[(review date 11 January 1981) In the following review, Banks praises Housekeeping for its lyrical prose, strong plot, and interesting point of view.]
Paul Valery likened prose to walking, poetry to dancing. Prose, he said, is always going somewhere, while poetry is the end in itself. This novel, Housekeeping, is very definitely going somewhere--that is, has a plot and characters to carry it out. But author Marilynne Robinson uses the language so exquisitely, we would have to say that this book dances all the way.
And I do mean all the way. Every sentence is a wonderful sentence, made just right.
Often lyrical: "Their lives spun off the tilting world like thread off a spindle, breakfast time, suppertime, lilac time, apple time."
Sometimes comic: "Memory is the sense of loss, and loss pulls us after it. God Himself was pulled after us into the vortex we made when we fell, or so the story goes. And while He was on earth He mended families. He gave Lazarus back to his mother, and to the centurion he gave his daughter again. He even restored the severed ear of the soldier who...