I’m trying to tell you things I might never have thought to tell you if I had brought you up myself, father and son, in the usual companionable way. When things are taking their ordinary course, it is hard to remember what matters. There are so many things you would never think to tell anyone. And I believe they may be the things that mean most to you, and that even your own child would have to know in order to know you well at all.

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

My mum passed on this novel to me recently when I was round at my parents’ house (apparently my grandmother had given to my parents to read – though neither of them had).  Anyway, I picked it up to read knowing next to nothing about it (though the fact that the cover announced that it was the Pulitzer Prize winner for 2005 boded well, I thought).

The whole work is really a collection of thoughts and reflections of an elderly pastor in a small town called Gilead in Iowa in the 1950s, however it never seems disjointed or indulgent. The protagonist knows that he is dying (of a heart complaint) and is writing a kind of diary / letter to his seven-year-old son, so that the boy will know more about his father once he has passed away. The pastor is such a good, humble and, above all, honest man that his reflections are deeply poignant. What is more, the whole book is so gracefully written: Robinson uses such light strokes of the brush to depict her scenes, but they are perfect each time. A finely crafted novel, thought-provoking and moving.

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