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Family Album: A Novel Hardcover – October 29, 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
We learn about the house, Allersmead, 'a gravelly drive, stone urns, lanky shrubs and, in the air, a redolent waft of hearty cooking.' Gina has come home to introduce her new love, Phillip to the family and vice versa. Alison, the mom, the earth mom, all she has wanted her entire life is to have children, and a husband, of course. Charles, the absent father, he lived in the house but he was absent emotionally and little is known about him. Ingrid, the Au pair, who lives happily with the family helping to raise the children and to organize the family. Paul, the oldest son is at home. He is his mother's favorite, but has never been able to do much with the life he was handed. Gina is a journalist who travels the world. She does not share much about her childhood, nor as we come to find out do the other children. There is something hidden, a secret that no one discusses. The children, all adults now, know about the secret, but it has never interfered with their lives, or so they thought. Alison, the mother is oblivious to any secret, her family is her all and be-all, and she does not recognize anything outside of her atmosphere. Charles is too busy with his research and writings to be bothered. Each member of the family discusses their points of view, alternating between the children and the adults. This is done in flashback, as they focus on what they remember. The children are gone, but there are no grandchildren, and we ponder why this is.Read more ›
I will say that I did enjoy the e-mails at the end. I did not think it fractured the flow of the novel. In fact it enhanced the plot. I guess my main issue was the way Lively presenting the concept of memories. I think it would have been better if the characters weren't so actively recounting the past as Peter did in his old bedroom or researching the concept of nostalgia as Charles was. But Lively's ideas about time and perception were thought-provoking.
The Harper family revolves around Alison, the mother of the brood, and Allersmead, the Victorian "pile" that the Harper family has lived in for 40 years or so. The father, Charles, a distant figure in the household, is sort of "there, but not there", to his six children. He's a fairly successful writer of non-fiction, often writing about families in far off lands, while moving through his own children's lives at a safe distance. He's often holed up in his library, which is off-limits to the rest of the household. He doesn't get involved with his children, other than with his oldest son, Paul, a neer-do-well who Charles often disparages.
Alison Harper is a "super-Mom". She's the one who wanted a large family and she has made a life for herself seemingly limited to raising the children and keeping the house. She's not the intellectual that her husband is and actually has very little communication with him.
In this melieu the six children - four daughter and two sons - grow up. All but one leave home as soon as possible, but maintain a tenuous connection with family and house. They return to the family home for holidays and birthdays and try, between themselves, to make some sense of their crazy upbringing. An upbringing that only Alison sees as "happy".
Lively is a good writer and most of the nine characters are well drawn. The book goes back and forth in time, depending on who's "telling the story". I found the characters interesting enough so as to almost wish that another writer, maybe one who writes big, fleshy, juicy novels, would take these characters and expand the book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Lively's ability to create interesting and original characters, with dark and, at the end, understandable stories, is astounding. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Maria E. Carballo
This was a good read but I am not left with a lot to hold onto. I prefer novels that have some historical significance and where I feel I can learn something while I'm enjoying... Read morePublished 8 months ago by ksnelson
Well written, amusing. Especially recommended for Anglophiles. Winner of Booker Prize.Published 12 months ago by Emilie Miller
This book started slowly for me and I was a bit distracted by how characters were presented. Must admit there were not any characters that I loved but coming from large family... Read morePublished 24 months ago by Charles W. Houseworth
This was an interesting study of a large family in rural England, living in an old, crumbling mansion. Read morePublished on January 17, 2014 by DubaiReader
This is a story about a house as much as a family. Allersmead is a rambling and unrenovated Victorian house with an expansive garden that is home to the Harpers: Charles, a cold... Read morePublished on October 18, 2013 by Beth Quinn Barnard
What a disappointment! After devouring "Moon Tiger", I reached for another
novel by Penelope Lively and this one was available. Read more