I remember a few years ago, this author brought out a second book, twenty odd years after the above, and the critics all raved about it. Their praise was such that it seemed that this author must be a sort of hermit, a recluse who ventures out once every quarter of a century with seminal words which are of inestimable value. That book, "Home", (uncanny resemblance of title), moved with the same stately, almost soporific pace as does "Housekeeping".
This one is even more drifting and distant in pace. The one great theme running through the entire book, and appearing on virtually every page, is of water. The book appears as if one is reading it through the surface of a pond. Still waters run deep, but I found it difficult to get to the bottom of the story.
On the surface, it is a story of abandoned sisters, their mutual dependence as children, and their eventual split as they reach puberty. All the most powerful scenes revolve around water - the death of their grandfather in a train which went off a bridge into a lake, the floods which entered their home, the suicide of their mother in the same lake. All the themes are brought together when the eccentric aunt, Sylvie, takes the writer, Ruth, out in a boat to view the spot where the train hit the waters, and then initiates her into the life of a vagrant, by taking her on a freight train back to the home which they are soon to abandon altogether.
The front cover quotes the Observer, "One of the Observer's 100 greatest novels of all time". This merely awakened a thirst in me to find out the other 99.
I can't say it would be in the top 50 of my favourite novels. Not a favourite at all, in fact, more a "duty read", as others seem to think so highly of it. It is a mystery to me why this book and its author have attained iconic status. Could anyone enlighten me?