Monday, 17 January 2011


Today is Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year. (Although I hit my lowest ebb during the Biblical rainstorm on Friday.)
So what possessed me to persevere with this book?
No 85 on the Observer's list of 100 Greatest Novels of all time ... and much higher than that on my list of 100 Novels to make you feel like slitting your wrists.
It is desolate, the story of two orphaned young girls in a godforsaken town beside a lake where their mother and grandfather have both drowned.
And it is a novel that is sodden with images of floodwater and damp.
If you like this style of writing you might call it poetical. But I wanted to put this novel through a mangle, wring out some of that self-indulgent lyrical squelch.
There were Too Many Words. I was drowning.
In a way, it reminded me of Beside the Sea by Véronique Olmi. Another story of transience and loneliness - and lots of rain - but so much more powerful because it was so tautly written.
I know that Rachel at BookSnob was completely entranced by another Marilynne Robinson title recently and that readers in Cornflower's book group were almost unanimously positive about Housekeeping. So clearly I was the wrong reader. And all I can say is ...
Glug
Glug
Glug

14 comments:

Joan Hunter Dunn said...

My mother warned me not to read Housekeeping as I would find it too depressing, and that was a piece of advice I took. Don't let it put you off Gilead - a book I did enjoy and wasn't depressed by.

mary said...

I think it'll be a long time before I try her again, Joan ... can't get on with that very mannered style of writing.

Lucille said...

I am reading it and loathing it. Will stop now. Thank you Mary for bringing me to my senses.

mary said...

It doesn't get any better, does it, Lucille! Would we have felt differently reading it on a sunny afternoon? No... it was more lowering to the spirits this week but there would have been just as many adjectives come July.

Lucille said...

Only carried on for as long as I did because of the rarity of my namesake in fiction.

mary said...

I don't have that problem!

bookssnob said...

Oh Mary! I am so sad to read this! I hope you will try Gilead one day. I haven't reviewed Home yet but when I do it will also be glowing, and I shall seek out Housekeeping. I think this might be a case where we have to disagree...it's like Illyrian Spring all over again! If only I were still at the V&A and we could thrash it out over tea and cake in the cafe!!

mary said...

Oh, Rachel, you know what it's like when your head droops and then you jerk awake and find that you're still on the same paragraph ... I was bored through too much of this. I think when I was younger I had more patience for such a deluge of words.
I knew you'd be disappointed with me!

StuckInABook said...

Oh Mary! I am determined to read Gilead soon, based on Rachel's review and my friend Mel's spoken review... but perhaps this one will ait a bit longer.

callmemadam said...

Thank you for this. I now know the book is not for me.

mary said...

Now don't let me put people off ... I'd have given this a miss, even though it was Cornflower's book of the month, but thought I'd venture out of my comfort zone when I came upon it for 50p in a charity shop.
But I had a feeling that it wouldn't be for me.
Simon, other people seem to be saying that Gilead is quite different. But I don't think I can face another dose yet!

Vintage Reading said...

If you think that's depressing, try Home, her latest book, well written, but oh so sad and slow-moving. Gilead is the most heartwarming.
I think maybe some Nancy Mitford or Dodie Smith is the remedy!

Vintage Reading said...

Sorry, that should have read - if you think that's depressing DON'T read Home ...!!

mary said...

No, it's not the misery quotient, Nicola, it's the verbiage. Words are more powerful used sparingly. (Ripe coming from any blogger, I know!) Too often there were sentences that made me stop and think, "What the hell does this mean?" ... If in doubt, slash it!