...as Lola would say.
Martin who has been doing a sterling job looking after me (and the kids) while I lie around groaning said, 'What would you do without me?' and I said, rather unfairly, 'Well, I wouldn't be sick for a start' since this is a Jorgensen lergy that he brought home after a lovely day at the beach with his family while I stayed at home and worked. Oh the injustice of it all.
Anyway, so while feeling revolting, the upside was that I finished Gilead, which got cast aside half read after holidaying for paid reading. It's a beautiful and astonishing book, one of the best first person narratives I've ever read. I was reluctant to finish it, though compelled to, because I felt I was inhabiting a world in which I wanted to linger and because the nature of the work meant that there was an implied though not enacted, and therefore not maudlin or sentimental, sadness in the ending. It wasn't till I looked at the Amazon link that I realised it didn't have chapters. But it doesn't. Which is actually a beautiful thing. It's a letter, written by an aging pastor to his very young son, his 'begats' he jokingly calls it, and it turns out to be an exploration of the mostly male relationships that have shaped it's life. Even though it is a letter, it's no stream of consciousness. It's delivered by a restrained and thoughtful, scrupulous narrator, determined to convey himself honestly. John Ames comes to life. The tension of the story, though it's not at all reliant on plot, comes from the mysteries: life, faith, truth, God, death. These ideas are especially embodied in the difficult relationship John Ames, the narrator, has with his best friend's son, named for him.
Her only other novel Housekeeping, written nearly 25 years ago, actually deals with similar themes of the profound way in which family, history and landscape intersect, though the focus is on mothers/daughters/sisters/aunts, and would serve as a perfect companion read. I first read it in 1995, in my first (proper) year of uni, and plan to revisit it after reading Gilead, which seems to be a popular move judging by reviews.
Gilead is highly recommended.