Wednesday, August 12, 2015

book review: Lila by Marilynne Robinson

The backstory: Lila is the third novel in Marilynne Robinson's Gilead trilogy. I did not like Gilead (my review), which won the Pulitzer Prize. So far, Lila has won the National Book Critics Circle award, been shortlisted for the National Book Award, longlisted for the Booker Prize, and named a New York Times Notable book.

The basics: Lila is the story of Ames's wife Lila, from her troubled girlhood to her unlikely marriage to the much older pastor. Readers will find the characters and many of the events familiar.

*spoiler* unpopular opinion ahead!

My thoughts: Despite not liking Gilead, I was somewhat excited to read Lila. One of the biggest issues I took with Gilead was the believability of the marriage of Lila and Ames. I hoped seeing things from Lila's perspective would even make me appreciate Gilead more.

Near the end of this novel there is what I presume is intended to be a poignant religious scene, yet I rolled my eyes. The story of Lila should be something I enjoy. If you told me about it, I would be enchanted, yet Robinson's writing dulls the intrigue of her life, and Lila's own interior monologue mostly made me sad rather than helped me understand her motivations.

Favorite passage:  "He looked as if he’d had his share of loneliness, and that was all right. It was one thing she understood about him. She liked his voice. She liked the way he stood next to her as if there was a pleasure for him in it."

The verdict: I found Lila to be frustrating and dull. As in Gilead, there were some nice passages, but I continue to not be wowed by Robinson's fiction prose the way everyone else is. She clearly has the accolades for both books, so I take full responsibility and admit she is an author whose fiction is not a good fit for me. While I liked Lila moderately more than Gilead because Lila is far more interesting than Ames, I've decided I probably won't be picking up more of Robinson's fiction. But if you liked Gilead, then you'll likely love Lila.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Length: 273 pages
Publication date: October 7, 2014 
Source: library

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Lila from Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Like Marilynne Robinson on Facebook

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!


  1. I was so bored by Gilead that I've been turned off Robinson since. This line - Robinson's writing dulls the intrigue of her life - bodes well for my decision. Thanks for the review. I'm sure with it being on the Booker list, and fairly short, plus good reviews elsewhere might have sucked me in, but my resolve is strong!

    1. I am seriously debating if I want to read Home on my quest to read all the Baileys/Orange winners. Ugh.

  2. I'm with you and raidergirl3 ... Gilead was a DNF for me. Because everyone raves about it, from time to time I've debated whether I want to give her another try. Probably not going to happen.

    1. Love her or hate her--Robinson is consistent. Her fans will love this, I imagine, but the rest of us remain baffled:-)

  3. I'm one of those who loved Gilead so it does sound like I'm going to enjoy this one. Sorry to hear you didn't!


Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!