Tuesday, 30 October 2007


Marilynne Robinson's novel, that is. I'd seen Bill Forsyth's film and found myself quite haunted by it, but never quite got as far as reading the original book. I supposed that I should have, as I have been recommending it to others, in particular to a cousin who's family had a tragic past not altogether dissimilar to that of Ruth and Lucille. She's about to read it and I've sent it to my sister as an anniversary present, so I've finally had to sit down and read it myself.

It's difficult to know what to say, beyond that it entirely lives up to its critical reputation. I found myself drawn into a dark, bleak world that measures the humans' will to survive. It's a cliché I know, but I really wasn't able to put it down until I had finished it, and even then it seemed as though a ghost remained. It was not an easy read either, the language is very 'scrupulous' and the imagery as dense as the trees that surround Fingerbone.

And a curious coincidence; the town where our family tragedy occurred is Billings, Montana, and there it was on the page, (temporary) home to Aunt Sylvie.

A word of praise too for the film. It never got beyond the arthouse circuit when it was first released, it's never made it to DVD, the video has long since disappeared, although apparently C5 have shown it as an afternoon film recently. It's dominated by the scenery, and the wonderful performance of Christine Lahti, who stepped into the role of Aunt Sylvie when Diane Keaton withdrew citing artistic differences (and taking some of the funding with her). Bill Forsyth is an underrated film-maker, and 'Housekeeping' is a genuinely great film. Those who've already encountered it will know that the original novel needs no recommendation whatever.

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