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Family Album

3.23 of 5 stars 3.23  ·  rating details  ·  1,609 ratings  ·  337 reviews
A novel of family intrigue from [one of the most accomplished writers of fiction of our day[ (The Washington Post)All Alison ever wanted was a blissful childhood for her six children, with summers at the beach and birthday parties on the lawn at their family home. Together with Ingrid, the family au pair, she has worked hard to create a real [old-fashioned family life.[ Bu ...more
ebook, 240 pages
Published October 29th 2009 by Viking Books (first published 2009)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,917)
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Linda C
There is both good news and bad news about this book. The good news is that it was only 200 pages. The bad news is that it was 200 very boring pages. I finished it, but barely, and I am hard pressed to think of a more unpleasant 200 page book.

While the concept was somewhat intriguing, the characters were so unpleasant, and the writing so trite, that it was a highly unpleasant reading experience. The book was about-- what? There didn't seem to be any particular plot; while Jerry Seinfeld may have
...more
K
Nov 24, 2010 K rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People with an interest in family dynamics and an ability to tolerate a pretty nonexistent plot
This is one of those cases where many things that normally annoy me in books were forgiven because I liked the writing. Not so much a story as a character sketch of a family and its members, Family Album reads like a series of snapshots. Distant, self-absorbed Charles is married to Allison, a mom on steroids if there ever was one, raising her large brood of six children. The au pair, Ingrid, has been present since the children's babyhood and mysteriously never left, even though all the children ...more
Nick
My only other Lively experience was How It All Began, her latest, which I LOVED. This was different, more sombre and more conventional. The story of a family -- mother, father, six now-grown kids, and the au pair who never left. The main conceit of the book is that families are not what they seem. That's not exactly a stunning revelation, but this secret is interestingly juicy. And Lively is great both on dialogue and on the intricacies of how people relate to one another. I thought the most int ...more
Bookmarks Magazine
Although most critics acknowledged that Family Album was not her best work, they thoroughly enjoyed Lively's latest tale of middle-class family dysfunction, a theme that fans will recognize from earlier novels. Lively is particularly skilled at exploring the small, seemingly inconsequential details of domestic life with an authenticity that will have readers cringing with empathy. There is a foreshadowed family secret that comes to light more than halfway through the novel: it's effective, but n ...more
Kiwiflora
Wow, two Penelope Lively books in as many months! This woman is such a great writer, weaving her characters - all from the same family of course - with each other, casting different interpretations on the same events, relating past events to present situations. She weaves a delicious web; slowly, gently uncovering the mysteries and things that happen in families, all under the veneer and appearance of everything being 'normal'.

In this little gem, the children, all six of them, are returning to t
...more
Esther
What a stroke of luck. Had in the back of my mind to get round to reading some Penelope Mortimer and browsing the selection in the Wilmette library secondhand store I picked this up by mistake. The wrong Penelope. But it had a reassuring 'NY Times Notable book of the Year' sticker on the cover and after a quick google search told me she was a past Booker winner, I decided to give this a read. And how brilliant was it? Very, very. The story of a large family, six siblings all told from their diff ...more
Yulia
Hmm, did I miss something? Because I didn't find this novel "quietly devastating," as the NY Times reviewer called it: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/29/boo... Rather, I found it plodding and very staged. Perhaps I'm inured by too many memoirs of dramatic domestic dysfunction. I was sincerely moved by the chapter narrated by the eldest son, Paul, and surprised by the empathy Lively shows each of her characters, but it amounts to little more than a collection of roughly drawn character studies.
Judy
This is a story of a woman who set out to create and maintain a happy family. She glosses over and tries to contain the chaos and underlying misery of her large, boisterous clan while her husband retreats into his intellectual world behind the doors of his study, or into his mind at the dinner table - rarely interacting with his children or wife. This couple is a colossal mismatch, and there is also a fifth wheel who lives with them, and is at the heart of the family secret. This short novel is ...more
Caleb
It's rare that I give up on a book. I managed to plod through to the end of this blunder of a read, but for naught. The only properly developed character was the house, thus the title should have been "Allersmead." If it had been, I might have known to skip it. It was a pained experience from which I learned nothing and enjoyed little.
Paul Curd
Family Albumis the sixteenth novel Penelope Lively has written for adults. As the title suggests, it is a series of snapshots, episodes from the life of an upper middle class family. Charles, the father, is a writer who, it seems, never wanted marriage and children and who spends the majority of his time hidden away in his study, working on his next book. His wife, Alison, was the original 1960s Earth Mother whose whole life revolved around having and bringing up children. The children have all, ...more
Melanie
I can summarize this book very succinctly: Brilliant!

I've been reading a lot of Lively lately, but this new novel really impressed me. It has a contemporary feel to it, it's clever and deceptively simple, and I really think she is just getting better with every book she writes.

It's a fantastic presentation of family life in a large group of siblings, with eccentric parents, and an au pair who stays for thirty years. I really can't describe much more of a plot; that's about it. But it is in the t
...more
DubaiReader
Astutely written.

This was an interesting study of a large family in rural England, living in an old, crumbling mansion. I loved the earth mother, Alison, devoted to her children, whose only aim in life was to be matriarch to a large family.
Her husband, Charles, was a somewhat cliched version of the distant father, surrounded by constant noise and hubbub, yet almost unaware of it. Somewhat ironically, he was an anthropologist, studying the interactions of distant societies and how they raised the
...more
Erin
(Who are the people in this photo? I don’t know. I took their picture from the inter-web. But I do like the small child in blue in the corner-left, as he/she seems to have the right idea in hiding her/his face. Scary the number of family portraits that turn up on Google images.)

Penelope Lively’s novel Family Album leaves as much mystery about its characters as this portrait. The family of the titular album is comprised of six children and three parents. The “shocking” reveal of the novel is that
...more
Carly Thompson
I really enjoyed this novel about family life. Family Albumis the story of a large British family with six children, a sarcastic emotionally absent father, a mother who defines herself as a mother and a homemaker, and a somewhat enigmatic Swedish au pair who remains with the family even after the children are grown. At the heart of the story is the large, rambling, somewhat dilapidated Edwardian house, Allersmead which all the characters call home. The novel moves back in forth in time, as the a ...more
Gretchen
. I'm tempted to say that Lively's book isn't lively. She is a highly regarded writer, but I think she mostly missed with this one, although it was short–listed for a Costa Prize (used to be called Whitbread, which may be more familiar). It's the story of a rigid man who writes extensively researched intellectual non–fiction books and his wife who is obsessed with having lots of kids, a big house, and lots of happy family memories and celebrations. It's also (even more so) the story of the six c ...more
Pamelarbroadley Broadley
I read Lively because she's such a great story teller and craftsperson. Just as I watch certain movies because you love to see a particular actor at work,I read Lively because I love to see how she puts a narrative together. I love her British wit and the way her books shimmer with the difference between her language and the American idiom. Her books feel real, authentic and effortless yet they entertain on so many levels. I say entertain, because her books don't really challenge me. Many review ...more
L Timmel
I loved this book-- most particularly in the way the writing conveyed the gestalt of one (large) nuclear family's life across decades, rich with concurrent memories conveyed through the voices of all it's members (some more than others, of course). I liked that this family's mysteries (and of course every family has its mysteries, never clearly elucidated in one clear, unambiguous "truth") are acknowledged and poked at but never revealed in some definitive form. A beautiful, though reserved, pie ...more
Kasa Cotugno
Penelope Lively is a master of misdirection. Family Album tells the story of a family that includes six children, in which the house they grow up in is as much a character as any of the humans. The narrative is supplied by each family member as well as others close to them, rendering each as a distinct personality, transitioning between past and present smoothly and distinctly. Information is hinted at, revealed sparingly and all in good time. Like every family that ever existed, this family har ...more
Cheryl
Gosh - I adored this. There was quite a huge amount of genius in the way this was written. The multiple narrators and the jumping around and different perspectives were so true to life. It felt as if I was at a family dinner in my own house - everyone talks at once, nobody really pays attention, you never know who to listen to, the food is always amazing, and all of us have a COMPLETELY different view of how we grew up. What a great modern family narrative. I felt as if I was reading my childhoo ...more
Jane
Been meaning to read Penelope Lively since finding her on the Booker Prize list long ago.
Six, present-day, grown children of an English family reflect on their family experiences and particularly their Mother's dedicated pursuit of the sanctity of "a happy family".
Nothing dramatic, but interesting lives and childhood memories from what increasingly appears to have been a dysfunctional situation. Got drawn in about half way into the book on the impact of the handling of a family secret.
Believe
...more
Vivien
At the February '14 Book Club meeting, Jean presented this book, FAMILY ALBUM and offered to share. I took up the offer as I have not read of Penelope Lively's books before. Apparently this book received the NY Times Notable book of the Year award and Penelope is also a past Booker winner. A Very English setting with the story of a large family, six siblings all told from their different viewpoints from varying points in time. Set in a big shabby Victorian suburban house called Allersmead, which ...more
Kim Sasso
Okay, perhaps five stars because this book was so ridiculously timely, what with me lately thinking about family and memory and the fantastic oddity of life. But five stars it is because for me, this book truly was Amazing.

I don't know how I'd even begin to describe Family Album, except to say that it really is rather like being privy to the meandering memories that pass through the minds of family members as they are gathered to flip through the family photo album. But that really isn't quite r
...more
Gretchen Rings
I found Family Album, which received rave reviews and seemed so promising, to be tedious and disappointing. (Was it really only 300 pages?! It seemed twice as long as I was reading it.) I guessed at the family secret long before the big reveal, whereas other, darker aspects of the family's life that were hinted at by the author never came to fruition. Too bad, I think it could have been much more interesting than it turned out to be.
Minnie
I am on page 13 and I have a pending sense of a disappointment looming ahead. I will however continue and let you know.
Once upon a time when I was young and ignorant, I used to believe I must finish a book. Even now it is not something I do lightly, I mean stop reading a book. This book is not my cup of tea and for a seriously personal reason; I completely and utterly dislike book written in the present tense.
Linda
All Alison has ever wanted to be is the “perfect” housewife and mother. Her distant husband spends most of his time in his study writing books, while Alison and their live-in aide Ingrid supervise the six children and shower them with birthday parties and other celebrations, and lots of love. However, there is a lot going on underneath the surface. Paul, the oldest child, can’t really seem to find his way in the world. Gina was often called “difficult.” There was an unspoken family secret about ...more
Sophie Annabelle
I read this book as part of my book club and the author had been recommended by another member. I haven't read any books by Penelope Lively before so was eager to see what this author had in store for me.

I found the book an enjoyable read and like the way Penelope twisted the family secret around the memorable events that the family seemed to recall quite easily. I like the way in which the event that was to be the reason for the family secret was never talked about but I don't think that was ne
...more
Kirsty
I can see the craft of this novel, but I disliked it immensely. It felt extremely claustrophobic, and not only because of the theme, where that's crucial to the way the characters interact and deal with their past. The relentless introspection was wearying, but never quite came good, particularly in terms of the relationships between individual members of the family. Another reviewer said it felt like leafing through snapshot in someone else's family album, and for me, the novel had the same uns ...more
Carey Combe
A book in the mould of Annie Tyler et al, beautifully and skillfully written but ultimately pretty boring. The continual shifting of the narrative voice got a bit tiresome and the BIG secret was pretty unimpressive. I find these books about boring middle-class life just that - boring.
medi
Hmm, I was loving this until everything sloooowed down and started spiraling around itself in repetitions after the great family secret was revealed. And the ending disappointed: felt like the author took a shortcut.
Molly
An illuminating study of family life, predicated upon the ideas that one can learn a lot about another person by experiencing their family, and that someone else's family is always more interesting than one's own. The novel starts out tight and strong, but as the family grows and grows up, eventually going their own ways, the core of the novel dissolves as well. There are protracted discourses on each member of the family that illuminate somewhat the individuals and how they relate to the whole, ...more
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disappointing 1 12 Jun 13, 2012 07:53AM  
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Penelope Lively CBE (born March 17, 1933) is a prolific, popular and critically acclaimed author of fiction for both children and adults. She has been shortlisted three times for the Booker Prize, winning once for Moon Tiger in 1987.

Born in Cairo in 1933, she spent her early childhood in Egypt, before being sent to boarding school in England at the age of twelve. She read Modern History at St Anne
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More about Penelope Lively...
Moon Tiger How It All Began The Photograph Consequences The Ghost of Thomas Kempe

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“Far as I'm concerned, they're all still here, like a lot of dear little ghosts.” 4 likes
“like most people, they know one another inside out, and not at all.” 1 likes
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