Panama (spwebdesign) wrote,

Book 19

  1. Grossmith, George & Weedon — The Diary of a Nobody (166 pages)
  2. McCarthy, Cormac — Blood Meridian (334 pages)
  3. Moore, Alan & Dave Gibbons — Watchmen (399 pages)
  4. Moore, Christopher — Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal (507 pages)
  5. Murger, Henri — The Bohemians of the Latin Quarter (381 pages)
  6. Walk with Me: A Lenten Journey of Prayer for 2009 (98 pages)
  7. Douglas, Lloyd C. — The Robe (438 pages)
  8. Robinson, Marilynne — Gilead (281 pages)
  9. Jerome, Jerome K. — Three Men in a Boat (182 pages)
  10. Satrapi, Marjane — Persepolis (343 pages)
  11. Dodge, Jim — Fup (121 pages)
  12. Bauby, Jean-Dominique — The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly (114 pages)
  13. Fleming, Ian — Casino Royale (219 pages)
  14. Blake, Quentin — Clown (30 pages)
  15. Weigel, George — The Courage To Be Catholic (249 pages)
  16. Ishiguro, Kazuo — The Remains of the Day (255 pages)
  17. Orwell, George — Animal Farm (125 pages)
  18. Garner, James Finn — Politically Correct Bedtime Stories (81 pages)
  19. Robinson, Marilynne — Home (339 pages)

Page count: 4662.

When I wrote my review of Gilead a couple of months ago, I commented:

“Marilynne Robinson has since published a third novel, Home. The central character of Home is one of the main characters of Gilead. I don't know, though, if Home is a sequel or meant to give another perspective on events recounted in Gilead.”
I don't think it is a spoiler to say that the latter is the case: Home covers essentially the same time frame and characters as Gilead.

However, I was mistaken in assuming that the central character of Home was Jack, who I alluded to above as one of the main characters of Gilead. Robinson must have felt (and if so, I think her instincts were spot on) that to make Jack the central character would have robbed him of the mystery that makes his character so compelling.

Instead, as Gilead was the story of John Ames, the aging and kindly reverend who chronicles his personal history, the town's, and his relationship to the people around him in a letter to his young son, Home is the story of Glory, Jack's little sister, who like Jack returns home in middle age seeking refuge from personal failure elsewhere. In both novels, then, Jack serves as a lightning rod of sorts, drawing the reader in and giving the story focus, and as a foil against which Reverend Ames and Glory's lives can be compared and contrasted.

Home is a thoughtfully constructed novel and, alongside Gilead, makes a fascinating study of perspective. We are forced to re-examine our assumptions or interpretations of certain common events. It's a bit of an eye-opener how differently the various characters are perceived depending on the narrator.

Both novels are also imbued with a deep preoccupation with religious principles and the main characters' struggles with them. Ames, the Congregationalist minister, gives a lot of thought to ideas of renewal, baptism, and redemption. Glory, Jack, and their father, the retired Presbyterian minister, expend a lot of energy on questions of faith and forgiveness, and the state of the soul. Both novels, stemming from very different circumstances, closely examine the roles and implications of family, community, and other social constructs and relationships.

Both are extremely profound and moving novels. There's so much to ponder in each that I haven't even come close to scratching the surface or to doing them justice in these reviews. I urge you to read them both. I don't suppose the order really matters, though I'm glad I read Gilead first. Doing so gave me a sense of dramatic irony as I read Home. It also gave the conclusion of Home a sense of inevitability, even predictability, which was oddly satisfying. I would have had it no other way.

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