Monday, January 5, 2015

The Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau

The Keepers of the House
by Shirley Ann Grau
1965 Pulitzer Prize
1 star - BORING! Ugh!

I'm finding Pulitzer Prize novels seem to fall into two general categories of awesome and formulaic. Yes, you heard me, formulaic. As in as predictable and dull as a bad cozy mystery or romance novel. I survived 150 pages into this one before I bailed.

I suspect the main draw of this book is that it was written in 1964, when the US was waking up to the fact that African Americans deserved the same rights as Anglos, and the book happens to be about mixed race couplings. OK, the premise isn't bad.

Wealthy plantation owner takes on a black mistress, fathers children. His white daughter and granddaughter come to live with him (daughter from deceased white wife of plantation man). My guess is that white granddaughter grows up with mixed race siblings in relative isolation and then at some point everybody figures out how cruel the world can be. But since it took 150 pages (half the book) to set things up, I wasn't going to hang around to see what happened.

The dust jacket promises "...a novel of immense power that builds slowly..." Well, the slow part was correct. I would have been more forgiving if the scenes of the countryside were more evocative or if the characters had been just a wee bit interesting, but none of those elements were present. 

Plus, the book suffers from a quirk which really annoys me. Very little reference to time or place so I was never really sure what state we were in or what year it was. 

I'll keep working my way through the Pulitzers because every few years there is a real gem, but I will make sure to always have a sure thing waiting for me if I am, once again, disappointed.


  1. Pretty much after required summer reading for high school, I have stopped reading things that bore the hell out of me. However, I'm sure the lack of time/place specific details was to give it that 'universal' quality. Blerg. But I applaud your ambition! ;-)

    -Dr. Liz, who is currently reading a book on off-camera lighting in portraiture (which is about as exciting as it sounds...)

  2. Three duds in a row! And you've had some bad luck with the Pulitzer Prize winners, too. Oh, well, the year's reading HAS to improve from here. I have a dud sitting on the table, too; I don't know why I haven't returned it to its shelf.