by Marilynne Robinson

Friday, February 16, 2024

Featured image for Gilead

I was listening to a podcast where Maryanne Wolfe extolled the virtues of reading. Not exactly something I needed telling but it was interesting listening all the same. She didn’t mention many particular authors but did mention Marilynne Robinson a couple of times which was enough to intrigue me as she’s not an author I’ve ever tried. So I picked this up to see what I was missing.

In many ways this is a quiet tale. John Ames is an elderly preacher in the small town of Gilead, I forget which state of America we’re in. It’s the early 1950s and John is writing this memoir as a letter to his young son, having been blessed with him at a late age by a much younger wife, so that the boy will know something of his father’s history that he won’t be around to explain. It wanders away from that exact purpose, as that kind of letter is wont to do, explaining one thing requires explaining another thing and so on. It manages to be both dry and rich in detail which made it immensely readable. Some of it’s more interesting that other bits. I’ve probably been put off picking this up in the past because of the religious content but that was my loss. It reminded me a lot of Jane Smiley, but with a closer focused lens.

When I was reading I felt like I might not read the sequels but I’ve seen that the second in the series won the Orange Prize in the UK, which I’ve always found a good source of interesting reading material, and that it takes place in the same time from a different point of view, so I’m planning to try that soon and see how that goes.