Sunday, 3 January 2016

Review: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Title: Gilead
Author: Marilynne Robinson
Year: 2004
Publisher: Virago 
Pages: 282

In this epistolary novel, we learn about the life of Reverend John Ames who lives in a town called Gilead. At the age of 77 he figures he should write a long letter to his only seven year old son for him to read when the child is older, and the Reverend dead. In this letter, he reflects on his life, and the story becomes one of generations. He talks about his relationship with his own father and grandfather, who also led a vocational lifestyle. Family and friendship are main themes in this novel, but the most prominent one is that of Christianity.

As I heard about the premise of the novel, I became quite excited. It was supposed to be another great American novel, and with the knowledge of the aforementioned themes, it inevitably reminded me of The Grapes of Wrath, a novel I greatly enjoyed. Moreover, the author had already written a novel that was deemed an instant classic, and Gilead won the Pulitzer Prize. Needless to say, this all left me with great expectations, and when I finally received the novel in the mail, I started reading immediately.

Unfortunately, the novel let me down greatly. First of all, I found the story boring and uncompelling. I honestly don't mind plotless novels, as I enjoy thinking and pondering while reading, but this novel did not invoke any thoughts. I also couldn't empathise with the main character. One of the main reasons for this, was that he starts to complain about the fact that he spent too little time with his son so far, and rather than actually spending time with him, he just spends days and days writing the stupid letter.

The aspect that bothered me most, though, was the religious overtone. I had expected it to be religious, don't get me wrong, but there is not a page you can read without being impressed with Christian beliefs. I've read a few reviews which all claim that you don't have to be religious to love this book, but I beg to differ. The main issue with this aspect I had, was the fact that the religion is never challenged, never questioned, never even considered - it's just thought of as truth.

I did appreciate some parts of this novel. Sometimes, the writing was beautiful, and also the premise is still interesting, I just don't agree with the execution.

No comments:

Post a Comment