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Flesh and Blood

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  4,966 ratings  ·  368 reviews
In Flesh and Blood, Michael Cunningham takes us on a masterful journey through four generations of the Stassos family as he examines the dynamics of a family struggling to "come of age" in the 20th century.

In 1950, Constantine Stassos, a Greek immigrant laborer, marries Mary Cuccio, an Italian-American girl, and together they produce three children: Susan, an ambitious

Paperback, 465 pages
Published May 22nd 1996 by Touchstone (first published 1995)
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Luís C.
I have already read, from the same author, "The Hours" and appreciated his intimate and poetic style. Here we follow the evolution of an American family, from 1935 to 2035 (no, no science fiction, however). The father and husband, is an immigrant of Greek origin, Constantine Stassos. Her wife, Mary, is born to an Italian family. And there are their three children: Suzanne, Billy and Zoe.
It is a polyphonic novel, which may not be original, but its peculiarity is to make the voices of family
Violet wells
May 15, 2019 rated it liked it
I can't think of much to say about this. It's a novel that won't essentially do Michael Cunningham's reputation as a novelist any harm or any good. The main characters in this three generational family saga interested me rather less than two of the minor characters - a drag queen called Cassandra and a big-hearted mixed-race kid called Jamal. There's a lot of soul searching (too much for me) and a lot of pretty writing but every day I was much more keen to read the Muriel Spark novel I had on ...more
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
After some thought, I think I might be ready for this review.
Right, I’ve read some of Cunningham’s novels before. Three of them. I loved two of them. The third one not that much (reread?). I loved ‘The Hours’, but ‘A Home at the End of the World’ cut too deep. I can feel it still, after all these years. (Specially when it gets really cold!!).

I started this book with a really good feeling about it. I just knew it was going to be great. I could feel it. (‘The Goldfinch’, I’m looking at you). And
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Everything that is trite and heavy-handed in novels is present here: there's an aging patriarch, kleptomania, lots of long descriptions of the way twilight moves across a neighborhood, self-mutilation, child abuse, questions of immigrant identity, questions of gender identity, questions of sexual identity, a whiff of incest, death, AIDS, drug abuse, New York, the suburbs, tract housing, class conflict, shifting American demographics, paeans to urban space, roiling hatreds in families, love, ...more
Mar 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is my absolute favorite kind of book. It tells the story of a family over three generations, basically. I love the way the author is able to show the dysfunctional nature of the family, by going into each characters' head and describing their often conflicting thoughts. It's very realistic in that way, one minute a person feels one way, the next minute another, and then you see how they decide to act on their feelings.

I related to the story quite a bit, I am one of three siblings, born
Greg Giannakis
Jun 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Crying in public on your bus home from work I think might be the best sign of a good book. This tore me apart and felt especially relevant what with Pride season upon us. No one can capture humans in all their ugliness and touching banality like Michael Cunningham does. I think I felt the saddest after physically feeling myself leaving the little world and atmosphere the book created. No matter how much you grasp the paperback tightly, to the point that the pages begin to warp slightly, thinking ...more
Feb 26, 2008 rated it liked it
I hate to think that Michael Cunningham is writing the same book over and over, because really, he isn't, but this one seemed like it had his "stock" characters. Strong, but quirky women, a gay man with some guilt over his sexuality, etc. Depressing at the end. Still a fairly decent book, but go pick up At Home At the End of the World for a much better read by him.
Davis Aujourd'hui
Oct 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
So you think you have a dysfunctional family! Try this book on for size. It is a fascinating tale of a family which plays out over several generations. This gives the readers a real sense for how and where family dynamics come from.

It is a book that will appeal to many different groups of readers. Gay readers will embrace some of the affirming gay characters not to mention the endearing transvestite.

This is a book that speaks about love and forgiveness. This lends the book a spiritual dimension.
Aug 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-the-best
Another stunning novel from one of America’s greatest writers.

Having being a huge lover of The Hours, both the novel and the adaptation, I’m unsure why it took me so long to get round to reading Flesh & Blood. Cunningham writes of life, and all of its complexities, like no other, whilst crafting beautiful, sparing prose.

I couldn’t recommend Flesh & Blood more, should you like to read fiction that explores the human psyche in the context of a family unit, and all of the spaces and
Robert Dunbar
Sep 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Another superbly accomplished novel by Cunningham. Wish I could add more stars. His writing always makes me think of Richard Pryor’s comment about Muhammad Ali. ("He fights so good it makes your dick hard.")
Apr 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Flesh and Blood is another masterful work by Michael Cunningham, an incredibly gifted writer. Last year I read A Home at the End of the World, the author’s first novel. I absolutely loved it. Though I have not read his Pulitzer Prize winning The Hours, I have seen the movie based on the book several times; it is one of my all-time favorite films. This book written between the two others just mentioned is nothing short of superb.

The novel told from the third person POV chronicles three
Gitte - Bookworm's Closet
Jul 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who liked The Hours
He was a dreamy boy who brought books home from the library, who sought hiding places where she could always find him.

Michael Cunningham is one of those authors who almost never fail in delivering stories that are little pieces of art. In Flesh and Blood, we follow the very different members of a family from the 50s to the 90s. The father plays the role of the tyrant provider with a bad temper and misplaced love. The mother wants nothing more than peace among the people she loves, and is a
Nov 13, 2017 rated it liked it
I found this book quite depressing. I don't know if it's caused by the writing style or the characters personalities, but something made me so sad and uncomfortable reading it. I like the story though, even if it's disturbing and sad, sometimes a bit strange I'd say, especially the way the characters perceived, viewed and reacted to others, how oftentimes selfish and ruthless they were, not particularly in their behavior, but rather in their thoughts. Seldom, it was hard to read, because I ...more
Feb 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Flesh and Blood is the story of a complicated family that started with the marriage at a very early age of Greek immigrant, Constantine, and Italian immigrant, Mary. They eventually have three children, Susan, Billy and Zoe, while Constantine struggles to make a living in construction on Long Island. Susan is the golden child over whom Constantine obsesses and whose presence makes her increasingly uncomfortable; Billy is academically brilliant, an outlier and the object of his father's frequent ...more
Elise Russell
Apr 30, 2008 rated it liked it
I liked this book, but I kept feeling like I had read it before. Surely, I'm not that addled post-pregnancy, but there were certain scenes that just felt completely familiar whereas I had no recollection of other scenes or characters. I had read & loved The Hours many years ago, and there are similar themes, so maybe that's it? At any rate, the book is well-written as I would expect from Cunningham, but the family's saga seemed to have everything but the kitchen sink thrown in - immigrant ...more
Kathleen (itpdx)
Apr 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is the fourth of Michael Cunningham's novels that I have read. It is probably the most traditional--following three generations of a family steadily through time. In fact each section is labeled with the year. It is an exploration of an American family in the second half of the 20th century--the move to the suburbs, the 2.6 kids, the generational disconnect, divorce, forming of non-traditional families.
I have rated the book four stars but it may be graduated to five. I really like the story
Maria Ettlin
May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I liked that book very much, the language, the story and the end. Cunningham describes the characters, how they feel, how they react and that they very often don't act the way they wish to. Some parts of the book tell of a time I myself can remember well, when AIDS came up, what people thought at the time of homosexuals. The book describes the lives of people in the 60ties, 70ties and 80ties which might not have been that different to a life in these days although many things have changed. ...more
Shinji Moon
Mar 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Flesh and Blood was one of those books that I didn't realize I was looking for until I read it, devoured it. It was so beautiful in its humanness, in the way the characters weren't trying at all to be anything heroic or anything but what they were. It's heartbreak and it's love and it's pain and it's family and not knowing where you fall in between those categories. This is one of the best books that I've read in a while. I've finished it three days ago and I can't stop thinking about it.
Dec 31, 2008 rated it liked it
Though Cunningham writes beautifully, he hasn't quite figured out how to balance his heavy subject matter with his wildly descriptive prose. The book becomes bogged down by the extreme familial drama that Cunningham creates for his characters. This book is a good read, but you'd be better suited to read "The House," where Cunningham's voice is fully realized.
Oct 26, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american
(view spoiler) ...more
Aug 04, 2018 rated it liked it
“Flesh and Blood” is the multi-generational story of an American family. The story is not a detailed chronological sequence of everything that happened in the lives of the family. Rather, Cunningham narrates key snapshots from the family’s lives- from 1935 to 2035. Cunningham also jumps from character to character; starting from a scene from the family patriarch’s childhood in Greece, to scenes from the patriarch’s childrens’ and grandchildrens’ lives.

I found the novel easy to read and quite
Feb 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
I feel like A Lot Just Happened and I Do Not Know what I think abt it
Mowey Godoyzki
Jun 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i have no words, and so many, for this book.

like his magnum opus The Hours, this is a novel that tugs at my soul and makes me feel present and really there, and experience the elegiac and the fierce chaos of life. if it has joys, which is possible, you will find it in the shadows cast by a flower pot on the windowsill or by taking a book in a park in a warm summer day of March, something as iridescent as that. Cunningham exposes his characters' deepest inclinations and their bottomless pain and
Jan 27, 2014 rated it liked it
Flesh and Blood is not The Hours, a perfect novel whose brilliance Cunningham seems to be unable to repeat.

What this book does have in common with The Hours is its general tone of melancholy and loss that is created through the dynamic, interesting, fallible, and relatable characters Cunningham creates. Here the characters are three generations of the Stassos family; though the book comes into sharpest view when handling the middle generation: the three children of Constantine and Mary Stassos,
Jul 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-en, 2011, fiction
I was kind of inconsistent while reading Flesh and Blood (4 weeks, weekends only), so the ups and downs the book has (or so I think) might have to do a lot with that. It's hard to make a book unputdownable for almost 600 pages, but all in all I loved it. I loved certain characters, I despised others (isn't that what the family sagas are all about?), I loved Constantine's beach house, I loved Cassandra's warm heart and Zoe's tangled hair. I loved Ben to pieces and the whole sailing/swimming ...more
Jan 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Michael Cunningham is getting be be a favorite writer of mine. So far I've read The Hours and A Home at the End of the World, both novels have been made into decent films.

Flesh and Blood deals with three generations of a Greek-American family. It starts in the 30's and ends around 1995. This family will remain in my thoughts for quite awhile. THe head of household, Constantine and Mary could have been my parents. So many of the references made me think of my own dysfunctional family.
This will
Jul 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Strange to say, but what I really enjoyed about the book was its structure - the journey from 1935 to 2035 in multiple perspectives. Cunningham writes us an unhappy family being unhappy in its own way but managed to leave me with a lot of compassion for his characters. Clearly, Cunningham loves, loves, loves language. When writing of his favorite topics, sex and death (flesh and blood) his imagery veers close to the territory of magical realism. Very different from the cultural context of One ...more
Aug 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: all-time-faves
5/5. The ultimate contemporary family drama, IMO. It's hard to be objective, though, when so much of this is representative of my own immediate family: Greek father, Italian-American mother, gay middle child (yours truly), older sister, and a younger sibling who marched to his own drum until, sadly, he couldn't. Throw in a decades-spanning narrative told from multiple perspectives, and this is pretty much pitched right to my wheelhouse. Cunningham can do no wrong in my book, but I will always ...more
Tim Nason
Dec 02, 2018 rated it did not like it
There are few sympathetic characters in this long novel and only two that seem fully realized, Cassandra, a drag queen, and the monstrous patriarch Constantine. When either of these appear on the scene the book comes alive, especially when they speak. They are polar opposites and their magnetic force possibly holds the book together, but by the end almost everyone ends up hurt, sick or dead. The many other characters are so dull, put through their antics like marionettes, that Cassandra and ...more
Nov 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in teh human condition
I read this book over the course of three days becasue I needed to get to the end. I couldn't put it down, and yet, it was too fast. There is so much in there that it deserves another read. Oddly enough, the reason I picked it up in the first place, because it has GBLT themes, is not what I remember most about it. That storyline is not the one that stands out in my mind. It's a great book. Read it. Twice.
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Michael Cunningham is the author of the novels A Home at the End of the World, Flesh and Blood, The Hours (winner of the Pen/Faulkner Award & Pulitzer Prize), Specimen Days, and By Nightfall, as well as the non-fiction book, Land's End: A Walk in Provincetown. His new novel, The Snow Queen, will be published in May of 2014. He lives in New York, and teaches at Yale University.
“. . . he felt himself entering a moment so real he could only run toward it, shouting.” 18 likes
“Constantine, eight years old, was working in his father's garden and thinking about his own garden, a square of powdered granite he had staked out and combed into rows at the top of his family's land.” 3 likes
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