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Man Booker Longlist 2015: Lila by Marilynne Robinson

The Man Booker Longlist was released on July 29th with quite a few surprises on the list. The shortlist will be announced on Tuesday 15 September 2015 and the winner will be announced on Tuesday 13 October 2015. In the meantime, Jen and I hope to read and review as many of the longlist books as possible. I’ll start us off with our first review.

 by Marilynne Robinson
Published in: 2015
Literary Awards: Booker Longlist 2015
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: ★★★★
Find it here: Lila

Synopsis (from Amazon): Lila, homeless and alone after years of roaming the countryside, steps inside a small-town Iowa church-the only available shelter from the rain-and ignites a romance and a debate that will reshape her life. She becomes the wife of a minister, John Ames, and begins a new existence while trying to make sense of the life that preceded her newfound security.

Neglected as a toddler, Lila was rescued by Doll, a canny young drifter, and brought up by her in a hardscrabble childhood. Together they crafted a life on the run, living hand to mouth with nothing but their sisterly bond and a ragged blade to protect them. Despite bouts of petty violence and moments of desperation, their shared life was laced with moments of joy and love. When Lila arrives in Gilead, she struggles to reconcile the life of her makeshift family and their days of hardship with the gentle Christian worldview of her husband which paradoxically judges those she loves.

Review: Having read Gilead and Home previously this was the Booker longlist book I was most looking forward to reading. Lila is the third book in Robinson’s Gilead series and it gives the reader the history of Lila, Reverend Ames wife. While each book contains the same characters, they can all be read as standalone books and in any order. The events covered in each book vary as does the narrator. Each book gives the reader a better understanding of the other books.

Lila is a slow paced story which shows how a neglected girl ends up in Gilead, married to a reverend.  It was interesting to see the relationship from Lila’s point of view as she is not the kind of person I expected from reading the other books. I enjoyed the way Lila made Ames think about his religion and how he found a way to explain it to her so she could reconcile her past and the future.

I would classify Lila as a book about finding yourself rather than a romance. In fact there is not a lot of romantic detail at all. Readers who enjoyed Gilead and Home will enjoy this latest installment.

Now the scientific bit: Does the book deserve to be on the long list? Here’s how we’ve decided to score our Longlist books so we can rank them later on. Each book can get a maximum of 20 points with criteria weighted towards originality — a criteria mentioned often in Booker Prize selection criteria. Here’s my scoring for Lila:

Available in English 1/1
Published in the UK 1/1
Originality 3/8
Character Complexity 5/5
Writing Quality 5/5
Total 15/20

I really enjoyed the story and found it well-written with complex, well-developed characters. Unfortunately, I didn’t find it that original, especially being the third book in a series. For that reason I only gave it 3/8 points for originality and it woul
d not have made my long list.

Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here: Lila

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. I enjoyed the sample chapter more than I thought I would – the set up has a particular urgency about it.
    My impression of this year’s Booker is that it has more than its usual share of worthy but dull books :-/ I have read a Marilynne Robinson before and found it more admirable than enjoyable.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 12, 2015
    • Denise, interesting concept ‘more admirable than enjoyable’ – suddenly brought a host of books to mind to which I will now apply your phrase. Hope you don’t mind if I pinch it 🙂


      August 25, 2015

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