Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The O'Briens” as Want to Read:
The O'Briens
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The O'Briens

by
3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  772 ratings  ·  141 reviews
An unforgettable saga of love, loss, and exhilarating change spanning half a century in the lives of a restless family, from the author of the acclaimed novel The Law of Dreams.

The O’Briens is a family story unlike any told before, a tale that pours straight from the heart of a splendid, tragic, ambitious clan. In Joe O’Brien—grandson of a potato-famine emigrant, and a bac
...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published March 6th 2012 by Pantheon (first published January 1st 2008)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The O'Briens, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The O'Briens

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,516)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Jill
Writing a saga that spans 70 years is not the easiest thing in the world. There’s always a balancing act: how much “play” to give each of the many characters, what events to spotlight, how to believably depict the changing of time.

Peter Behrens, fortunately, is a word craftsman and, in elegant and cinematic language, captures the agony and the ecstasy, the fortune of loss of the O’Brien family. We meet eventual patriarch Joe O’Brien early on, in Pontiac County, Quebec. His father has died at war
...more
Julie
It would seem the greater the sweep of history encompassed by a novel, the more confined the writer. The facts of history are many and easily called out, the settings, characters and dialogue are well-defined by their eras and the more years a story covers, the shallower the characters can become as they are stretched and diluted by time.

It is, therefore, deeply satisfying to read a saga as intimate and profound as The O'Briens. Peter Behrens is a master of the art of storytelling. He understan
...more
Steven Buechler
A wonderful epic. It kept me glued all weekend long.

-page 372
"They shared a double bed on that train, his body heat provoking a mash of feelings in her, mostly anger, resentment. He was trying to annihilate her. Putting on a wrapper, she spent the first night and most of the next in the lounge car in an armchair, reading The Good Earth. They took meals in the dining car and she brought the novel to the table. Joe gazed out at the long yellow agricultural valleys of Oregon and Washington, where h
...more
Caitlin
I'm surprised I actually finished this book. I didn't feel like I connected with any of the characters. all of the compelling storylines were never fleshed out. Why was isault in love with the yogi? I didn't even know how she felt about joe going off on benders until she up and left him. Was margot a raving alcoholic? What happened between grattan and his wife? What was she going thru when grattan was off doing whatever? by the end I just wanted to be done with it.
Steven Langdon
I was very much looking forward to reading this new Peter Behrens novel, "The O"Briens," and it did turn out to be one of those family saga books that I enjoy, tracing the life of Joe O'Brien, his brothers (Grattan and Tom,) and Joe's family over the almost 70 years. Behrens writes well, and his descriptions of the Ottawa Valley, the New York of 1910, the B.C. mountain passes, the California coast and urbanizing Montreal are vivid and clear. On balance, though, the novel left me somewhat let-dow ...more
Allen Adams

http://www.themaineedge.com/buzz/the-...

This is a saga that warrants your attention. This is a story whose quiet brilliance can’t be ignored. It’s an intimate epic, if that makes sense – a portrait of an entire world through the lens of a single bloodline. All the joy and passion, all the anger and fear, all the love and loss involved in simply living and being – that’s what Peter Behrens has captured with “The O’Briens.”

The story of the O’Brien family would make for wonderful reading in any con
...more
Amanda
Well - that was disappointing. What started out as a great premise with a couple of very strong characters seemed to peter out to loosely (or not at all, in some cases) vignettes in the life of some members of this family. Scenes which may have been important vanished into the text with no follow-up, as did some of the characters. The ones we were left with were sketchy, to say the least, with little indication given to their motivation or reasoning.
I think this could have been a great book - ju
...more
Lorna Driscoll
man oh man......why do people write 500 pages of such rambling drivel.....(and why did I stick it out?) I guess I thought it might get better at the end, but it got worse! And all this from an author who was a GG award winner. I don't get it! What am I missing?
Bonnie Brody
The O'Briens is a family saga that extends from 1887 through 1960 covering three generations of the O'Brien family. As the novel starts, Joe O'Brien is a second generation Irishman living in rural Canada with his mother and drunken stepfather. Joe has served as a parental child since his earliest years, taking care of his siblings due to his mother's fragile state of health and his desire to keep his brothers and sisters protected from his stepfather. At one point, when he finds out that his ste ...more
Sarah
A really well done family saga is hard to find and must be hard to write. This one comes close, but in the end misses the mark. With that said, there is still enough here to make some honest recommendations to historical literary fiction readers.
I've been thinking a lot about characters lately and what makes or breaks a character. It isn't that you want to hang out with them, or that you always identify with them. But there has to be enough meat of the character to sympathize with them and find
...more
Bobby
Wonderfully paced fictional family ,the Obrien's, from late 1800's to 1960's. Moves along at a perfect pace with the main charcter, Joe Obrien, sometimes taking a backseat while other family members' stories are told. Good depiction of the various time periods, esp. WW I and WW II. Only complaint is a great deal of phrases in French and not always a translation. Not sure if it was to add authenticity or not but my limited French had me wondering at times if I was missing something crucial to the ...more
Paula
3.5 stars - I really enjoyed this epic Canadian novel about a young Irish Canadian who makes a good life for himself and his family through hard work and dedication. A part of the story is about the building of the railroad in British Columbia and the very tough circumstances encountered. The story takes the reader from the 1880's in Quebec through the two world wars and into the sixties.

I am about to start reading the prequel, The Law of Dreams, about the Obrien family immigration to Canada fr
...more
Rose Mary Achey
This novel follows three generations of an Irish Catholic Canadian family. When Joe O’Brien’s father dies he assumes responsibility for his mother and four brothers and sisters at the age of 14. Joe protects and cares for his family and dreams of a future beyond the rugged Canadian wilderness. Joe has a keen sense of business and does build a thriving commercial construction concern. This portion of the book is by far the best. The next generation-Joe’s three children and their lives were not as ...more
Raimo Wirkkala
This is a family saga with a sweep of just over 60 years, spanning the first half of the 20th century. It moves briskly and I found it impossible to put down for the last 150 pages or so. Behrens does much better with character development here than he did with his first novel, "The Law of Dreams". The female characters, in particular, fare better this time. You may not like the main character, Joe O'Brien, but by the end of the novel you will respect him.
Eleanor Cowan
Early trauma in an exceedingly poor, traumatized Irish immigrant family is tracked into the next generation.

The novel shows the manner in which early, strong, and committed mother-love rescued some of the first family of children so that some could trundle forward. Still, the Irish famine was so terrible that it caused a kind of amnesia that took its toll on the emotional lives of generations to follow.

This novel shows that while children of trauma can be successful in the domain of business, h
...more
Eleanor Cowan
Early trauma in an exceedingly poor, traumatized Irish immigrant family is tracked into the next generation.

The novel shows the manner in which early, strong, and committed mother-love rescued some of the first family of children so that some could trundle forward. Still, the Irish famine was so terrible that it caused a kind of amnesia that took its toll on the emotional lives of generations to follow.

This novel shows that while children of trauma can be successful in the domain of business, h
...more
Eleanor Cowan
Early trauma in an exceedingly poor, traumatized Irish immigrant family is tracked into the next generation.

The novel shows the manner in which early, strong, and committed mother-love rescued some of the first family of children so that some could trundle forward. Still, the Irish famine was so terrible that it caused a kind of amnesia that took its toll on the emotional lives of generations to follow.

This novel shows that while children of trauma can be successful in the domain of business, h
...more
Eleanor Cowan
Early trauma in an exceedingly poor, traumatized Irish immigrant family is tracked into the next generation.

The novel shows the manner in which early, strong, and committed mother-love rescued some of the first family of children so that some could trundle forward. Still, the Irish famine was so terrible that it caused a kind of amnesia that took its toll on the emotional lives of generations to follow.

This novel shows that while children of trauma can be successful in the domain of business, h
...more
Amy
Couldn't wait for it to be over. Found it read like an expensive meal where your still hungry afterwards. Invested in the characters, but not enough real meat to satiate. Kept waiting for something to happen. Spoiler alert...it never does!
Jill Hennegan
I didn't know this was a sequel to a previous book. I will now read the first one!
Roxanne
First 1/4 was promising. Then it seemed to turn into a romance novel.
Paul Pessolano
“The O’Briens” by Peter Behrens, published by Pantheon Books.

Category – Fiction/Literature

Joe O’Brien is living in the wilds of Canada. His father is dead and at 13 he has become the head of the family. He has assumed responsibility for his mother, brothers, and sisters. With the help of a parish priest Joe builds a thriving lumber business. He shows a gift for making good business decisions and an incredible work ethic.

Joe knows that there is a better world out there for him and when his mother
...more
Agnes Benis
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a page turner and the author surprised me with plot twists.

Father rescues his two brothers and sisters from stepfather and sets them all on a course to follow. The girls to be nuns, Tom a priest and Grafton, never responsible enough for Joe. Joe meets Iseult and they are married almost immediately. They lose their first child and Joe is not there. Iseult blames him. They have three other children, Margo, Mike and Frankie. There marriage goes through hard tim
...more
Virginia Campbell
Master storyteller Peter Behrens once again enthralls readers with the generation-spanning saga of "The O'Briens". Continuing the amazing story line that he began with "The Law of Dreams", Behrens moves into the late 19th-century lives of the Irish family who left their famine-ridden homeland to seek the land of dreams known as America. When young Joe O'Brien's father goes off to war, Joe becomes the man of the family at age fifteen. After his father's death, the man seeking to marry Joe's mothe ...more
Lucy Hannigan
This is a book I found while browsing through my library's collection of ebooks. I was prepared not to like this book and had given myself permission not to finish it if it didn't grab me, but it did.
It is the story of a young boy, Joe, growing up in Canada with his recently widowed mother and 4 younger siblings. Life isn't easy and in many ways it gets worse when his mother remarries. But Joe is a fighter and is willing to take chances and work hard. When his mother dies, he packs up his siblin
...more
Lorine Kritzer
This beautifully written saga kept me engaged for the whole book. From harsh beginnings, Joe O'Brien (I kept seeing Bob Hoskins in the movie version) creates an empire of successful entrepreneurialism and its accompanying wealth. He meets Iseult, the love of his life, early on, and they travel together from the backwoods of Canada to the tony neighborhoods of Montreal and Kennebunkport, having a family and growing--sometimes together, other times apart. Each is haunted by his/her own demons, and ...more
Michelle Rivera
This was almost as good as The Law of Dreams, though I think I liked the first one better. This book begins a few generations after the character in the Law of Dreams lands on American soil. There are a lot of characters to keep up with. Early on, we learn about three brothers and two sisters. The two sisters are dispatched early in the book. They enter a convent and that's the last we hear of them. That seemed odd to me. Throughout the lives of "Joe, Gratin and the Little Priest" we never hear ...more
Diane
This is a story about two generations in a family. The O'Brien brothers and sisters grew up in the Pontiac region of Quebec from the turn of the 20th century to the early 60s. This is apparently a sequel to an earlier book where the first O'Briens arrived in Canada but it isn't reliant on that so much that you couldn't pick this up and enjoy it.

The main character is Joe O'Brien, the oldest brother. The children lose their mother to illness and have to deal with a stepfather who is an alcoholic.
...more
Wendy
This novel of historical fiction covers the time period of 1887 to 1960, from the Canadian wilderness to California to Montreal. It is the story of Joe O'Brien and the love of his life, Iseult Wilkins. We meet Joe as a boy, caring for his younger siblings. As a young man, he learns to succeed in business and begins to win railway contracts in the wilds of Canada. He meets Iseult and they begin their future together. We follow the family up to 1960, with the backdrop of two world wars and of the ...more
John C.
The O’Brien’s © 2011 Fiction
By Peter Behrens (Canadian) – Early 20th Century Family saga

Finally, a novel that was hard to put down. At 514 pages and a multitude of ‘family’ characters to keep track of, the latter is no easy claim. Following family lines with more than three or four characters has always been a ‘challenge’ and usually has me tossing the novel out through frustration. I now realize this has little to do with any shortcomings as a reader, and everything to do with the writer’s abil
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 50 51 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • A Good Man
  • The Beggar's Garden
  • Suddenly
  • David
  • The Juliet Stories
  • A World Elsewhere
  • The Age of Hope
  • Tell It to the Trees
  • Whirl Away
  • River Thieves
  • Natural Order
  • The Island Walkers
  • Boleto
  • Kicking the Sky
  • Caught
  • The Right-Hand Shore
  • Requiem
  • River of the Brokenhearted
85165
Peter Behrens' is author of two novels,, THE LAW OF DREAMS (Steerforth/Random House) and THE O'BRIENS (Pantheon) and a collection of short stories, NIGHT DRIVING (Macmillan). Behrens was a Fellow of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and held a prestigious Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University. He was born in Montreal and lives on the coast of Maine with his wife and son.
More about Peter Behrens...
The Law of Dreams Travelling Light Les O'Brien Der Clown mit der Trommel - Meine Jahre mit TRIO - aber nicht nur Law of Dreams, The: A Novel

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“Marriage is a mystery.” 3 likes
“autumn leaves and earth. She wondered if Margo might be willing to drive down to Maine with her for one last holiday. October light was gorgeous at the beach and they could have a” 0 likes
More quotes…