Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What is Kathleen Hill reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Kathleen Hill, author of Who Occupies This House.

Her entry begins:
I stumbled on a review of Anne Enright’s novel, The Gathering, when I was finishing my own novel. I don’t remember a word of the review but was riveted by the subject matter: it was a story of a sister and a brother, or rather the sister’s attempt at a story after the brother, an alcoholic, has died of drowning. A suicide. I had never read a word written by Anne Enright although I knew she was Irish. I’d begun to follow Irish writers. My own book concerned several generations of an Irish –American family who live in the same house for almost a century.

On the first page I read: “ My brother Liam loved birds and, like all boys, he loved the bones of dead animals. I have no sons myself, so when I pass any small skull or skeleton I hesitate and think of him, how he admired their intricacies. A magpie’s ancient arms coming through the mess of feathers; stubby and light and clear. That is the word we use about bones: Clean.”

Immediately I thought of...[read on]
Among the early praise for Who Occupies This House:
This is a novel of great beauty. Step by step, it works its way deep into the interior lives of vanished family, sifting through evidence to solve mysteries, rejudge sorrows, and think, over and over, about forgiveness. An intense, ex-acting, and extraordinary book.
—Joan Silber

If you love Howards End, To the Lighthouse, Joyce’s Dubliners; if you keep returning to Proust’s Combray, this is the book for you. A work of pure and intense lyricism, it explores the question of American identity, calling upon the spirit of Emily Dickinson most particularly. And at the same time, with a truly original depth and breadth of imagination, it looks to the presence of Ireland and Irishness, a potent dream hovering over the lives of Irish Americans.
—Mary Gordon

Part history, and part hypothesis, Kathleen Hill’s family memoir is a lyrical evocation of three generations whose spirits live on in those dwelling places that they have loved. This is a haunted book in the best sense: these lives, these spirits, beautifully portrayed, will stay with you forever.
—Charles Baxter

Who Occupies This House asks us, brilliantly, to consider and reconsider the long lines of suffering and the legacies of the past. But it is also a narrative of passion and faith and sweetness and long affections as the Conroys and the Carmodys seek and find their family. With fierce intelligence and lustrous prose Kathleen Hill takes the reader on a remark-able journey stretching from Ireland to America and back again. I was transported by this book.
—Margot Livesey
Kathleen Hill teaches in the M.F.A. program at Sarah Lawrence College. Her novel Still Waters in Niger was named a notable book by the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and was nominated for the Dublin IMPAC Award. The French translation, Eaux Tranquilles, was short-listed for the Prix Femina √Čtranger. Her stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories, Pushcart Prize XXV, and The Pushcart Book of Short Stories.

Visit the official website of Kathleen Hill.

Writers Read: Kathleen Hill.

--Marshal Zeringue