Book Review: A Village Life, Louise Glück

a village life

A Village Life, written in 2009, is Louise Glück’s eleventh collection of poetry. This was a lot different from her earlier collections that I’ve read. A lot of reviews have described this as a verse novel, but I don’t think there is a true narrative here, especially compared to something like The Autobiography of Red, a true verse novel. Instead, the collection is tied together by a common setting that explores the themes of youth, death, and a nostalgia for home. As you may have guessed, that common setting is a village, somewhere with fields, mountains, and rivers, in maybe part of Europe.

This collection is actually really funny and witty, and I found myself laughing out loud at certain parts. For example –

The children cry, they sometimes fight over toys.
But the water’s there, to remind the mothers that they love these children;
that for them to drown would be terrible.

Every summer in New York City, I become really homesick for the South. There is nothing quite like a Southern summer, and Glück’s description of village life managed to explain and soothe my nostalgia exactly when I needed it. She explores all possible outcomes of village living – you stay and grow old, you move away and always look back, you are both unsure and unwavering. It made me feel like even though I moved away, I will still be okay, because I am not alone. It reminded me of something Truman Capote once said, “all Southerners eventually come home, if only in a box.”

To my mind, you’re better off if you stay;
that way, dreams don’t damage you.
At dusk, you sit by the window. Wherever you live,
you can see the fields, the river, realities
on which you cannot impose yourself —

To me, this book is a lot quieter than her previous ones, but the moments of stillness convey much louder messages. I have been thinking a lot about what makes a book of poetry work. I haven’t come to any conclusions yet, but A Village Life works.


I would recommend this book to people that are homesick, people that live in small towns, people that are on the fence about poetry and want to start somewhere approachable.

Additional Reading:

4 thoughts on “Book Review: A Village Life, Louise Glück

  1. Thank you so much for the recommendation. I’m a huge Gluck fan which means I come to each new collection with crazily high expectations, it’s good to hear that this is up to her usual high standard!

    • I would definitely say it’s different from her other books, but I really enjoyed it regardless. You’ll have to read it and let me know what you think! I don’t have any friends that like Louise Gluck, so I am so happy to hear from you! 🙂

  2. Pingback: Books I Read in July | Like Bears to Honey

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