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The Keepers of the House

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  6,926 ratings  ·  638 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 AbigaHouse
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Paperback, 320 pages
Published November 11th 2003 by Vintage (first published 1964)
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Sharon I would not recommend it. It has little plot until the last 1/3 and read much like a diary of everyday life during that time period. I just don't get…moreI would not recommend it. It has little plot until the last 1/3 and read much like a diary of everyday life during that time period. I just don't get the glowing reviews. I read a lot and felt it to be lacking and disappointing. In fact, I would not have finished it had I not been reading it along with a friend to discuss. We both felt the same way. (less)

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Average rating 3.95  · 
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 ·  6,926 ratings  ·  638 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 descen
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Diane Barnes
Sep 27, 2016 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 l
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Sara
Oct 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Sara by: Southern Literary Trail
This is a sweeping tale of a Southern family, racial prejudice, and human integrity. The Howlands are those Southerners--the ones with lots of money, power and name. After the death of his first wife, Will Howland fathers three children with his black housekeeper, Margaret, a woman he loves. Everyone knows this, but no one acknowledges it. Even inside the Howland home, this is a visible secret.


We meet both Will and Margaret before they meet one another. Margaret is one of the most u
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Perry
May 05, 2015 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 postureclass="gr-hostedUserImg">
The
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Doug H - On Hiatus
Oct 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If Harper Lee, Henry David Thoreau and Wallace Stegner had a triracial love child it might read something like this 1965 Pulitzer Prize winner.

Wait a second... Triracialism... I think I need to go back and reread some things in Margaret's section before I continue trying to write this. In the meantime (and I case I don't), let me just say that it's a crime that this isn't as widely read as To Kill a Mockingbird. I learned so much more from it.

5 stars.
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
Karina
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 It was hard to get into at first bc I had so many "life" things going on around me but I knew it was a good book right away. This is a historical fiction book spanning 7 generations of the Howland family told in the narrative of Abigail Howland. It starts with her grandfather, William's, perspective then goes on to Margaret Carmichael's story and how they happened to meet. Margaret is the black "housekeeper" William has "hired." She also births him 5 children but only 3 survive. No one bats ...more
Connie G
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
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Beth
Jan 25, 2013 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
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 heartac
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Paul Secor
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite-fiction
The South
Race
and People

This was a brave novel to have written in the early 1960s. It remains a brave novel today, which is a sad comment on our society.
Faith
Oct 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, overdrive
To call this book "an indictment of racism" was quite an exaggeration. Most of this book is almost a stream of consciousness family history - not terribly interesting if it's not your family. Maybe the inclusion of a mixed race marriage was bold in the 1960s so the Pulitzer Prize committee could congratulate itself about how progressive it was. Otherwise, I have no idea why this book won the prize.
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 workin
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Laura
Sep 21, 2016 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
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
Wyndy
I've visited several swamps in my lifetime in several different states. My husband and I recently spent two days touring a cypress swamp and rice paddy in South Carolina, with alligators blocking our trail and heron rookeries and snapping turtles and swarming gnats. But we weren't IN the swamp in a skiff in the 1800's. We had boardwalks and footpaths, cellphones and water bottles, sunscreen and bug spray. Shirley Ann Grau describes a pre-tourist Deep South cypress swamp like no one I've ever rea ...more
Diane S ☔
Aug 08, 2011 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.
Camie
Mar 16, 2015 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
Bam cooks the books ;-)
#2016-USA-Geography-Challenge: week one ~ ALABAMA

This is quite an explosive story that deals with racism and segregation in the South. I cannot believe it is not better known, especially after having won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction back in 1965. It should be right up there with To Kill a Mockingbird, imho.

Grau tells the story of the Howland family, whose founder settled in the county and built the original homestead 150 years before the setting of the story. The title 'The Keeper
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Jeanette
Nov 05, 2016 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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Chrissie
Feb 01, 2013 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 peop
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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 lot of stringing tog...The
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Dustincecil
Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
A little bit confusing with all the same names(prob. because of audio book) but good characters. and a pretty surprising end!

sweet revenge.

I loved all the descriptions of the swap. This was also a nice companion read to "hunter's horn", fox hunts, and moonshine stills, and a lot of of gossip.


audio book on hoopla.
Tamara Agha-Jaffar
Shirley Ann Grau’s The Keepers of the House is a stunning masterpiece of epic proportions. Winner of the 1965 Pulitzer Prize, the novel is a scathing indictment of racism and its damaging impact. It chronicles several generations of the Howland family in a rural Alabama community. The narrative begins in the early 1800s with the first Howland. His descendants gradually acquire more and more land in the county, becoming the biggest landowners. The narrative culminates with Abigail Howland in the 1960s ...more
Jon
Sep 01, 2012 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
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Teresa
Feb 20, 2009 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."
Marilyn
Dec 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A 1965 Pulitzer Prize winner did not disappoint. This book gained steam in the second half of the book where we hear from Abigail, that was my favourite part of the book. If you liked To Kill a Mockingbird, this book is for you.
Harold Titus
Jul 08, 2016 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
Celia
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 the 1965 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

The family is the Howlands and there have been five generations of men named Will. The fifth William Howland was the last man bearing the name to live in the ho
...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
“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.” 4 likes
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