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November book of the month: Lila by Marilynne Robinson - Apply for free copy and put your questions to the author

38 replies

RachelMumsnet · 02/11/2015 15:57

When Barack Obama recently announced he’d learned his most important lessons from novels, there was one writer in particular that he wanted to celebrate. Marilynne Robinson’s previous three novels: Homecoming, Gilead and Home (which won the 2009 Orange Prize) are already Presidential favourites; her latest novel and our Book of the Month, Lila, is set in the same quiet, 1950s Midwestern town as Gilead and Home, and follows the unusual marriage of the Reverend Jon Ames and his wife Lila. Lila has a turbulent background that is utterly at odds with the small-town society and it’s homespun values. Having survived violence and neglect, she struggles to fully accept her new life whilst also recognizing the security and love that it provides. The Reverend has his own complex motives and feelings towards their relationship. The book is a subtle, shifting reflection of how people truly relate to each other, with all the ambiguity and misinterpretation and sudden intimacy that this entails. Infused throughout the writing is a consistent exploration of goodness and spirituality and human nature. As Obama put it, it’s to do with ‘being comfortable with the notion that the world is complicated and full of greys, but there’s still truth there to be found ... And the notion that it’s possible to connect with some[one] else even though they’re very different from you.’

What the critics said:

‘Lila is a really beautiful book: beautiful prose, beautiful story; morally beautiful too. After reading it the world seems more dazzling, fuller of wonder and mystery than it did before, as if you were newly in love. I wish I could persuade everyone who ever buys a book to read this one’ (Cressida Connolly Spectator)

‘Robinson has made a world so palpable and full that each book can stand alone...Taken together, these books will surely be known as one of the great achievements of contemporary literature’ (Observer)

Lila has a power beyond words (Stylist)

What Mumsnetters Said:

‘Lila is the new one from Marilynne Robinson - it is beautiful. Have you read George Eliot's novels? Robinson reminds me more of her than anyone else.’ Canyouforgiveher

‘Home & Housekeeping are two of the very few books I will always return to… a beautiful but understated knowledge of human nature.’ Thegentlemonkey

We have 50 free copies of Lila up for grabs. Apply for a copy and post up your questions to the author on this thread before 14th December. We'll be sending up to 15 Qs over to Marilynne and upload her answers to this discussion thread in early January 2016.

November book of the month: Lila by Marilynne Robinson - Apply for free copy and put your questions to the author
OP posts:
RachelMumsnet · 09/11/2015 16:43

The book giveaway is now closed. We'll alert those who have been allocated books later today. If you weren't lucky this time, but fancy joining the discussion, do buy a copy of Lila and post your questions before 11th December for Marilynne Robinson.

OP posts:
bughead · 11/11/2015 12:32

Dear Marilynne .

I have been fortunate enough to win Lila, yet to receive and so looking forward to reading. My question is about your previous work, are you still taking an interest in Sellafield and if so any more recent information. Do love your work and how well rounded and balanced it all is, keep it up.

Love Helen

Fifinella · 14/11/2015 15:02

My book arrived today, hooray! Can't wait to get reading.

atrociouscook · 16/11/2015 15:43

Book arrived today - hope to finish in time in time for the discussion.

barricade · 16/11/2015 18:21

Sincere thanks to Mumsnet and Virago / Little Brown Books - my copy has arrived. Hopefully will start reading soon --> question/s to follow.


redalertalpha · 21/11/2015 11:46

My books arrived, phew!;

bucylen · 22/11/2015 18:11

Thank you my book's arrived, forgot to tell you.
I am half way through and loving it so far; I doubt I will be disappointed.

BearAusten · 25/11/2015 12:47

Thank you. Received my book in the post today.

frogletsmum · 26/11/2015 11:00

Thank you so much for my book - I'm reading Home (and loving it) at the moment as I wanted to read it before starting Lila. Will be back with a question soon.

pbandbacon · 26/11/2015 14:36

Have been away and just returned home to my copy, thank-you Mumsnet! Can't wait to get started and hope to be done before the discussion.

I haven't read Home or Gilead, should I read these first or can Lila standalone?

TillyMumsnetBookClub · 30/11/2015 11:01

Hello all, thanks for your messages and hoping you are all enjoying the book.

pbandbacon, I think Lila can stand alone fine, and that the books can be read however you like, but some readers feel its even more satisfying when you read in order. Whichever one you start with, do feel free to write a question to Marilynne...

bughead · 30/11/2015 15:07

Book arrived and have started to read, it is already sweeping me away. Such diverse characters who are all growing as I get to discover them.

mollkat · 02/12/2015 12:45

Have received my copy (thank you!), and looking forward to starting it tonight.

Pigeonpea · 07/12/2015 22:01

I've never read a book by Marilynne Robinson and felt that Lila was fine as a stand alone book.
It was an interesting parable of a book in itself, and the irony wasn't lost as the book revolves largely around religion.
It's a beautifully sad tale of love, love that's not quite believed and so precious the two are almost too scared to trust it.

frogletsmum · 13/12/2015 08:10

Thank you so much Mumsnet and Virago for the chance to read this book. I read Gilead, Home and Lila one after the other and I was completely transported to that world. Each one in its own way is so powerful and full of truth about human nature. I loved how complex and utterly believable each character was, and yet how different each book felt from the others. When I finished each one I felt like I'd been to a different place and come back wiser, and sadder too.

I'd like to ask Marilynne, did you always plan to write three books from different viewpoints, and did you work on each one independently, or did you have all the characters' voices in your head as you were writing each book?

I've love to ask more questions too - are we allowed more, Mumsnet?

Fifinella · 14/12/2015 21:16

Thank you much for the book. I'd never read anything by Marilynne Robinson before but I will definitely be seeking out Gilead and Home. I found Lila a really calming read, I think because of the trust Lila and the Reverend do seem to ultimately have in each other and the strength of the relationships between them and between the characters of Lila and Doll. There is a strength of belief in the writing which made it very soothing to read, though also sad and evocative at times.

It is written as Lila's stream of consiousness and I did miss having chapters, I don't have the reading self-control to put a good book down without.

My question isn't really related to the book but is just out of curiosity; I would love to ask Marilynne what she herself is reading at the moment!

FernieB · 16/12/2015 15:25

Like fifinella I've not read this author before, but did enjoy Lila and will be putting Home and Gilead on my Christmas list. I'd like to ask if there are any other characters within these books that Marilynne has plans to develop into books of their own?

Also, where does she write and what's on her desk?

BearAusten · 16/12/2015 17:34

A heartbreakingly beautiful story. Very emotive.

Did the character of Lila evolve slowly in your mind from the first novel of the sequence, Gilead, or did you always know her story and who she was?

What will your Christmas Day be like? I hope you have an enjoyable one.

SnapCackleFlop · 16/12/2015 18:18

I was delighted to be given this book. It's my first Marilynne Robinson book and I'm not sure if I'd have been better to read the others first.

It is certainly beautifully written and I was excited to have the chance to read it after hearing an interview with Marilynne on the radio.

I'm not quite half way though - not sure why this book is taking me longer than usual as I'm enjoying it.

I'll try to hurry up and come back when I've finished.

barricade · 17/12/2015 02:54

Many thanks again to Mumsnet and Virago / Little Brown Books for a copy of this book. I hadn't read Gilead or Home, but as opposed to a direct sequel, this appeared to be a companion piece, written to work just as well as a standalone story, so I decided to go ahead and read it. Just finished. Not sure if I should review the book just yet without first taking some time to reflect upon the story, but what I can say is that it is really well written, very emotive, and clearly a lot of hard work went into it. (You're not a Pulitzer Prize winner as well as a recipient of a 'Presidential' award without being an extremely talented writer).

I'd like to ask Marilynne a few general questions, if I may (I'm sure I will think of better ones later, but I think we've reached the deadline for submitting questions, so better get them in quick) ......

QUESTION ONE:- Do you have a personal favourite out of the books you've had published? And/or out of books published by other authors?
QUESTION TWO:- With the advancements in CGI and on-screen visual effects, and the tools now available to filmmakers, we have seen previously unfilmable literary classics finally make it to the big screen. Would you be open to the possibility of your books being optioned for film or television, and how would you feel about your work in 'other people's hands'?
QUESTION THREE:- What's next? Is there another book on the horizon, and if so, do you have a specific genre or theme in mind?


kate234 · 17/12/2015 11:04

Reading this book tired, at bed time, I feel I'm not doing it justice. I will definitely read Gilead and Home after Lila. I'd like to know what Marilynne Robinson's plans are for her next novel?

sherbertfountain · 17/12/2015 21:37

Thanks so much for my fabulous free copy of Lila.It is my 1st book by the author although I am now expecting the previous 2 for Christmas presents! I would like to ask Marilynne why she chose to set the book in the 1950's?

navylass · 19/12/2015 20:58

I would like to ask Marilynne if she has a strict structure to her day as regards writing. Also what is her favourite book of all time. Thank you.

frogletsmum · 21/12/2015 10:43

If it's not too late, could I ask Marilynne a couple more questions please?

Do you find it hard to leave your characters and books behind when you finish each one?

And I love the way your characters are so complex and how you find some goodness in everyone, but also how your show that good people can unwittingly do harm. But have you ever, or can you imagine, writing a character who is wholly, irredeemably, bad?

Thank you again for the chance to read Lila - definitely a high point of my reading year!

SpartaCarcass · 21/12/2015 18:10

I have only just seen this thread so have not had time to read Lila. But would like to thank Marilynne for Housekeeping. A beautifully written novel that I started to devour then realised I needed to slow down and let the novel envelope me with its atmosphere. I look forwards to reading more.

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