Marilynne Robinson’s novels and essays manage to be serious without being solemn. They exude a sense of sensuous feeling but also rigorous thinking. She is concerned with how we should live, with the idea of the world as a sort of gift to us, which requires us to notice what we have been offered, and to study it, to appreciate it and to dramatize its textures and contours. Her novels are replete with a sense of felt life, with a deep and abiding sympathy for her characters and a full understanding of their inner lives. In her essays, in which she displays a questioning spirit, she is concerned with belief and tradition, with the relationship between God and the mind and the word. Robinson is determined to be as intelligent as possible, but also to offer images and impressions that are rich in their implications, which allow for the mysterious as well as the concrete, the uncertain as well as the sure.
Tóibín, an Irish novelist and essayist, is the author of Brooklyn and The Master, among many other books