When I Was a Child I Read Books by Marilynne Robinson
In this essay collection from the Pulitzer-winning novelist Marilynne Robinson, the author revisits many themes from her novels, touching on issues such as faith, loneliness, morality, and the fundamental question of what it is to be human. With strong Christian undertones, the collection also examines the ideas at the very heart of America.
Reviewer: Lauren Groff
"I read When I Was a Child I Read Books slowly, not only because I was savouring the books’ gorgeous language, but also because I had to ride out the swells of wonder that another human soul could express ideas as crystalline and beautiful as those in her book."
Reviewer: Roxana Robinson
"Robinson’s language is elegant and her reasoning precise, and reading these essays is like taking a draught of water from a cold spring. They offer us something rewarding, deeply essential and long-sought, even if we only realize it now."
Reviewer: Kurt Armstrong
"When I Was A Child doesn’t offer much for the earnest optimist, eager to change the world. But it thunders with love, compassion, difficult hope and extraordinary wisdom....And if you’re open to the consideration that Christianity just might be defensible, intellectually coherent, and culturally relevant, you’ll find that this book is a magnificently rich banquet."
Reviewer: Kate Kellaway
"Her critical armoury includes no ostentatious weapons – no cruelty, sarcasm or rhetorical flourishes. She doesn't do polemic. Yet, as a non-believer, there were occasions when she was in the pulpit and I was on my knees."
Reviewer: Thomas Meaney
"The greatest pleasures of this book are its provocations, which are inseparable from its prose...."When I Was a Child I Read Books" may seem like a book addressed to Christians—some of the essays have the whiff of the pulpit—but Ms. Robinson's church is exceptionally broad. Her essays are psalms to an indivisible America."
Reviewer: Emily Stokes
"These rich, uncompromising essays are not for everyone but – to make a Robinson-like distinction of my own – their rewards should be for anyone, of any faith, who cares to dive deeply into a distant world."
Reviewer: Andrew Delblanco
"As the credo of a liberal Christian, Robinson’s new book of essays stands on its own. But it is also an illuminating commentary on her novels....Like every good preacher, Marilynne Robinson judges others while including herself — in theory, at least — in the judgment."
Reviewer: Michelle Kuo & Albert Wu
"This metaphysical hunger is what makes Robinson's fiction so satisfying. We see characters struggling to make sense of what it means to exist — struggling to understand, struggling to comprehend, struggling to act morally....The off-putting manner in which Robinson dismisses her opponents' arguments is the only dissonant note in this otherwise illuminating collection."
Reviewer: Alex Engebretson
"The risk of her essays is that they might come off as culturally irrelevant or out-of-touch or, worse, conservative....Her lonesome distance from the mainstream is eccentric, but it’s also what gives her essays their strange power to diagnose America’s discontents. It’s a perspective that’s simultaneously alienated and engaged, public and personal."
Reviewer: August Brown
"But for all her edifying work reclaiming bedrock Western texts for progressive ends, this collection has trouble suggesting how to move forward on the ground....this book's scrambling of liberalism and conservatism presents its own problem — if our foundational texts and traditional ideologies aren't serving as our map, then what is guiding our faiths and our government?"
Reviewer: Jane Shilling
"There are passages in these essays that are thought-provoking, if only because they oblige one to sharpen one’s disagreement with Robinson’s arguments. There are also passages of beautiful writing. But admirers of her novels who hope to find an equivalent clarity and authority in her essays may find them hard work."