marilynne robinson

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Before starting Gilead I had no idea what the book was about. The only reason I even picked this book up is because I needed something to read for Orange January and Gilead happened to be long listed for the 2006 Orange Prize for Fiction.

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson was published in 2004. It won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The book is named after the fictional town of Gilead, Iowa, where the story is set.

The year is 1957 and Reverend John Ames is slowly dying. Afraid of leaving behind his young son with no memory of who his father was, Reverend Ames begins to write his memoire.

Reverend Ames is a character one is bound to feel sympathetic toward. I felt his fear of leaving behind those he loves, of his son not knowing who his father was but what I felt most keenly was that he had a certain sense of calmness even at the face of death. Sure he is worried about his family but that doesn’t send him into a panic. Of course, that doesn’t mean he is unrealistically ‘saint like’. His dislike of his god son John ‘Jack’ Ames Boughton and his bouts of jealousy make him human.

Through Reverend Ames’s narrative we can see his father, mother and grand father’s lives. Both his father and grandfather were also preachers. His parents come across as gentle people trying hard to eke out a living during the Great Depression. His grandfather on the other hand is a fiery fanatical man, a supporter of John Brown. It is clearly understandable that it is his grandfather who has left the deeper impact on Reverend Ames’s psyche. Although a gentle, forgiving man himself, Reverend Ames keeps reminiscing about his fierce, vengeful grand father’s life and death more than anything else. The description of Reverend Ames’s grandfather’s life is so vivid that I can picture him preaching with a gun in a bloodied shirt.

‘Exciting’ isn’t the word to describe Marilynne Robinson’s writing. Robinson’s prose is very staid and placid for the most part. I felt kind if bored at times. But there are parts which kind of jolts one out of the stillness,

“The truth is, as I stood there in the pulpit, looking down on the three of you, you looked to me like a handsome young family, and my evil old heart rose within me, the old covetise I have mentioned elsewhere came over me, and I felt the way I used to feel when the beauty of other lives was a misery and an offense to me. And I felt as if I were looking back from the grave.”

Gilead obviously has a pretty high quotient of religious content. I had no idea what it was about before I read it so I didn’t know about that. If I had known I probably would not have read it. This is not my kind of book at all.

Though a bit heavy at times Gilead overall a likable read. This may not be for everyone but it is well worth at least one read.

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The Friday 56

The Friday 56 is a bookish meme hosted by Freda’s Voice.

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56.
*Find any sentence that grabs you.
*Post it.
*Link up at Freda’s site

Today’s sentence comes from Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.

My grandfather seemed to me stricken and afflicted, and indeed he was, like a man everlastingly struck by lightning, so that there was an ashiness about his cloths and his hair never settled and his eye had a look of tragic alarm when he wasn’t actually sleeping.”

Teaser Tuesdays (Feb.7)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read

• Open to a random page

• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

 My Teaser:

“The truth is, as I stood there in the pulpit, looking down on the three of you, you looked to me like a handsome young family, and my evil old heart rose within me, the old covetise I have mentioned elsewhere came over me, and I felt the way I used to feel when the beauty of other lives was a misery and an offense to me. And I felt as if I were looking back from the grave.”

~ p.160, Gilead ”  by  Marilynne Robinson.

Welcome Home: Books that Arrived in September & October 2011

“People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading.” ― Logan Pearsall Smith

Some people ask me what I do for fun. When I say I read, they often give me a funny look. “Reading is a chore. Something you do only when you’re compelled to. WHY are you reading?” Okay, maybe reading is a chore for you but I do it for ‘fun’.

I don’t like to go to parties where I’d have to talk to people I don’t have anything in common with or even really like. “But it’s FUN. You’d like it when you get there.” No, I won’t. Why don’t people get that fun can have a different meaning for different people? For me fun is spending a quiet evening at home with a book, listening to some music or watching a good movie.

I am really alarmed by the increasingly conformist attitude everyone around me is taking. We are human beings, with our own individual tastes, likes, dislikes, our own lives and our own choices to make. We are not clones of each other. We are all normal and we are all abnormal in our own way. And who defines what’s normal anyway? Most works of art and most scientific discoveries were made by people thinking outside the box. If we were all alike then there would be no Isaac Newtons or Pablo Picassos and where would we all be then?

Our uniqueness makes us all beautiful. If we all became mindless zombies plugged into the wall, then the world would die. Please don’t kill this complex, impossible, difficult but ultimately beautiful and alive world.

Okay enough of my rant. Back to my original topic. Here are the books I bought in the months of September and October.

September 4, 2011.

The Inimitable Jeeves. P. G. Wodehouse.

Ring for Jeeves. P. G. Wodehouse.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Truman Capote.

Heart of Darkness. Joseph Conrad.    


I have always been a fan of the Jeeves and Wooster stories by P. G. Wodehouse. I enjoyed the re-runs of the 90’s TV show Jeeves and Wooster immensely. For me Hugh Laurie would forever be the bumbling Bertie and Stephen Fry would forever be the imperturbable Jeeves. I read  Wodehouse’s Very Good, Jeeves earlier this year and loved it! So, when I saw these two books at the bookstore I just had to have them! I am reading The Inimitable Jeeves right now and liking it very much.

 I am trying to broaden my horizon by stepping outside my comfort zone of mysteries and old classics. Hence, Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote and Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad came home with me.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is not my usual fare. I have never read anything by Capote. Hopefully I’ll enjoy his writing.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is a scary read for me. I have heard so many negative comments about it from fellow readers that I am curious and afraid at the same time. Well, if I am to find out for myself, I am going to have to plunge into this ‘darkness’ soon.

October 1, 2011.

Gilead. Marilynne Robinson. 

I went to the bookstore for something entirely different but came out with Gilead instead. How did this happen? Well, I guess my quest to broaden my horizon continues. I have heard good things about Gilead. Hopefully I’d like it too even if it is not really the type of book I usually read.

So, these were my September & October purchases. Not much in quantity but good in quality in my opinion.