LD#1 has a reading list for her new sixth form college and so we have a lot of new reading matter in the house.
They are all short books too, as if the tutors didn’t want to scare anyone off.
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson is the story of two sisters, Ruth and Lucille, and what happens to them when their mother dies when they are young. They are brought up by various family members, all of whom have in common a tendency to extreme solitude and instability.
I couldn’t get over how similar this book is to Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived In The Castle – a strong influence of femaleness; of a mental state that is abnormal to onlookers, but perfectly logical and normal to those experiencing it; a feeling of inevitability; the overwhelming influence of the natural world. In fact, this last theme was something that caused me to feel at times quite physically uncomfortable while I read both books, but also sometime fascinated and exhilarated.
There are also several themes that are the inversions of each other: Housekeeping is about a solitariness that exists because we are stuck in the very largeness of the world, while Castle is about the threat of the outside world and how to keep oneself away from it. Simple Christian imagery runs through Housekeeping, while Castle is more in the tradition of witchcraft and fairytale.
Both books are amazingly original in the way they create fantastic alternative worlds using situations, peoples and landscapes that are recognisably everyday. Robinson is much more startling and memorable in her use of imagery of language, although I guess Jackson was the first in having the idea… I’d be really fascinated to know whether Robinson was influenced by Jackson in her writing of this book, although I haven’t been able to find anything out about this.