- File Size: 1404 KB
- Print Length: 263 pages
- Publisher: Harper; Reprint edition (September 13, 2016)
- Publication Date: September 13, 2016
- Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
- Language: English
- ASIN: B019C40Z7M
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,773 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Commonwealth Kindle Edition
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|Length: 263 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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“Patchett brings humanity, humor, and a disarming affection to lovable, struggling characters... Irresistible.” (Library Journal)
“Exquisite... Commonwealth is impossible to put down.” (New York Times)
“(A) rich and engrossing new novel …” (New York Times Book Review)
“Indeed, this is Patchett’s most autobiographical novel, a sharply funny, chilling, entrancing, and profoundly affecting look into one family’s “commonwealth,” its shared affinities, conflicts, loss, and love.” (Booklist)
“…a funny, sad, and ultimately heart-wrenching family portrait…Patchett elegantly manages a varied cast of characters…[Patchett is] at her peak in humor, humanity, and understanding people in challenging situations.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“The prose is lean and inviting…A satisfying meat-and-potatoes domestic novel from one of our finest writers.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
“Wonderfully executed…” (Marie Claire)
“Commonwealth is a smart, thoughtful novel about the ties that bind us.” (Pop Sugar)
“Commonwealth is an all-American family saga, but her touching and even-handed approach to themes such as family politics, love, the role of literature and the acidic nature of lies is buoyed by a generous sprinkling of matter-of-fact humor” (BookPage)
“Commonwealth bursts with keen insights into faithfulness, memory and mortality… [An] ambitious American epic…” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) --This text refers to the paperback edition.
About the Author
<pANN PATCHETT is the author of seven novels, The Patron Saint of Liars, Taft, The Magician’s Assistant, Bel Canto, Run, State of Wonder, and Commonwealth. She was the editor of Best American Short Stories, 2006, and has written three books of nonfiction, Truth & Beauty, about her friendship with the writer, Lucy Grealy, What now? an expansion of her graduation address at Sarah Lawrence College, and, most recently, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, a collection of essays.<p In November 2011, she opened Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, with her partner Karen Hayes. She has since gone on to be a spokesperson for independent booksellers, talking about books and bookstores on “The Colbert Report,” NPR, “The Martha Stewart Show” and “The CBS Early Show.” Along with James Patterson she was the honorary chair of World Book Night. In 2012 she was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.<p Ann Patchett lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, Karl VanDevender, and their dog, Sparky.
--This text refers to the paperback edition.
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In the beginning, I had a lot of trouble keeping the people straight. Who was married to whom, which children were from which set of parents, etc., not to mention all the other people. In addition, the timeline kept jumping back and forth and it wasn't always obvious. I could have put the book down at any time but I did not as there was something compelling about it even though there is nothing grand about this story, no bells and whistles in the plot or the writing.
The story goes back and forth in time, sometimes confusing. I can see how this irritated some reviewers as I never quite knew where the story was going. Still, a pretty good read as Ann Patchett can really tell a story…one that is satisfying and reflects the mess of real life without resorting to tricks. 3.5 Stars
"Commonwealth" is a novel about two families whose fates are set into motion one LA afternoon in the 1960s at a Christening party to which a large bottle of gin is brought, and ripe oranges happen to be plentiful on the neighborhood trees. If any one detail of that day had been different, so would be the lives of the two families that were set into motion like a cascade of falling dominoes. "Commonwealth" is immediately engrossing; I can't imagine reading the first chapter and not being compelled to read on. The novel floats back and forth in time and among the members of the Cousins and Keating families, specifically the six children united by their hatred of their parents. Don't let the term "domestic drama" fool you into thinking this is light fare; Patchett can do in 300 pages what Franzen does in 600 - paint a fully realized picture of family life with all its many facets: humor, despair, evil thoughts, sibling rivalry, fraught relationships, tragedies, revenge and betrayal.
Speaking of betrayal, Patchett employs a neat little conceit by having one of the characters reveal family secrets to a famous author who uses these as the basis of a prize-winning bestseller called, "Commonwealth". Several sections of the novel deal with how particular family members react to their lives being re-told and re-shaped for mass consumption. As an avid reader of family-centric novels, I wondered how often this scenario plays out in reality; I’m guessing it is often.
I've read Patchett's entire oeuvre, and no two novels are alike, yet Patchett writes convincingly in each; we don't feel she's merely researched her topics well, we feel she's LIVED them. Has she: lived in a home for unwed mothers? Been a magician's assistant, or an opera singer held captive? Has she been to the Amazon? Is she a child of divorce? Unlikely all are true, but one would be forgiven for wondering.
"Commonwealth", is one of those novels that you race to finish because you want to know what happens to characters you’ve come to care about, while at the same time you want to slow down to make it last.
In the end, for the first time in years, I gave up. Perhaps if I had persevered something would have popped up in the middle of the book and surprised me – but it seems unlikely and hardly worth the effort. There are so many marvellous books available, why waste your time with something that I suspect the author assembled in a rush.
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The weird thing is that at any point in the book I felt fairly engaged with what was going on, but once I reached the end and looked back, it all seemed horribly disjointed. The characters are not very developed - there are perhaps a few too many - and sometimes, such as with the wife who was cheated on early in the book, it's only very near the end that we get to know anything about her at all. When you do, she's lovely and the trip to Switzerland is very enjoyable, but just as you think you've met somebody new....... well let's just say she doesn't get much more attention.
Plot wise, the leaps in time are distracting. One minute a girl is a babe in arms, the next she's nursing her elderly father, then she's a 20-something law school drop-out working in a bar, then the lover to an author, then back to being a carer again before bouncing back to taking her step-kids to meet some or other parent or step-parent or......confusing stuff.
The promise of the cover blurb is a mystery inappropriately revealed - a personal story confided and then spread around via a novel that reveals things the protagonists didn't know. I expected some great scandal or horror but instead the book just dances around the death of a young man without ever really explaining why it's such a devastating dereliction of family loyalty to have revealed what happened.
Much is hinted at, much is promised, and at times the prose is beautiful. But like a buffet that leaves you simultaneously stuffed and hungry, it doesn't satisfy. It's also SO much like a second rate Anne Tyler novel that I kept thinking how much I wished SHE had written it instead. I'll still keep hunting for my copy of Bel Canto, but that will be make or break for me with Ann Patchett.
It is possible, I suppose, that at some point, something interesting appears, something that holds one's attention somewhat better than the very soporific scenes that constitute the beginning of the book. Anything is possible. But who wants to waste one's life trying to find out, and paying for the privilege.
Patchett's writing captures perfectly the changing relationships between the parents, siblings and step-siblings. We see them as children and follow them back and forth through time as they become adults and in some cases, parents themselves.
I've been a massive Ann Patchett fan since a friend at work loaned me The Magician's Assistant years ago - frankly she could write the blurb on the back of a cereal packet and I'd probably rave about it. Every book she writes is totally different, so if this one doesn't take your fancy, try another. I'm biased, but they're all brilliant.