British Association for American Studies


#Bookhour: Tuesday 25th November, Marilynne Robinson’s Lila

In last night’s first ever #bookhour twitter chat, Marilynne Robinson scholars Dr. Rachel Sykes, Anna Maguire and Jenny Daly joined U.S. Studies Online Co-Editor Michelle Green to discuss Marilynne Robinson’s latest publication, Lila, the final novel in Robinson’s Gilead trilogy.

What emerged was an insightful and fast-paced discussion in which the group explored the idea of Robinson as the true central character of the series, and to what extent Robinson’s Gilead trilogy can be described as a series of “shared intimacies” with Ames. They rounded on the question, is Lila an American novel, and if so whose “America” is this? How ordinary or extraordinary is Lila and her circumstances? Does Lila include a social reformist message, and does it translate to our era? Take a look at the fascinating discussion in the Storify below.


Anna Maguire asked:

Q1: To what extent can Lila be read as an ‘American’ novel?

Q2: How can we read the concept of home in the novel?

Jenny Daly asked:

Q3: How can we read Lila’s struggle with religion in light of Robinson’s own faith?

Q4: Lila haunted Gilead and Home. Is she still a presence rather than a character owing to the third-person narrative?

Q5: What is the significance of Lila’s knife?

Q6: Cheeky question: is this the weirdest love story ever told?

Dr. Rachel Sykes asked:

Q7: To what extent do you would read the Gilead books as a trilogy? And, if so, what role does Lila play in the trilogy? Robinson’s made a big deal out of calling Gilead and Home “partner novels,” for example, and I wonder how this translates to us as critics.

Q8: Building on Jenny’s question about the love story, what, would you say, is Lila “about”? Could we read it as a romance novel, a historical novel, a religious novel? What are its central themes?

Q9: In Lila, there seems to be the surest shift back to the women of Housekeeping and away from the father/son paradigm set up in Gilead and explored, through a female perspective, in Home. What does Lila say about mother/son relationships and how does this relate to the father/son relationships Robinson has already explored?