Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Gilead review by Athena

This Pulitizer prize winning book by Marilynne Robinson is the definition of modern literary novels. The novel does not have much in the way of plot. It is an epistolary novel of an old man writing for his very young son about his life. It is extremely introspective and beautifully written. I do not think it is for everyone, but I could relate to it because I am like the character and the style. It is not to say that I think as the character does all the time, but I certainly do understand why they mean with lines such as this:
I don't know why solitude would be a balm for loneliness, but that is how it always was for me in those days, (p 18-9 hardcover)

It is the kind of book I can see myself rereading because it reminds me of so many things of myself and my inner world. It is introspective and reflective, spiritual and pensive:
Our dream of life will end as dreams do end, abruptly and completely, when the sun rises, when the light comes. And we will think, All that fear and all that grief were about nothing. But that cannot be true. I can't believe we will forget our sorrows altogether. That would mean forgetting that we had lived, humanly speaking. Sorrow seems to me to be a great substance of human life. (104)

Such passages like this are why I would not recommend it to everyone. It took me awhile to read this book because I knew how reflective of myself it was, and how moody I was to avoid such deep thoughts. Many people, even bibliophiles would not necessarily enjoy this book. It is not everyone's cup of tea especially since it does talk of faith and God, but not necessarily in an obtrusive way. I think it would vary for each individual's faith. Here a particularly spiritual passage:
Calvin says somewhere that each of us is an actor on stage and God is the audience. That metaphor has always interested me, because it makes us artists of our behavior, and the reaction of God to us might be thought of as aesthetic rather than morally judgmental in the ordinary sense. How well do we understand our role? With how much assurance do we perform it? I suppose Calvin's God was a Frenchman, just as mine is a Middle Westerner of New England extraction. Well we all bring such light to bear these great matters as we can. I do like Calvin's image, though, because it suggests how God might actually enjoy us. I believe we think about that far too little. It would be a way into understanding essential things, since presumably the world exists for God's enjoyment, no in any simple sense, of course, but as you enjoy the being of a child even when he is in every way a thorn in your heart. (124-5)

I have quoted from the book so much in this review because I really love and can relate to the words, prose, and style so much. The tone is like my own when I write in my journal, but obviously not as well written. I think there a few people who can appreciate such a work, but they truly will if they read it. It's not for everyone, and I am one of those reviewers who ultimately review for myself so I would not recommend it at all if you do not think you can enjoy an introvert's novel. I do want to reread this again which says enough about how much I like this book.

Here are some more exerpts:
When I'm up here in my study with the radio on and some old book in my hands and it's nighttime and the wind blows and the house creaks, I forget where I am, and it's as thought I'm back in the hard times for a minute or two, and there's a sweetness in the experience I don't understand. But that only enhances the value of it. My point here is that you never do know the actual nature even of your own experience. Or perhaps it has no fixed and certain nature. (95)

Remembering when they said what they did about looking in windows and wondering about other people's lives made me feel companionable with them. I could have said that's three of us, because as the Lord knows, for many years I did exactly the same thing. (202)

Oh!, I will miss the world! (115)


Crossposted from Aquatique,net

1 comment:

Rose City Reader said...

It is a beautiful novel. It really grew on me.