Nominated by:

Redbridge Libraries, London, UK

The Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County, USA

New York Public Library, USA

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, USA

Multnomah County Library, Portland, USA

San Diego Public Library, USA

Dublin City Public Libraries, Ireland

Cape Breton Regional Library, Sydney, Canada

Publisher of nominated edition:

Virago Press, UK

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, USA


Marilynne Robinson      

2016 Shortlist

Judges’ comments

Marilynne Robinson’s Lila tells the story of the young wife of an elderly preacher– and through her eyes we see what it is to be poor and dispossessed; to live the flipside of the American dream in the early 20th century. Robinson here captures something beyond words, giving voice to the voiceless who build, who sweep, who mend and who try to persevere in the face of hardship and loss. Robinson’s mastery of language – her skilful play of tenses, points of view and structure – her visual imagery, draws us into Lila’s world. Robinson has an unflinching and unsentimental eye in this exploration of trust, belief and faith. She creates a memorable and compelling portrait of one woman’s struggle to make peace with her past; to understand the patterns of her life; to find comfort in the small, ordinary wonders of the present.

About the Book

Lila, homeless and alone after years of roaming the countryside, steps inside a small-town Iowa church – the only available shelter from the rain – and ignites a romance and a debate that will reshape her life. She becomes the wife of a minister and widower, John Ames, and begins a new existence while trying to make sense of the days of suffering that preceded her newfound security.

Neglected as a toddler, Lila was rescued by Doll, a canny young drifter, and brought up by her in a hardscrabble childhood of itinerant work. Together they crafted a life on the run, living hand-to-mouth with nothing but their sisterly bond and a lucky knife to protect them. But despite bouts of petty violence and moments of desperation, their shared life is laced with moments of joy and love. When Lila arrives in Gilead, she struggles to harmonize the life of her makeshift family and their days of hardship with the gentle worldview of her husband which paradoxically judges those she loves.

Revisiting the characters and setting of Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead and Home, Lila is a moving expression of the mysteries of existence.

(from publisher)

About the Author

Marilynne Robinson was born in 1947. Her first novel, Housekeeping received the PEN/Hemingway award for best first novel as well as being nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Gilead won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and Home won the Orange Prize. She lives in Iowa.

Librarians’ Comments

Award-winning novelist Robinson’s third novel of loosely connected people and events in the American heartland is a searing, beautiful tale of love and the natural world, and our tenuous connections to both.

Robinson’s stark, elegant prose pair perfectly with the novel’s Midwestern landscape and values. The frank, somewhat unflinching story and subtle explanation of character make Lila a seriously great and unforgettable novel.

A multi-award-winning book representative of her entire body of work, Lila continues Robinson’s exploration of the fictional world of Gilead, Iowa. With lyric and spiritual resonance, she masterfully confronts life’s great struggles and the question of personal redemption. A novel of the highest order!

Like the main character, the prose is a fine thread of strength and economy. Calvinist philosophy on predestination is rendered beautifully, paired with the all-too-infrequently expressed notion that our joys and sorrows are not balanced.

The author returns to the town of Gilead to explore the relationship between Lila, a young homeless woman and the town’s minister whom she marries. But Lila’s wildness is not easily tamed, which plays out against the backdrop of home and apparent safety.

No-one writes quite like Robinson. In Lila, her spare measured prose explores profound subjects and resonates powerfully.

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