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A Good House

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  1,798 ratings  ·  106 reviews
It's not an easy thing to write a novel about a family. Of necessity--and as the narrative years advance--characters proliferate, success and tragedy accrue, events maneuver to the fore with faintly arbitrary impetus. First-time novelist Bonnie Burnard, however, evades such worn grooves with the purest renunciation: a patient and lovely voice. In A Good House, awarded Cana ...more
Hardcover, 283 pages
Published 1999 by HarperCollins Canada
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Bonnie
Read it twice to remember why it was I liked it the first time. Now I'll have to pull it off the shelf again one day.

I can say that I liked it far more than her book of short stories.
Will
Jan 06, 2014 Will rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: creative writing students - what not to do!
not sure if I will finish this; so far it has not engaged me ... someone else called it "a laundry list"

... well that came true. It's not a very long book but I had a sinking feeling on page 1 as the little stream burbled out of a cleft in the hills, made its way through the town whose name I forget, performed a right turn at the backs of some houses with a story to tell and proceeded in a north-westerly direction past the parade ground where ... I'm making the details up, but this was the tone
...more
Kris
4 STARS

"A Good House begins in 1949 in Stonebrook, Ontario, home to the Chambers family. The postwar boom and hope for the future color every facet of life: the possibilities seem limitless for Bill, his wife Sylvia, and their three children.

In the fifty years that follow, the possibilities narrow. Sylvia's untimely death marks her family indelibly but in ways only time will reveal. Paul's perfect marriage yields an imperfect child. Daphne unabashedly follows an unconventional path, while Patric
...more
Jane
This book was given to me as a gift (one found at a yard sale for $1), and I encountered it knowing nothing about the author or the story.

I loved it. It's the story of a family over 50 years, which seems kind of ho-hum, been-there-read-that, right?

Burnard makes it into something more. She makes daily life and the big events (illness, early death, loss of love) equally riveting. I slowed down as I came to the last few chapters of this novel, not wanting to hurry it.

There's nothing epic in this fa
...more
Dawn
I like the meandering style of this family story.

I was rather partial to the story gaps, where chapters would start 2-9 years later and you are left to catch up on what had happened and what was happening. I found it an enticing way to read a story.

The almost never judgmental love that is portrayed in the story is a nice change from the often dysfunctional families in so many books.

I also like how, for the most part, the entire story focuses on the people in the family. Not on the changing worl
...more
Shane
I couldn't finish this book, surprisingly, even though it won the Giller Prize. The slow moving start, that went on for about fifty pages before I gave up, broke all the rules that editors want these days, of hooking the reader on the first page or risk losing him forever.
Robin Marie
I read more than half of this book before I finally admitted that I couldn't care less what happened, and there are too many books in the work to waste my time feeling unfulfilled. This book is about a family, so you would expect some sort of emotion, some human aspect. Instead it felt like a laundry list of the family events accompanied by excessive detail about their surroundings. A moment would peak and the author simply wrote "then they understood why she was crying", except she never tells ...more
Candice
I almost gave up on this a couple of times. It is a family story told over a period of 50 years, but the author goes into way too much detail. It begins in 1949, then jumps to 1953, then 1955 and on up to 1997. Sometimes these gaps make the story a bit difficult to follow. A child is born in 1963, and is mentioned in 1970, but you don't really know much about her until she is an adult in 1986. With the birth of children and grandchildren, there were so many characters I had trouble keeping track ...more
Eileen
This I loved! It was an old fashioned, generational family saga, with the writing so beautiful that you were unaware somehow. The tale meandered, much as life does, with evolving relationships and emerging tolerances. There were brief hints of the typical Canadian arrogance towards Americans, but I can forgive her that. I was disappointed to learn that Bonnie Burnard's additional work consists only of a couple of short story collections and one other novel. That one looks as though it may be hea ...more
Colleen
This book started out wonderfully, telling the tale of one particular family. The only problem was that by the end of the book, there were too many characters! The kids all married, had kids of their own who in turn grew up, and I found that there were just too many characters floating around. She was only able to touch briefly on each of them by that point; by the end, there was no meat in the story. Still, worth reading.
Tara
This book was a conundrum. On the one hand, I hated the writing style and believe it could have been edited down at least a hundred pages. On the other hand, and I liked that the story left so many unanswered questions and had fairly realistic characters. In the end, I decided I didn't really enjoy it, because I just wasn't engaged in the characters.
Shar Wallis
- too many characters & they were underdeveloped
- told in 3rd party chronological narrative (different!)
- doesn’t delve deeply into any one character
- doesn’t grab you in at first – not until the 2nd chapter
- slow elegant pace
- just ends… no closure for me, but then again there was nothing that needed closure.
Manu
i just hate this book..
its so annoying that i have throw this book in my dustbin
it just not end anywhere the author just keep on adding more and more character in it, and at some point you would really open the previous pages and see who is who.
this book i would recommend only to my enemy...
it sucks .....
Caitlin
I will admit, upon first completion of this novel I would have given it 3 stars at most. Fortunately, I read it for the purpose of writing a detailed analysis on the book and so I was forced to go back and read it through again, this time taking more care to look at the techniques employed by Burnard. This second reading truly changed my understanding of the book; it's a subtle but powerful piece of work, you just need to read it carefully. There's not much action nor are the characters extraord ...more
Mary-Jane
Not recommended. It goes through the life of a lot of characters, but I didn't really sense there was a point to the story. I read it because it won the Giller Prize.
John
I loved this book. It is just a plan story about an ordinary family and that is what makes it special.
Marlies
This book would for sure grab readers from a small town with a large family in a familiar way. It was a bit of a jolt how similar some of the situations and events in this book were to my own experience within a big family. It would be interesting to hear the perspective about this book from someone in a small family, like Murray from the novel. Family sometimes forgets how to welcome people in with acceptance instead of expectations and I think that Burnard did a great job of showing this tensi ...more
Laurie
I see that a previous reviewer compared this to a laundry list, and I think that's very apt. To me, it felt like a series of connected vignettes, but nothing that came together for me as a novel. There is so much description in this book, that while well-written, it overshadows both plot and character development. As a result, I didn't especially care what happened to the roughly-sketched characters in their meticulously detailed surroundings.

I think that Burnard was trying to reflect the ways
...more
Clytee
This is probably a rather obscure book that I found at DI for a dollar. It is Canadian (and won the Canadian "Giller Prize"), about a man who came home from World War II (just as my father did) to a small town (as my father did), and the story of his life, and descendants from the 1950's to 1997. The time period I know well. The setting, though in Canada, is quite similar to the small town I grew up in.

I was not happy with some of the character's decisions, but was interested in them. It is writ
...more
Shirley Schwartz
50 years of a family history in one book. This book is set in Stonebrook, Ontario. It begins just after WWII, and the book ends in the year of 1997. The book is a family history of the Chambers family-their lives, loves, births, weddings, divorces and deaths. That's a lot to cover especially when the family is a large and gregarious one. But Ms. Burnard does an admirable job of this. This book was the 1999 winner of the prestigious Giller Prize and I think it was a well-deserved honour. Her writ ...more
Katy M
It was well-written, but the problem with a book spanning 5 or 6 decades and three generations is that there are too many characters and too much left out time. The only characters I really liked where Paul and Andy Others, I didn't really get to know well enough to like, or were just downright awful. Maybe if I could see more into their motiviations, I would have liked them more, but I'll never know.
Carrie
I really liked her writing style, but I didn't really like the book. I felt like just as you would start to get involved in the characters' lives, the next chapter would begin (and it would suddenly be 10-12 years later). And at the start of that chapter, someone would suddenly be married or something. I missed having at least a little leading up to some of the bigger life events.
Susanhayeshotmail.com
This was better than just okay, quite well written, I can see why it was a prize winner, and I enjoyed it but I hesitate between three and four stars for some reason. This is the story of a house and it's family, spanning about 50 years, hitting some high points and some lows and skipping over lots of in between, filling you in with a sentence or a paragraph here or sometimes even leaving it to you fill in the gaps. Like the creek that meanders through the town and past the house the story meand ...more
Sharon
This is actually a 4 or 5 star book - beautifully written. I loved some of the sections..some of the dialogue touched my heart and made me cry..but..there were just too many characters and was really difficult to keep track to everyone. It was written as if she was talking to me about people who I really knew - written like a small-town person would talk to a friend. In conclusion - it was a good book but i would not recommend it as I did find it long and tedious to read.
Diane C.
50 year story of an average family in Ontario in the 60's/70's, written in a leisurely pace, full of wonderful insights and observations. I love this kind of writing. Chapters seem self contained, each a potential short story. Not surprising since Bonne Burnard is a short story writer.

Loved this book!
Krista McCracken
Burnard's depiction of small town Canada and the trials of a family are spot on. A Good House follows the Chambers family for fifty years and across multiple generations. At times the abundance of grandchildren and multitude of names do become a bit confusing, but this doesn't impact the story negatively -- rather it made me think of the large families were even the family members have a hard time remembering everyone sometimes.

The story is simple and does a good job of being true to real life.
...more
Joyce
I enjoyed this book. At times I wished there was a bit less day to day detail, but it
was the details that brought you into the family dynamics. As family members aged,
the details made me reflect on my own family. Would recommend this book for readers
entering their golden years.
B.
This book was a leap forward for Burnard, who was known for writing short stories at this point in her career. A fine novel.
Gillian Buckley
The story of an average southern Ontario family made spectacular by beautiful writing. This book had me weeping on the GO Train.
Gracie
I was impressed with the author's skilled use of phrasing; her ability to deliver atmosphere with a handful of well chosen words. I also like the concept of simply following a family. I thought the clear and deep development of Margaret's character was superb.

It was very difficult to follow however. The transitions between eras felt quite choppy. I felt cheated with the ambiguity around the mystery. It got resolved somehow without me, the reader, sharing in the experience. Bummer.
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CBC Books: * 1999 - A Good House by Bonnie Burnard 5 30 Nov 04, 2014 11:24AM  
car accident 2 6 May 09, 2012 08:20AM  
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“The magnificent houses, the three old-money brick houses, each with a small turret and a wraparound porch, had been built uptown near the churches when the town was younger and smaller, before the Great War. The wraparound porches were there to hold rainy-day children and morning tea carts and quiet late-evening converstion, cosy, discreet conversation which could not easily take place in front rooms or kitchens or bedrooms, certainly not on the street.” 3 likes
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