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Gilead
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2015 Book Discussions > Gilead - General Discussion, No Spoilers (May 2015)

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message 1: by Caroline (last edited Apr 30, 2015 08:08PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Caroline (cedickie) | 384 comments Mod
This is the no spoilers thread for May's group pick, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. I will post some reviews and/or articles about the book here or later this weekend but anyone else is encouraged to add anything they've found.

I just finished the book this week and am looking forward to seeing what you all have to say about it!

As the title of this thread suggests, please do not post any spoilers in this thread.


Caroline (cedickie) | 384 comments Mod
Here are some articles/reviews about Gilead. Note that it's been a few years since the book came out and she's since published two other books in the Gilead world so these are a bit old and tend to compare Gilead with her earlier book, Housekeeping (which I have not read).


From the NY Times Book Review: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/28/boo...
I don't think this book is really about plot, but this review does contain some spoilers so proceed with caution if you don't want to know what happens.

Article from NY Magazine http://nymag.com/nymetro/arts/books/r...
Author talks a bit about the narrator's Christian perspective and whether the book can be truly appreciated by secular liberal readers.

Here's an article with Robinson from the Paris Review. She discusses a variety of things, including religion, science, the process of writing, and the importance of character in her works. The interview was written just after she published Home (the second book in her Gilead universe) but there doesn't appear to be anything too spoilery for either Home or Gilead.
http://www.theparisreview.org/intervi...

Review by Ali Smith from the Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/books/2005...


message 3: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy Rudolph | 23 comments I stayed away from this book for a long time because of people who said it was horribly slow. But then I did try it (part of a goal to read all of the Pulitzer Prize winners for fiction), and what a wonderful, gentle, moving surprise it was! It is one of my favorites.


Marc (monkeelino) | 2590 comments Mod
I think its slowness is actually a strength, but if you don't take to the narrator I imagine it's more like torture.


message 5: by Lily (last edited May 02, 2015 09:28PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2465 comments Marc wrote: "I think its slowness is actually a strength, but if you don't take to the narrator I imagine it's more like torture."

I laughed at your comment, Marc. Even on my commitment to a second read, I find myself understanding some of my antipathy (in the gentler senses of the word) to the book. I found myself comparing the experience of reading this to that of reading Stoner or Auster's Invisible (for major contrast) or (view spoiler) For those who participate in both reads, Gilead should be an interesting prelude to Smiley's Some Luck next month.

I do think the challenge of empathy is a valid one in reading novels. It can certainly make us stretch.

Skimming forward tonight, I realized why Gilead was a prime candidate for a Pulitzer. Still, somehow its message seems more dated and historical, ten years later. Maybe that speaks hope for our world.


Marc (monkeelino) | 2590 comments Mod
I haven't yet committed to a third read for this discussion, Lily, but I'm a huge fan of Robinson. In what way does its message seem more dated and historical to you?


B'burg Linda | 5 comments I'm a little bit past the half way mark in Gilead. I've had it on my list for years, but really knew nothing about the book other than it won a Pulitzer and is on many lists of recommended reading. I just love this book! It is so gentle, funny, poignant, and intriguing. What did John Ames Boughton do to earn Ames' antipathy? Hopefully, I'll finish the book this week so I can join in on the 'spoilers allowed' discussion while it's still going on.


Whitney | 2088 comments Mod
I'm only about 1/3 of the way through, so I'll see you over there. I think your "gentle, funny, poignant, and intriguing" says it just right. So glad this was the group's pick, or I probably never would have read it.


message 9: by Lily (last edited May 05, 2015 08:11PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2465 comments Marc wrote: "I haven't yet committed to a third read for this discussion, Lily, but I'm a huge fan of Robinson. In what way does its message seem more dated and historical to you?"

I'm not going to go dig for a passage tonight, Marc, but I remember thinking somewhere in the first few chapters that the present would seem a bit different (get written a bit differently), these many years after the diversity efforts of the intervening decade since it received the Pulitzer in 2005.


message 10: by Marc (new) - rated it 5 stars

Marc (monkeelino) | 2590 comments Mod
I'll crack it open later this week and take a look at it in light of your comments, Lily!


message 11: by Lily (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2465 comments Marc wrote: "I'll crack it open later this week and take a look at it in light of your comments, Lily!"

Nothing major, Marc, but, as I recall, a feeling that change has occurred.


Raymunda (raymundaj) I bought this book a couple of months ago when Lila, the third book of the series was published here (in Barcelona) in Spanish and Catalan, and everybody who read it loved it. I've just started reading Gilead, but so far I'm enjoying it a lot. I love stories about families, framed in a historical context, and I think Robinson's writing is just beautiful.


message 13: by Casceil (new) - added it

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
I've read a little over 40 pages, and it is beautiful, and there are some wonderful lines, but I seem to have stalled for the moment. I hope to get back to it in a day or two.


Maureen | 124 comments I am glad to read that others are just beginning this novel. I started the Audiblle version and have found the imagery and plot line beautiful to listen to, as others have noted who have read an e-book or paper version. I have been listening on and off for the last few weeks, as other matters have gotten in my way, but right now, listening is like visiting a friend, a friend who tells thought-provoking stories is his/her life.


message 15: by Lily (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2465 comments Maureen wrote: "...I have been listening on and off for the last few weeks, as other matters have gotten in my way, but right now, listening is like visiting a friend, a friend who tells thought-provoking stories is his/her life. ..."

Maureen -- I think you may have the right approach to reading this novel. The writing is to be savored, as is the story-telling. But trying to read it straight is seeming difficult, even boring when I try to "get it finished."


Maureen | 124 comments Lily wrote: "Maureen wrote: "...I have been listening on and off for the last few weeks, as other matters have gotten in my way, but right now, listening is like visiting a friend, a friend who tells thought-pr..."

Lily, Thanks for the perspective. My approach has not been deliberate, but I feel as if I should be able to name a few titles from my past reading that may also fit this category, so to speak, of reading!


message 17: by Portia (new)

Portia I'm in the "just starting" group, too.


Violet wells | 354 comments I'm loving this so far. Really like the tender intimacy of it. Reading it is like being snug in a tree house with the huge night sky spiralling its stars overhead.


message 19: by Lily (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2465 comments Violet wrote: "I'm loving this so far. Really like the tender intimacy of it. Reading it is like being snug in a tree house with the huge night sky spiraling its stars overhead."

Violet -- I'm curious. What page have you reached? I love your image; am wondering if it will shift.


Violet wells | 354 comments Not far, Lily. About page 60. She lost me a bit with all the baseball stuff but probably cos I don't know the first thing about baseball (the other book I'm reading has got lots of baseball in it too which doesn't help!). I am wondering if she can sustain the hushed echoing intimacy of the voice - and also how much story she's got in this material.


message 21: by Lily (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2465 comments Violet wrote: " I am wondering ... - and also how much story she's got in this material. ..."

Well, actually, I think it is a couple more (good) books, although I don't know about the continuity of the stories given what I have seen in the reviews.

Will stay tuned for your reactions. After being off on Ruby for a few days, I'm going to be glad to be back.


message 22: by Casceil (new) - added it

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
I'm up to page 70-something now. I read a little bit every night (usually until I fall asleep, which is often very fast). I like reading this book in short sections, because it gives me time in between to think about the stories in the parts I have just read.


Violet wells | 354 comments Casceil wrote: "I'm up to page 70-something now. I read a little bit every night (usually until I fall asleep, which is often very fast)"
Ditto!


message 24: by Dree (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dree | 15 comments I just started this book last night, and it will be a struggle for me. Not that it isn't interesting, as it requires a lot of thought to remember who is being referred to, and the pace is slow. I think I am going to aim for 25 pages a day, and hope for more. I will finish.


message 25: by Alan (last edited May 23, 2015 09:44AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alan Gerstle (imagetext) | 1 comments I wrote a meta-linguistic parody of the book Gilead, which I think provides a subtextual comment about it. It's on goodreads. It's not self-promotional; I have nothing to promote, but my observation about its tone and style. How you find it of interest:

https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...


message 26: by Lily (last edited May 23, 2015 10:21AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2465 comments Alan wrote: "I wrote a meta-linguistic parody of the book Gilead, which I think provides a subtextual comment about it. It's on goodreads. It's not self-promotional; I have nothing to promote, but my observatio..."

Enjoyed it, Alan! Even though a rather tough commentary on what Robinson calls the "Middle West."

Noted also your comment on Dianna's parody of "Wasteland." You may be interested to know "Wasteland" will be a focus of the Western Canon board in June.


Maureen | 124 comments Alan wrote: "I wrote a meta-linguistic parody of the book Gilead, which I think provides a subtextual comment about it. It's on goodreads. It's not self-promotional; I have nothing to promote, but my observatio..."

Very clever, Alan. You gave me a few good laughs and snickers!


message 28: by Jan (new)

Jan Notzon | 100 comments Enjoyed it, Alan. Wasn't that long at all.


message 29: by Lily (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2465 comments I did finish yesterday -- with a long, faster slough through the story of John Ames Boughton. (sp?)

Will be interested in comments on the almost two-part structure of the book.


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2306 comments I ran across this interesting interview and thought it fit nicely in this topic -- President Obama interviews Marilynne Robinson. Turns out that she is one of his favorite authors and that he read this book (Gilead) while on the campaign trail in Iowa. See http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2015/....


Caroline (cedickie) | 384 comments Mod
Linda wrote: "I ran across this interesting interview and thought it fit nicely in this topic -- President Obama interviews Marilynne Robinson. Turns out that she is one of his favorite authors and that he read ..."

Thanks for sharing, Linda! I'd heard about this interview on one of the many podcasts I listen to and then forgot to look it up when I got back to my computer.


message 32: by Marc (new) - rated it 5 stars

Marc (monkeelino) | 2590 comments Mod
She's gotten some wonderful press recently (in addition to the great interview Linda was thoughtful enough to provide):
- Cover story in December with Poets & Writers Magazine (unfortunately, all you get is her cover pick with this link, but I went ahead and bought the issue just for her interview)
- On Point interview: Hope in a Time of Fear


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2306 comments Marc, Thanks for both of those links. I am always awed by the way Robinson can write about religion without ever sounding preachy. While I've read all her fiction, I've not read her non-fiction, but I do have a few of her non-fiction books on my shelf. Guess it is time to dig in to them.


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2306 comments Marc wrote: " Cover story in December with Poets & Writers Magazine (unfortunately, all you get is her cover pick with this link, but I went ahead and bought the issue just for her interview)"

What did you think of the interview? I also couldn't resist and bought the issue. I liked the interview but also enjoyed the magazine as a whole, except for the zillion ads for writing programs!


message 35: by Marc (new) - rated it 5 stars

Marc (monkeelino) | 2590 comments Mod
Linda, I thought the interview was pretty decent. My subscription to the magazine ran out many years ago, so it's nice to see how it has changed. Lots of interesting pieces about small presses and literature in translation in that issue, too. And yes, lots of advertisements for writing programs!

The only non-fiction I've read by Robinson is When I Was a Child I Read Books, which I thoroughly enjoyed--most of the essays touched on the current divisiveness of our social and political discourse in the U.S. and how the Old Testament should really be read in many places as an argument for helping the poor. Kind of an argument for more compassion and awe at the wonder of life. She does seem to be one of the few writers who manages to write about religion without turning non-religious folks away. When you do get around to her non-fiction, please let us know what you think!


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