black hands working the land w
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Laura
Sep 21, 2016 Laura rated it it was amazing
Back in February 2014 my husband mentioned I needed to read this book. I said "yeah, I'll get to it" but here I am 2 1/2 years later saying "he was right and I was wrong for putting it off". I love a strong female character (she does have some flaws, but who doesn't). You see some real independence by the end of the book. I also like that it hints at a daughter who is following in the footsteps of her mother. This is a great multi-generational story that I thoroughly enjoyed. Don't skip the epil ...more
Camie
Apr 08, 2015 Camie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-favorites
This book begins rather slowly by setting up the charismatic characters of the Howland family, who now led by a tough (but endearing and wise ) patriarch William, have flourished in Alabama for 7 generations as great landowners and pillars of Southern society, and setting up a beautiful descriptive environment in which further action will take place . But stick with it, there is plenty of action on the way as many years after the death of his first wife William begins a relationship with Margare ...more
Becky
I grabbed this book in one of Audible's every-other-day BOGO sales. Not that I'm complaining, but I have FIFTEEN audiobooks purchased and waiting on me right now... so maybe like a week or two would be a nice break before the next sale has me picking up 4 or 6 more. (Like, seriously, Audible. That'd be great.) And I've noticed a trend with the books that I've selected from these sales. I've found myself gravitating recently toward books that deal with slavery and race relations. It's not a consc ...more
Connie
4.5 stars

The Howlands settled in rural Alabama in the beginning of the 19th Century, and became one of the most affluent and respected families in Wade County. Abigail, the granddaughter of William Howland, reflects back on the family's history in the Howland's large home. After Abigail's grandmother died, William began a relationship with Margaret, a black housekeeper. Years later, Abigail's husband is spouting racist statements in order to get elected around the early 1960s. In the last days o
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Chrissie
Feb 19, 2016 Chrissie rated it really liked it
Add this to your lists. It is very good. Listen to the audiobook narrated by Anna Fields, if you can. Read it or listen to it, but don't let it slide to the bottom of your heap of books to be read!

This book stands out as one of the better about the race situation in the South before the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s. What is it like to have both black and white blood? Where do you belong? How do you deal with this? What do you do and what do yo not do? In this book you will see people who hav
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Elizabeth (Alaska)
In this edition is appended a biography of Shirley Ann Grau.
...The Keepers of the House (1964) directly confronted one of the most urgent social issues of the time. Considered Grau's masterpiece, it chronicles a family of Alabama landowners over the course of more than a century. Its sophisticated, unsparing look at race relations in the Deep South garnered Grau a Pulitzer Prize.
For myself, I was lulled into a false sense of well-being. In fact, just short of the midway point I felt this was a
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Jon Michael
Sep 01, 2012 Jon Michael rated it it was amazing
I feel like this novel doesn’t receive the recognition it deserves. Before a few months ago I had never even heard of it, and now, having read it, I can only place it in my personal pantheon of Great American Novels. The Keepers of the House is exquisite in everything from its sultry and at times disturbing language to its irrepressibly keen perspective on race relations in the American South.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1965, this masterpiece of a novel should be read by anyone who is intere
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Beth
Jan 31, 2013 Beth rated it really liked it
November evenings are quiet and still and dry. The frost-stripped trees and the bleached grasses glisten and shine in the small light. In the winter-emptied fields granite outcroppings gleam white and stark. The bones of the earth, old people call them. In the deepest fold of the land--to the southwest where the sun went down solid and red not long ago--the Providence river reflects a little grey light. The river is small this time of year, drought-shrunken. It turns back the sky, dully, like an ...more
Megan
Mar 25, 2008 Megan rated it it was amazing
This book is initially slow-paced, taking a long time to set up scenery and family histories, but the final vindictive and vindicating crescendo is so pleasurable that any amount of time put into it is well worth your while.

The idea that it is ONLY an indictment of racism IN THE SOUTH is rather naive when you consider what happens when the northern-raised son interferes in Louisiana politics and accidentally helps install a violent supremacist. In fact, I loved Keepers of the House precisely be
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Diane S ☔
Aug 17, 2011 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
3 1/2 This book read the Pulitzer awhile ago and it is a expose somewhat on the race tensions in the south. I enjoyed reading about William the best, really liked how he didn't care what anyone thought, but took care of his family.
Jeanette
Nov 05, 2016 Jeanette rated it it was amazing
Reaction to the historical fiction plot will occur last.

But primarily, beyond the characters and plot focus- I think this is one of the most well written novels I've personally read since the turn of the century. Why is this not considered a classic?

With William, with Margaret, and with the granddaughter Abby- all of them- THE EYES!! Their eye witness descriptions of travel, work, daily movement and lodging arrangements. It reminds me of most superb excellence of Krueger or Haruf for their own
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Beverly
This was a 3.5 read for me.

• It was a slow start for me but once I settled into the novel I really enjoyed.
• It helped to remind myself that this book was written in the early 1960s before the feminist movement and knowing how the outcome of the Civil Rights Movement. So can see how this southern author was pushing the envelope on how she presents the issues of race.
• This is a character driven novel and the characters were well-developed and moved the storyline along.
• The author does a good j
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Stella
Jan 05, 2015 Stella rated it liked it
Shelves: classics, fiction, 2014
I am surprised i finished this. It was a struggle. Too many charachters, too much telling and retelling, too many details and lengthy descriptions. The main charachters didn 't have much depth and I didn't care what happened to them. (they were never fully explained, their motives were unclear)
But i finished reading it after all, i was trying to see if anything at all happens towards the end, which still says something, otherwise I would have just stopped reading it. There were parts I liked, bu
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Jane
Aug 25, 2016 Jane rated it really liked it
May upgrade to five a wonderful novel beautifully written
Khris Sellin
Nov 22, 2011 Khris Sellin rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Judy
Jul 23, 2013 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A family saga of the Howland family begun after the Civil War when a returning soldier settled in Alabama. Most of the story focuses on the last of the Howland family taking place in the mid 1900's. The writing is excellent, and flows smoothly. (I didn't realize until after I finished it that Shirley Grau won a Pulitzer Prize for this book.) There was one section that was a bit tedious for me. It was when we are told of the life of Margaret, who becomes Will Howland's mistress. She is of mixed r ...more
Judy
Jul 25, 2016 Judy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Judy by: Chelsea
I don't generally write anything about books I abandon, but this one is unique in that there were many good points about it, but not enough to keep reading. If I ever feel in the mood to read a book that has some pretty prose, but not much happens, I will pick it up again.

That in a nutshell explains my decision to put it aside after 97 pages. I kept reading a little more, a little more hoping something would draw me in, keep me reading, but nothing happened in spite of some nice descriptive wri
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Carol
Jan 06, 2014 Carol rated it really liked it
I wasn't sure what to think about this book until I was finished. The first thing I was aware of was Ms Grau's beautiful prose. Her descriptions were so artful as to bring you to the place and time. The book follows many generations of the Howland family in the deep south. Sometimes switching point of view from one character to another. But what the book is really about is race relations in the deep south; and won a pulitzer Prize in 1964. I did not especially like the ending, I would like to kn ...more
Marty Selnick
Oct 12, 2013 Marty Selnick rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The Keepers of the House tells the story of several generations of the Howland family and their home in Alabama. There is a wonderful affection for the land in this book. "The frost-stripped trees and the bleached grasses glisten and shine in the small light. In the winter-emptied fields granite outcroppings gleam white and stark. The bones of the earth, old people call them”. These are exquisite sentences.
The book is told from the perspective of three members of the Howland family. Their lives,
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Lizzie
Aug 12, 2015 Lizzie marked it as to-read
I am taking a long time to look through this list in depth, but I am not getting sick of it because of how many award-winning authors I'm finding I have never ever heard of whyyyy.
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Still combing through the 500 Great Books By Women book list, which got set up as a Goodreads group, and tracking the demographics via spreadsheet (and so can yoouuu).
Teresa
Mar 11, 2009 Teresa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written book. There are some slow, though gorgeous, descriptions of one of the characters traveling through a swamp, but don't let that put you off. It's all building up to a great story with important themes. Though it's different than All the King's Men, I was reminded of that book quite a few times as I was reading this one.

Read with a local group for LEH's RELIC program, "Encounter in Louisiana."
Kristi Lamont
Aug 03, 2016 Kristi Lamont rated it it was amazing
Makes To Kill a Mockingbird look, in retrospect, more like a children's story. Captures true hate and the spitefulness in both thought and action that can come with it. In some ways Faulkneresque in writing style. Absolutely worthy of the Pulitzer Prize in 1965, and absolutely worth any thoughtful person's time and attention in today's United States of America, with violence-laden vitriol the truly tragic order of the day.
Harold Titus
Jul 08, 2016 Harold Titus rated it really liked it
It took me 42 days to read the first 200 pages of Shirley Ann Grau’s 1965 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Keepers of the House” and one sitting to finish its final 109 pages. During those first 200 pages the book seemed more anecdotal than directional. What is this that I am reading, a family genealogy? I wondered. I thought about quitting the book for one that adhered more to the default formula of popular fiction-writing: grab the reader’s interest on the very first page, establish quickly a ...more
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Shirley Ann Grau (b. 1929) is a Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist of nine novels and short story collections, whose work is set primarily in her native South. Grau was raised in Alabama and Louisiana, and many of her novels document the broad social changes of the Deep South during the twentieth century, particularly as they affected African Americans. Grau’s first novel, The Hard Blue Sky (1958), a ...more
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“And you remember how warm bourbon tasted, in a paper cup with water dipped out of the lake at your feet. How the nights were so unbearably, hauntingly beautiful that you wanted to cry. How every patch of light and shadow from the moon seemed deep and lovely. Calm or storm, it didn't matter. It was exquisite and mysterious, just because it was night. I wonder now how I lost it, the mysteriousness, the wonder. It faded steadily until one day it was entirely gone, and night became just dark, and the moon was only something that waxed and waned and heralded a changing in the weather. And rain just washed out graveled roads. The glitter was gone. And the worst part was that you didn't know exactly at what point it disappeared. There was nothing you could point to and say: now, there. One day you saw that it was missing and had been missing for a long time. It wasn't even anything to grieve over, it had been such a long time passing. The glitter and hush-breath quality just slipped away...there isn't even a scene--not for me, nothing so definite--just the seepage, the worms of time...I look at my children now and I think: how long before they slip away, before I am disappointed in them.” 9 likes
“How every patch of light and shadow from the moon seemed deep and lovely. Calm or storm, it didn’t matter. It was exquisite and mysterious, just because it was night. I wonder now how I lost it, the mysteriousness, the wonder. It faded steadily until one day it was entirely gone, and night became just dark, and the moon was only something that waxed and waned and heralded a changing in the weather. And rain just washed out graveled roads. The glitter was gone.” 3 likes
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