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Author Marilynne Robinson
Publisher Virago £18.99
Format hbk
ISBN 9780349011813

This carefully crafted novel by America’s foremost Christian writer is the fourth of a quartet which charts the lives and religious journeys of the Boughton family in the Midwest in the middle of the twentieth century. Jack is the tale of the prodigal son who has not quite come to his senses and returned to his Presbyterian family, although in this narrative he is tantalizingly close to redemption. He meets Della, high school teacher and devout daughter of an African Methodist Episcopalian preacher, and love develops in the unlikely setting of a night spent in Bellefontaine cemetery in St Louis. But this is Missouri in the 1940s, and apartheid prevails; state laws ban interracial marriage and buses are segregated. Any relationship between a down-at-heel white man and a respectable black woman appears doomed. Marilynne Robinson writes superb prose, studded with biblical texts to highlight the ambiguities of her narrative. She also deploys many literary allusions, especially from Hamlet and also Milton’s Paradise Lost. The cloying atmosphere of post-war America is brilliantly drawn. I warmly recommend this wise and perceptive book.



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