Today, I am back with a short review of Marilynne Robinson’s Jack.
This is a well established and respected author with her Gilead series of books but this was my first! But first, here is a brief synopsis:
Jack tells the story of John Ames Boughton, the loved and grieved-over prodigal son of a Presbyterian minister in Gilead, Iowa, a drunkard and a ne’er-do-well. In segregated St. Louis sometime after World War II, Jack falls in love with Della Miles, an African-American high school teacher, also a preacher’s child, with a discriminating mind, a generous spirit and an independent will. Their fraught, beautiful story is one of Robinson’s greatest achievements.
This is an author I feel that I should have read years and years ago but it’s always a treat to read and fall in love with a new author, isn’t it? And that’s exactly what happened when I read Jack. I have heard about these books, read a few interviews and they intrigued me, especially this one. So, I pre-ordered a signed copy and my copy from Blackwell’s came with a brief guide and an introduction to the author and the series which I think helped a great deal but you know how things go: you start to read it but life gets in the way or, for me at least, it was a book I felt I needed to read at the right time to fully appreciate it. And I am so glad I did leave it for a while because once I started reading it, I found it hard to put down.
I’m not going to go too much into the actual characters and the plot of the story because I think it’s the sort of book you just go in head first and go with the tide so to speak. I didn’t quite know what to expect but I knew I was in the hands of a great and talented writer. And I was. The writing in this book – from the first sentence on the first page, hooked me in straight away and it didn’t let me go. The writing is intelligent, tender, insightful, emotional, gripping, and full of life and character.
I don’t think you need to have read the previous books as her writing is so sharp and detailed, it’s right there on the page but I do think you would have appreciated more if you have read them. I loved it’s exploration of love, race, gender, society, family, grief, and so much more. I loved how it was mostly dialogue – the dynamics between people, between characters. It’s a book that really gripped me and it’s a book that I think stays with you for a while, letting it all sink in. At times, I felt some sections went on a bit too long but it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the book.
I feel that this will be a book that will be up for a lot of the book prizes this year and it’s deservedly so with the most intelligent, witty, tender prose I’ve read in a long time. I can’t wait to read the previous books for more of her intelligent and beautiful prose.
Have you read Jack? Are you a fan of Marilynne Robinson’s books? Let me know in the comments!