Commonwealth

Ann Patchett
The acclaimed, bestselling author—winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize—tells the enthralling story of how an unexpected romantic encounter irrevocably changes two families’ lives.One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families. Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another.Told with equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. It is a brilliant and tender tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together.

Reviews

Reviewed: 2021-09-01

This novel explores the fragmented lives of two families living in Los Angeles where the father of one marries the wife of the other. Six children have to come to terms with being step-children and have step-parents living apart in California and Virginia. The detailed and dynamic complexities of their lives are further exacerbated when parents re-marry and add further step-children into the mix. The story develops over the years with the author showing a profound understanding of the dynamics, the mindset, and complexity of parental and children’s relationships with a sagaciousness of reality that I found intriguing. The first few chapters seemed too detailed, almost minutia, but as I continued reading so I discovered that these early details led to a better understanding of how early life experiences meld and mature into later life. I was much impressed by the way the author got into the minds of the characters and brought out unexpected turn of events with understanding and sensitivity. The end seemed to me to be an anti-climax. - EWF

Reviewed: 2019-01-12
to-read
Reviewed: 2018-07-30

I think I may be one of the few people who are not shouting how great this book is. I had a difficult time getting through this, and if it had been written by any other author I probably would not have finished the book. 

The problem I think stems from how many novels of growing up in the 1970s seem so alike. Children free of parents, sneaking liquor from the cabinet, living with parents in the background. And I'm a bit tired of the writer the reader meets how they become involved. There were just so many aspects of this novel that I've read in others that there wasn't anything I felt was new.

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@pixielesher began #commonwealth... on 2016-11-22