Check out what I wrote about this book in my blog in Spanish: http://lunairereadings.blogspot.com/2011/12/houskeeping-marilynne-robinson.html
This is the story of two girls that don't have mother or dad, and have to live under their aunt's care. Their aunt is very young and before long she loses control and the girls put the house on fire and flee from the town. But the book is much more than that story. The novel is full of references and reflections about life and the sense of being a human in this world. This is a book to read very slowly and with a lot of attention, because it has a lot to offer to a mind avid of meditation in trascendental facts of life.
This is my second read of Housekeeping. During the interval, I've read more than 40 novels. When I return to this novel after finishing all those other works, I still find the reading experience very unique and unforgettable. Housekeeping is the rare book that has only one of its kind. You can't find another work that resembles it.
Though this is Robinson's first novel, it is a very mature work. The plot contains potentials that allow Robinson to develop the book otherwise, but she chooses not to. For example, the kind of stories that contains eccentric woman, dark houses, deaths and cold weather reminds me of the female gothic tradition from Shelley, Bronte to Atwood. Clearly Robinson can draw a lot from this trajectory, but what we see in this novel is that she tones down these sentiments and focuses instead on memories, dreams and impressions. And the settings also play a very important role in this novel: darkness, light, water, the brush of your skirts, the freezing wind, the heavy smell of the lake. Robinson avoids dramatic climax and emotional conflicts. It's not that they do not exist. Instead, they are nowhere and everywhere, and their absences ring out loud in each page. It's like the lake in this novel. The lake sends heavy smell that permeats throughout the book, and underneath the surface are all the dead people including Ruth's grandfather and mother. Robinson does not shout her painful stories out loud. She hums them out slowly with grace.
Last but not the least, it's a pity that I am not that familiar with the Bible (not a Christian myself,) or there will be some extra fun in reading Housekeeping. The novel in general can be considered the adaptation of Ruth 1 in the Old Testament. Underneath the novel is a strong Christian vein that appear in Ruth's idiosyncratic take of the Bible. Ruth's conception of the law of completion, for example, certainly helps her deal with the losses that she is confronted with all her life. One can also see the influence of the Biblical style in Robinson's language....Continua