#MarilynneRobinson, Lila (2014)

I’ve been saving this book up for months. Started it today. These quotes are in chronological order, not the order they come in the book.



[Reverend Ames tells Lila about his childhood] 

She said, “I liked that story.” 

He looked away from her and laughed. “It is a story, isn’t it? I’ve never really thought of it that way. And I suppose the next time I tell it, it will be a better story. Maybe a little less true. I might not tell it again, I hope I won’t. You’re right not to talk. It’s a sort of higher honesty, I think. Once you start talking, there’s no telling what you’ll say.” 

She said, “I wouldn’t know about that.” 

“Apparently not. I do. I’ve spent my life talking.[…]”




If she left she had nowhere to go especially, except not St. Louis. She decided she might as well stay for a while.



[The Reverend] stood up… because the kind of gentleman he was will do that when ladies come into a room. They almost can’t help it. How was she supposed to know? They have to be the ones to open a door, but then they have to wait there for you to go through it. To this very day, if the Reverend happened to meet her out on the street he took off his hat to her, even in the rain. He always helped her with her chair, which amounted to pulling it out from the table a little, then pushing it in again after she sat down. Who in the world could need help with a chair?


[Lila as a Martian observer. Wikipedia: Martian poetry was a minor movement in British poetry in the late 1970s and early 1980s, in which everyday things and human behaviour are described in a strange way, as if by a visiting Martian who does not understand them. Poets most closely associated with it are Craig Raine and Christopher Reid. The term Martianism has also been applied more widely to include fiction as well as to poetry. The word martianism is, coincidentally, an anagram of one of its principal exponents, Martin Amis.]



“Lila,” [the Reverend] said, “I’m glad to know you aren’t planning to leave. But if you ever change your mind, I want you to leave by daylight. I want you to have a train ticket in your hand that will take you right where you want to go, and I want you to take your ring and anything else I have given you. You might want to sell it. That would be all right. It’s yours, not mine. It doesn’t belong here – I mean it wouldn’t –“ He cleared his throat. “You’re my wife,” he said. “I want to take care of you, even if that means someday seeing you to the train.”


women eating ice creams Riga station 815.JPG(Riga central station, waiting for the night train to Belarus, summer 2015)




Published by

Paul Hodson

Head of Unit "EnergyEfficiency" at European Commission, Directorate-General for Energy

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