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The Keepers of the House

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  2,478 ratings  ·  202 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
Paperback, 320 pages
Published November 11th 2003 by Vintage (first published 1964)
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Kerri Rohrer I'm about a 1/3 of the way into it and am having a hard time getting into it. I've read a lot of enthusiastic feedback. Perhaps someone could direct…moreI'm about a 1/3 of the way into it and am having a hard time getting into it. I've read a lot of enthusiastic feedback. Perhaps someone could direct me to a group on goodreads or a good reader's guide that would help me get more of a connection to it.(less)
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Best Southern Literature
144th out of 784 books — 1,875 voters
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Pulitzer Winners: Fiction & Novels
53rd out of 87 books — 908 voters

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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
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
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
Jim Hale
I suppose that you can't say that a Pulitzer Prize winning novel is underrated, but it sure seems to me this book and this author are vastly under appreciated. I just finished it, and I don't want to start a fight, but I will say that this book surpasses the work of many more celebrated authors known for depicting the South.

This is a daring work in many ways, and I'm not just talking about the subject. Shifting points of view and changing narrators is normally the kiss of death for me, but Grau
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
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
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
Jon Michael
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
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
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
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
Khris Sellin
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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,
Aug 28, 2014 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.
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).
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."
Debbie Sweeney
This easily could have been an epic novel that went on for hundreds of pages, spanning many generations. Instead the author chooses to give you glimpses into the past of those who came before and the history of the house. Oh, that house. What I enjoyed most was what I wasn't told, just what was understood to be. From the introductory chapter of present day Abigail I was taken in. I loved the story chapters of William and Margaret. The story slowly evolved and was smooth and flowing. When it reac ...more
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
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
Fantastic. This was another one of those never-would-have-read-them books that I lucked upon because of the Pulitzer challenge. Very evocative, vivid, beautifully written, a gratifying ending--all the ingredients of a great book. I was actively not looking forward to this read, based on the synopsis, so I feel the author must have done a superhuman job to convert me so thoroughly.

This book read in a very authentic and genuine way, meaning I would be shocked to find that Shirley Ann Grau was not
What an amazing book. Why had i not heard of this before? This is just the type of novel i love to read--an amazing portrait of the land in which the characters live, broad sweep (it covers many generations of the Howland clan), and strong, complex characters who happen to be female. Shirley Ann Grau won a Pulitzer for this in 1965 but it's as topical and compelling today as any novel i've recently read. I plan to hit up the library for all her works.

Summary from the flap: Entrenched on the same
Angie Lisle
This was a delicious book - maybe because I read it right after finishing a book that I despised (Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War). Once I started reading, I couldn't put this book down until I finished it.

This story is about the forbidden love between William Howland, a wealthy white landowner, and Margaret Carmichael, his black maid, in a small southern town at a time when segregation attempted to keep races separated.

I'm a Melungeon (tri-racial heritage) from a predominately white area in
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
Jan 01, 2014 Judy rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  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
It's late and I'm tired and I won't review this one as much as it deserves. Pulitzer Prize, FYI. A novel in three or four parts, each focusing on a different member of the Howland family of the old South, who over generations become landowners, cotton farmers, timber barons, and ranchers. The Howlands are white, but patriarch William Howland takes up with Margaret, a free black woman. From the 1800s through the 1960s, the family heaves to and fro with the race tides of the country and the region ...more
very very interesting read, i definitely had to take a moment to think through my response. although it does take some time for the story to take off, i really appreciated how the author used historical events, time, and genealogy to explore race and gender in the South.

the novel is split into three perspectives: Abigail (the main protagonist), her grandfather William, and his black "mistress" Margaret and uses a house as the frame of reference to review the past, present, and future of a famil
Tara C
I devoured this book. Perhaps because there is only a/c in my bedroom and reading and sleeping are the only options when it's ten-thousand degrees out. Perhaps because it was kind of fascinating, weaving together multiple lives and tales until the thrilling denouement (the only word I remember from any literature class taken, ever). It is great "southern" writing without a level of over-bearingness some authors indulge in.

I apparently love to start sentences with the vauge non-committal "Perhaps
I do not give many 5 star ratings, but this novel deserves it...and the Pulitzer it won in 1965. Abigail Howland always knew her family wasn't exactly typical, but by the time she really came to understand that her grandfather's bi-racial children with the family housekeeper was socially unacceptable, it was past mattering to her. Margaret was the only mother she truly knew, and even though she had her ways, she did at least take care of Abigail. When the town wants to make a huge scandal of her ...more
I loved the book on so many levels. Great writing, especially the opening and closing sections. The opening is dark and sinister and promises a sordid tale of the south, and then the middle lulls you the narrator's nostalgic recollection of growing up in the south. This makes the shocking ending even more creepy and dark.
Diane S.
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.
Carol N
I truly enjoyed this amazing portrait of our southland, covering a broad sweep of generations with its strong, complex female characters who actually live and breath from its pages. The author’s prose was magnificent, often painting such realistic pictures that I thought I could smell the scent of the climbing roses that once covered the front porch of the ancestral home. “How every patch of light and shadow from the moon seemed deep and lovely. Calm or storm, it didn’t matter. It was exquisite ...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
More about Shirley Ann Grau...
The House on Coliseum Street The Condor Passes Roadwalkers The Hard Blue Sky Nine Women

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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.” 2 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.” 2 likes
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