Enjoyed this book. In spite of a horrendous childhood, the 6 children turned out OK, mostly. The happy families you see on TV are not so common in real life.
The first chapter of this book sets the scene for everything that comes after it. It involves a bottle of gin brought to a Christening party, the resulting morality meltdown of the party guests and ultimately a forbidden kiss which changes the lives of two families. Afterwards, each chapter jumps ahead by decades and we follow the lives of these family members and their relationships with each other over time. I thought this was a great look at family life and how family members have the power to knock each other down and then turn around and save each other.
COMMONWEALTH refers to the state of Virginia where much of this novel’s action takes place, but COMMONWEALTH is also the name of a book within the book which traces the ripple effects of infidelity, divorce, and remarriage on the lives of the couple involved, their wronged spouses, as well as their respective children over a 50-year period. COMMONWEALTH is an astute commentary on today’s blended family, and is perhaps inspired by author Ann Patchett’s own life experiences. “Father Knows Best”, “Make Room for Daddy”, or “Donna Reed” it definitely is not. COMMONWEALTH is best consumed in concentrated chunks. Although an easy read, due to the many characters and episodic plot structure, this is not the kind of book one can put down for several days, then easily resume. I would recommend keeping a list of characters as they are introduced - it will save a lot of time keeping track of who is who and their relationships later on in the story.
The story starts with a christening where an uninvited guest changes the history of two families. The novel weaves around marriage breakdown, divorce, step children and step siblings. Three husbands, three wives, and six children are interspersed in each other's lives. One of the children, Franny, falls in love with legendary novelist, Leo Posen and slowly her life story becomes the plot of his novel and ends up being a bestseller and a movie. The plot of our book is intriguing and poignant. Definitely worth a read.
I should have done as another reader did, and made a list of the characters, their characteristics, and their relationships. Even reading the book in two days, I had trouble keeping track of them. I never had this problem with "Bel Canto." Like the six children, I had difficulties forgiving the parents and step parents for what felt like their huge selfishness. None seem to think about the consequences of their behavior for their kids. The book is necessarily episodic, covering 50 years. Sometimes the holes this leaves in the story left me saying, "What happened?" Many episodes are wonderful, beautifully written even when I didn't get how it fit until something years later explained it. I especially liked Franny, whose christening party begins the book, and whose reluctant attendance at a Christmas party closes it. An interesting book, just not Patchett's best.
A solid book that follows 2 families over 2 generations, and how their lives intertwine.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable read with many characters and relationships explored. I will definitely look for other Ann Patchett books to read.
A well written story of 2 families (Keatings, Cousins) and how they merge and interconnect over the years. Has an unexpected twists and gradually reveals the dynamics of all.
Although I needed to keep track of characters on a scrap of paper stuck in the book, I let myself fall into the story, trusting, knowing I was in Patchett’s masterful hands. (Loved her Bel Canto.) This story is all about character as they explore the drama of chaotic, ordinary life. The plot is a series of vignettes strung together through their differing perspectives, and is partly a metafiction when the family reads the book (called Commonwealth) written about their own family that is made into a movie. Gluing it altogether is Patchett’s clever insight and subtle wit into the family’s “commonwealth” – their “general good.”
Okay but not great. "Bel Canto" it isn't. More of yet another portrait of another dysfunctional family although this one told by a massively talented author.
Patchett continues to pull me into her stories. As I was immersed in the story of three families seemingly made dysfunctional by the affair and then subsequent marriage of a husband and wife, I saw how the adults’ behavior helped shape their children’s adulthood. I enjoy character-driven stories particularly when the author is adept at weaving complicated characters into the book.
No one else writes like she does. She weaves multiple characters into one plot, truly impressive!
Decent read. My favourite Ann Patchett book of all time is Bel Canto, so I compare all her subsequent work to that, which isn't really fair. That being said, this is a very well-written book as one would expect and has excellent character development. I feel the ending was a bit weak as I was hoping for a bit more drama but in general I enjoyed it.
If you know anything about Ann Patchett's personal history, you will know that this novel is loosely based on her tumultuous and messy early life. She grew up in a large blended family - 6 children, 4 parents - and she lays bare their faults and shortcoming as well as their resilience and humor. The writing is excellent, and though it's definitely character-based fiction, you'll be swept along by the story. Highly recommended for readers who like reading about family dynamics, the writing life, and self-discovery.
This book is phenomenal. I felt empathy for all the characters at the various stages in their lives. Did not want to put down!
I must admit that I have never read a work by Ann Patchett that I didn't like but this one was particularly good. While the book includes numerous characters over a 50 year time period I felt like I really knew them and I hated for the book to end because I wasn't ready to let them go.
This may not have been a book that I would have picked myself, but when a friend recommended it I decided to give it a read. Although it was a little difficult to keep things straight, I really liked how it jumped around and wasn't always in chronological order... It was intriguing and kept me reading because I was never sure when to expect that part of the story to pick back up.
A fine read. But, as others have said, the characters were hard to keep straight. Plus when a new chapter began, I didn't always know when in the story the author was talking about.
Great character development and interesting storytelling, but a little depressing all the same. It all starts with a big bottle of gin…
I loved the book. It was a fast read. All the characters are well developed. You couldn't help but love some of them, especially Fix. Being a divorced parent myself I felt even more sorrow for the children who are the real victims of divorce.
I liked it for the most part, but had a hard time keeping everybody straight, not to mention time frame being talked about - confusing at best. Not to mention believability of what some of the characters did (r/t life experience let us say). My attention wandered last 100 pages or so, tedious in other words as if she needed to tie up (what she believed to be) loose ends though what was believable is how tenuous marriage can be considering what it's built on.
There are times when being a borrower just isn't enough.
Commonwealth is the sort of book that you want to buy
And proudly display on your shelf.
Patchett writes effortlessly, piercing your heart and funny bone.
I skipped lunch, ignored the phone- just to finish this wonderful story:
We may not be the Cousins nor the Keatings, but we recognize ourselves in them.
Patchett is a successful writer, but by anyone's definition, she undeservedly must surely be underpaid.