31 October, 2013

A Brace of Robinsons

Marilynne Robinson

I read the first page or so of this, just for the flavour, several years ago, when Lynne gave it to me as a birthday gift; i wasn't impressed. Today i'm happy to report that i was incorrect in that very quick assessment, as i have greatly enjoyed reading this novel. It is very simple, in some ways, and yet lovely and complex in its entirety. The text is a letter written by the narrator, minister in a Congregational church in a small Iowa town, to his young son, explaining things he wants his son to know that he knows he will never have the chance to tell him, as he is a very old father, having been sixtyfive or so when his son was born. The letter is written in about 1957, and the story it tells ranges from roughly the American Civil War until its present; the key characters are the narrator, his father and grandfather, his lifelong friend, and that friend's son, named after the narrator himself. All woven together it is the story of families falling apart, struggling to survive the tensions within them, the sorrow that parents both give and are given, and, this being America, race relations.

Peter Robinson

The second Robinson i have read (and, funnily enough, the second finished in the same day by someone called Robinson; coincidence is bizarre stuff), and i enjoyed this one at least as much as the previous. Peter Robinson's books are very much a part of a series, and i was feeling, as i read, that i really needed to read others ~ perhaps all others ~ in the series to fully understand the characters, who is who, and the relationships between them. Of course, i do recognise that this is partially a function of or attributable to a certain amount of my necessity for order and understanding, and that in fact i am perfectly capable of enjoying any of the series (if they're well written) without having to relate them to any others ~ just as it is possible to read, say, Lieutenant Hornblower without having to follow all the rest of the novels. Because something is possible, though, does not necessarily make it desirable. So, all in all, despite this wandering review, i enjoyed this novel, which kept me reading later than intended, and hooked me into trying to solve and work it out.

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