Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

Rating: 3.5


Housekeeping: A Novel

Author: Marilynne Robinson

Read by: Becket Royce

Short Review: Robinson’s prize-winning, gorgeous, intricate novel about women and the fragility of family, and of sanity, and the need to create and maintain a sense of home, no matter what happens. It is read well, if not perfectly, by Beckett Royce.

Long Review: I love this novel. I’m not the only one–it was nominated for a Pulitzer and won the PEN/Hemingway Award when it was published in 1980. Robinson is immensely talented, and the characters she creates are intricate and engaging and often surprising. My heart ached for Ruthie and Lucille and Sylvie, and their shattered family in their cruel town. Robinson writes with an intricacy and specificity that I find breath-taking. I love the book on paper, so was interested to hear it as an audio book.

Beckett Royce has a good voice, and is a clear reader. But she had a vocal habit that grated on me. There is a way some people pause when they speak that they probably intend as a display of earnestness, but to my ear sounds false. Royce used it a lot as she read. And since she is essentially playing Ruthie as the reader for this book, it bothered me because Ruthie is reticent and not one to play at earnestness. Maybe I just love the book too much to hear it in someone else’s voice, rather than in the voice I imagine for Ruthie.

That said, I think books like this one–books that follow a single, engaging narrator, are some of the best candidates to become audio books. Maybe I’m,the only one who will find fault with Royce’s performance. I’d certainly be interested to hear other people’s reaction to her reading.