I have talked up this book so much since I first read it about fifteen years ago I was a bit afraid to re-read it. There was a time in my reading past where I had a few friends whose reading tastes I trusted without question. I was so impressionable that their favorites became my favorites. What would happen if 42-year old Thomas didn’t agree with 27-year old Thomas? Not a big deal in itself, but I have gone on about this book to so many people with such hyperbolic flair over the years that I began to worry I might be damaging my book recommendation credibility.
So when I pulled As For Me and My House off the shelf this summer to give it a re-read I was troubled over my initial inability to get into it. After about 30 pages I set it aside. And there it sat for months until, as part of my nightstand TBR pile clean-up I gave it another go. I fear that if it hadn’t been part of my clean-up efforts I might have just put it back on the shelf thinking I didn’t like it as much as I used to. And that would have been a tragedy.
I found this book as haunting, beautiful, depressing, and brilliant this time around as I did the first time. What is amazing is that, although I liked it just as much as the first time, it could have been a different book. There is so much that I didn’t remember about this 162-page novel it was like reading for the first time.
Here are some random thoughts:
- Imagine On Chesil Beach meets The Grapes of Wrath meets Main Street meets Anita Brookner.
- Smalltown, dust bowl-era Saskatchewan.
- Thirty-something, poor preacher (and frustrated artist) and his long suffering wife.
- There are no two dimensional characters in this short book. Everyone who walks across the pages is a nuanced, fully formed human. Some are good and some are evil, but none purely so.
- Written in diary format from the point of view of the wife. I think Ross does an amazing job capturing the female voice, especially for 1941. Granted, I only see this through my own male lens, but I read so much fiction by females I do feel somewhat qualified to comment. I think he paints an accurate portrait of how enforced gender roles made (and make) for some pretty miserable circumstances.
- I have harped a lot over the years about epistolary novels that include too much quoted dialogue. And in comments about other technical annoyances in a Julia Glass novel a commenter here on My Porch told me that I probably wouldn’t have noticed the technical faults if the book had been better. I think As For Me and My House proves that point. It is so well written that I didn’t even think about the dialogue quoted in the diary entries until after I had finished and was reading the introduction to edition I read. Ross does use quoted dialogue in the entries, but they didn’t bother me one bit.
- Although this a pretty darn quiet novel, there are plot points I had forgotten that really blew me away.
More people need to read this book.
Ok, ok. It's in my cart for the next order!
That first bullet point is enough to get it into my TBR tome.
Ted: It will be interesting to hear what you think.
Emily: I went back to make sure of the accuracy of that literary mash-up and I think it is on point.