Don’t bother with this novel if it’s a page-turner you’re after, as its gentle lyrical style should be savoured.
Switching between Lila’s present life and tantalising snatches of her previous existence, it provides some answers to her mysterious past, but not all. Robinson invites readers to examine their own views on destiny and existence as Lila and her husband John struggle to reconcile events with Christian belief.
This is a love story, but not a conventional one. It tells of John’s love for his friend Boughton; of drifter Doll’s unconventional love for Lila; and of Lila and John’s love for each other and their child. These love stories weave their way through the narrative, nourishing and surprising the reader in equal measure.
Lila could be viewed as the prequel to Robinson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gilead, but it can certainly be read in its own right. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s a beautifully crafted novel that somehow draws you in. (Caroline Newbold)