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A Good House

3.6  ·  Rating Details ·  2,235 Ratings  ·  123 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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Karen Sarah is the daughter of Bill and Margaret, half sister to Patrick, Paul and Daphne. Her name is Sarah Kathleen nicknamed "Sally". Once she grew up…moreSarah is the daughter of Bill and Margaret, half sister to Patrick, Paul and Daphne. Her name is Sarah Kathleen nicknamed "Sally". Once she grew up she wanted to be called by her given name and so she was Sarah for the rest of the story. (less)
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Nov 22, 2008 Bonnie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed-books
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.
Jan 06, 2014 Will rated it did not like it  ·  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
Dec 27, 2008 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Kris - My Novelesque Life

"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
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
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.
Feb 24, 2009 Shane rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 20, 2012 Eileen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Jul 19, 2013 Manu rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 .....
Sep 13, 2009 Mary-Jane rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 26, 2009 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian
I loved this book. It is just a plan story about an ordinary family and that is what makes it special.
Janet Gallardo
The concept for this book was fascinating. It would be otherworldly to capture the life of multiple people throughout their life, but this book does not do that well. The author goes of on tangents quiet frequently; the surroundings seem to take over the book one too many times. Burnard scrutinizes the things that do not matter, and she gives the reader page after page of useless details. However, some major events are not really as major. Peter's marriage melts away after many years but we are ...more
Dec 25, 2016 Elena rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Slow but mostly good. The characters blended into each other.
Nov 10, 2014 Laurie rated it it was ok
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
Sep 17, 2016 Kristi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It reminded me so much of MY life, daughter of a WWII veteran, handicapped sibling, births and deaths. I liked the 'review' from the Canadian magazine, Chatelaine: "You don't just read 'A Good House'; you move into it for a while."
Shirley Schwartz
Apr 10, 2012 Shirley Schwartz rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 31, 2010 Clytee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Robin Marie
Mar 03, 2011 Robin Marie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
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
Jul 12, 2015 Deane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
About 1/3 of the way into this novel "A Good House", I kept thinking about how to describe the writing style and the word 'monotone' came to mind. It reminded me of someone talking with no sharp inflections, fear, excitement, drama, or laughter in her/his voice but the more I read, the more I wanted to read. Found that strange actually.

Starting in 1949 and ending in 1997 the story tells about the lives and happenings of one when jumping from 1956 to 1963, backtracking is needed so we
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
Krista McCracken
Jun 23, 2012 Krista McCracken rated it really liked it
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.
Ronald Wise
Aug 17, 2011 Ronald Wise rated it really liked it
One of those novels in which the characters have real depth and you are sad to say goodbye after the last page. The central family is about to disintegrate when a quiet woman appears to render assistance and become the central force about which the growing extended family is anchored. Especially relevant for those born shortly after World War II. This book is on the reading list "Canadian Fiction" in Nancy Pearl's Book Lust. It was a number-one bestseller in Canada and won the prestigious Giller ...more
Tracy Canuck
It's like the woman started talking and never shut up. The book was like one, long, run-on thought. She never came up for breath. Still, it was interesting enough (just) to keep me reading the book. I the end, though, I'm not sure it was really worth it. This is a book I'd recommend skipping if you're pressed for time because there's not a lot you'll get out of it.

And Daphne ticked me off with her selfish decision, keeping it a secret from everyone. There was no good reason for it, it made no s
Oct 29, 2011 Jennifer rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
My track record for reading books in their entirety is spotty. (I'm still trying to figure out what that says about me!) However, I gave it a fair shake. I probably read half of it, and came to the conclusion that this book truly earned its backburner status. I couldn't figure out where it was going. I don't usually need a mystery to solve, but I don't believe the author built in enough of a sense of anticipation. Also, with too many characters to follow, and matter-of-fact, cursive story-tellin ...more
Aug 24, 2007 Lauren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: worthrereading
This is a book I enjoy re-reading. Everytime it comes back to me after being loaned to a friend, I sit down to read the first chapter and I get hooked.

A Good House follows a Canadian family over 5 decades - checking in every five-8 years or so, like the film series Seven Up. A husband comes home from the war. Kids grow up, mothers die, fathers remarry and new bavies come. college, grandchildren, divorce, love affairs. Wedding dinners by a lake. Wakes and funerals. Everything and nothing, but des
May 04, 2014 Marlies rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
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
Jul 04, 2010 Sheri rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. After I got into it, it felt like home to me. So many of the things she writes about have happened to me or have been part of my experience growing up in small town Canada: the memorial arenas, the family gatherings, Canadian Tire, family drama, etc. Her mastery of detail is amazing and her ability to demonstrate the emotion of the characters is so real.

I can see why it won the 1999 Giller prize. The bonus is that I picked this book up for $1 at our Friends of the Library sale
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Bonnie Burnard (born January 15, 1945, in Petrolia, Ontario) is a Canadian novelist.

She grew up in Forest, Ontario, lived much of her life in Saskatchewan, and now lives in London, Ontario.

In 1989 Women of Influence won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for a first novel. In 1995 she was awarded the Marian Engel Award, and in 1999, she won the Giller Prize for her novel, A Good House.

(from Wikipedia
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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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