Sunday, April 24, 2011

Review: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Gilead: A NovelTitle: Gilead

Author: Marilynne Robinson

Pages: 247

Source: Personal library

Rating: 8/10

Summary (From book flap):

In 1956, toward the end of Reverend John Ames's life, he begins a letter to his young son, an account of himself and his forebears. Ames is the son of an Iowa preacher and the grandson of a minister who, as a young man in Maine, saw a vision of Christ bound in chains and came west to Kansas to fight for abolition: He "preached men into the Civil War," then, at age fifty, became a chaplain in the Union Army, losing his right eye in battle. Reverend Ames writes to his son about the tension between his father -- an ardent pacifist -- and his grandfather, whose pistol and bloody shirts, concealed in an army blanket, may be relics from the fight between the abolitionists and those settlers who wanted to vote Kansas into the Union as a slave state. And he tells a story of the sacred bonds between fathers and sons, which are tested in his tender and strained relationship with his namesake, John Ames Boughton, his best friend's wayward son.

This is also the tale of another remarkable vision -- not a corporeal vision of God by the vision of life as a wondrously strange creation. It tells how wisdom was forged in Ames's soul during his solitary life, and how history lives through generations, pervasively present even when betrayed and forgotten.

My Two Cents:

I thought this was a really interesting book. I don't read a whole lot of epistolary fiction, especially epistolary fiction told only by one person. I did start to get a little frustrated (I think part of it was because I was starting in on the latter portion of the 24-hour Read-a-Thon) because, since the book is told through one person's letters and one person's point of view, the plot did not develop in any really linear fashion. As I was reading, I wasn't so fond of that device, but after I had finished the book and reflected on it a bit, I think the device worked better for telling the story than any traditional narrative would have.

Robinson's writing is really easy to read, but still very rich and descriptive. I liked how she was able to bring her own narrative style forward while still keeping the voice believable as coming out of Ames's mouth. I never have read a Robinson book before, but I think I will give some others a try.


(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I liked this one as well when I read it several years ago, but her next book Home, not so much.

nomadreader said...

I hope to read this one this year. I've heard mixed things about it, but I'm dying to read her work.

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