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Commonwealth

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  125,194 ratings  ·  12,264 reviews
#1 New York Times Bestseller

The acclaimed, bestselling author—winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize—tells the enthralling story of how an unexpected romantic encounter irrevocably changes two families’ lives.

One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he
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Hardcover, 322 pages
Published September 13th 2016 by Harper
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Debbie Jo Just had the pleasure of hearing Ann Patchett speak at Boswell Books in Milwaukee last night - with Jane Hamilton - can you believe it! A similar…moreJust had the pleasure of hearing Ann Patchett speak at Boswell Books in Milwaukee last night - with Jane Hamilton - can you believe it! A similar question was asked - about wondering if he had been shot. No intention to make readers think this - it was the bee sting.(less)

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Average rating 3.81  · 
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 ·  125,194 ratings  ·  12,264 reviews


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Elyse (retired from reviewing/semi hiatus) Walters
Wow....
I have spent hours thinking about this book. The characters are deep in my mind.
There will be NO SPOILERS in my review!!! NONE!!!!
If you need a 'little' information to know weather you want to risk reading an Ann Patchett book, which I clearly do not understand.....lol,
the blurb gives enough details about this story.

I'm only going to spit out random thoughts.... ( a discussion group would be enriching....one I'd love to be part of)

I wasn't 100% crazy about every scene
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Lindsay - Traveling Sister
Jan 20, 2017 rated it did not like it
1 star. After reading 50% of this book, I'm going to stop. I know this book has fantastic reviews and I respect that, but this is just not for me. I was waiting for something to happen to pique my interest and it just didn't by the halfway point.

The main problem for me is that I am a mother of young children which makes me overly sensitive toward these innocent kids. I had a hard time with all of the child neglect and poor parenting decisions in this book. I had a VERY hard time stomaching the
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Will Byrnes
May 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
When Bert Cousins saw Beverly Keating it was love at first sight. Never mind that they met at the christening party for her second child. Never mind that Bert had a wife and several progeny of his own. He wanted this incredibly beautiful woman. This was the start of his life. It was also the end of two marriages, beginning a ripple that would continue spreading its impact over the next half century.

Jump all those fifty years, more or less. Beverly’s ex, Fix Keating, the one she had left for Bert, is battling can
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Debbie
Oct 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
3.88, who do I appreciate?

I’ve been putting off writing this review because I’ve been hoping that as time goes on, I’ll sit up and chirp instead of sit down and burp. But, alas, I am not chirping. The song is more or less forgotten, so I can’t in good conscience give this a wowsy 4 stars. It’s more like a 3.88, who do I appreciate, which I will round up to 4 because, well, ultimately I do appreciate Ann Patchett.

I’m messed up when it comes to this writer. I insanely loved State of Wonder (declaring it
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Roxane
Dec 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
I loved this book. Gorgeously written, as is always the case with Ann Patchett. There is an ambitious narrative structure that, at times, gets away from the writer, but still, this is so so good.
Paromjit
May 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a moving novel about the blended modern family inspired by Ann Patchett's own personal family history. In the early 1960s, the married Bert Cousins is a deputy DA, out of sorts with his lot in life and family, and looking for something more. He rolls up uninvited to Franny Keating's christening party, and oiled by alcohol, falls in love with and kisses the beautiful Beverly Keating. This leads to the disintegration of the two respective families and a catalogue of repercussions down the ...more
Angela M
Jan 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Life is messy a lot of the time and no matter how much people love their families, I think we have to admit that we've all experienced some of the messiness that happens in life. The book opens with a christening party with lots of alcohol and you can't help but think by the end - how that first bottle of gin changed so many lives . While these are very different stories by Ann Patchett, the party scene with the house full of people reminded me just a little of the house full of people in Bel Canto - ...more
Jen
Nov 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
So, this is what happens when one too many gin and orange juices flow.
At a baptism. Not the typical kind. The fun kind. One with lots of friends and family and somehow booze gets into the mix and what started off as a ritual turned into a party then spice in some infidelity and the wheels are put into motion for a family life detour.
This is a story about families- their dysfunction, destruction, and loyalty.
Truths are exposed after the publication of a novel that is loosely based on the
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Dianne
Nov 06, 2016 rated it liked it
I am afraid I am going to be the outlier on this one - I wanted to love it; I was so sure I would love it that I purchased the hardcover copy to cherish, which I rarely do. I adore Ann Patchett! I just could not connect with this family drama or any of the characters. I can't fault her writing or the story or how it was laid out; it just was not compelling to me. I liked it in a very mild way, but I am not sure I'll remember much about it in a few months.

I'm sorry, fellow Patchett lo
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Julie
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett is a 2016 Harper publication.

This book is a bit of a departure for me, but I’ve been craving something different, something more profound and literary in nature. With Commonwealth, I came to the right place.
One fateful Sunday afternoon, Bert Cousins arrives uninvited to Franny Keating’s christening party. He had only shown up to escape his own family life, which included his pregnant wife and three children.
But, once he set eyes on the beautiful Beverly Keating, m
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Annet
Well, I simply loved this book. 4.5 going on 5. One of the highlights in 2016.
Wonderful storytelling about two families getting 'intertwined' by changed marriages, affected by a family tragedy that hit them all in some way. The story is written going to and fro in time, and we follow several family members in their personal lives at some point in time. It's a story full of emotion, tragedy, love...
Beautiful & heartfelt... and highly recommended.

Thanks to all Goodreads friends who brought me to
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Diane
Oct 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book so much I read it twice in three months.

Ann Patchett is one of my veryveryvery favorite modern writers, and I was so excited when Commonwealth was released that I dropped everything else I was reading to begin it. Later I had the good fortune to meet Patchett at a book reading in my city, and I gushed about how much I loved her work. She was gracious, smart, witty and kind, and my writer-crush was complete.

As for Commonwealth, I treasured this story of a big, sprawling family with children
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Sarah Jessica Parker
Ann Patchett is a sublime writer and this book is a wonderful read!
Diane S ☔
Jan 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
4+ Early 1960, a christening party for baby Franny, where a spark will be ignited that will set up a chain of events that will echo down through the decades. Four adults, six children will be affected, and we will follow them as they try to maneuver through the many difficulties and tragedies fate will throw at them. The six children from the blended families will form, in the summers they spend together, a little tribe of their own and as a mother the things they got up to, with little adult su ...more
Larry H
Dec 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'd rate this 4.5 stars.

"The christening party took a turn when Albert Cousins arrived with gin."

How can you resist a novel that starts like that?

Bert Cousins' decision to bring a bottle of gin to a christening party for Fix and Beverly Keating's infant daughter Franny, a party to which he wasn't even invited, is much more than a social faux pas. Showing up at that party makes Bert realize he wants more out of his life than his job as a deputy DA, and his wife
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Jenne
Aug 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc
I found it hard to give this book a rating. On the one hand, it was an excellent example of a literary novel. Great characters, good writing, lots of themes, emotionally engaging, the whole nine.
On the other hand, I just don't really understand why people want to read books like this. Why do you want to get inserted into some person's depressing life? No opera singers or magicians or scientists deep in the jungle, just some people living in Los Angeles and dealing with each other's fuckups
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James
Jan 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
4 stars to Ann Patchett's Commonwealth. I chose this book because it was about drama and relationships within a complex family, as it seemed similar the last book I had written, and it was written in a way that I hoped would align with my favorite styles: from multiple character view points but with a focus via a single character. It did not disappoint and I am glad I read the book, but I don't think it was in my top favorite's list.

Story
The book is told mostly from the character of Franny Keating, but several/>
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Noel Luis
Sep 17, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: average
SPOILER FREE REVIEW

Commonwealth is a story about people's stories. There's a loose thread that binds all the tales together, but for the most part each one is treated separately. There are no surprise endings, no hidden lessons, no zombie apocalypse. Just the slow burn of daily life as the characters make mistakes and learn from them, trying to piece together a meaningful existence like the rest of us.

spongebob-alone-thinkingSPOILER FREE REVIEW

Commonwealth is a story about people's stories. There's a loose thread that binds all the tales together, but for the most part each one is treated separately. There are no surprise endings, no hidden lessons, no zombie apocalypse. Just the slow burn of daily life as the characters make mistakes and learn from them, trying to piece together a meaningful existence like the rest of us.

spongebob-alone-thinking

In other words, profound, but way too realistic.

How realistic? Well, there's a chapter about a daughter listening to her dad reminisce about his job in the police force. There's a scene where a mother waits inside an airport terminal for her stepchildren's luggage. There's a family road trip where one of the kids keeps saying "Are we there yet?"

That realistic.

Most authors would skip through these bland situations in order to save their readers from potential boredom, but not Ann Patchett. She soldiers through them like a woman on a mission. There's no pebble left unturned. By the end of the novel, we feel as if we have enough information to write a biography for each member of the main cast.

There's nothing wrong with this approach except for the obvious reason: the pace bogs down considerably in some sections, and a large part of the material is so mundane that I felt tempted to quit the book several times.

The first chapter is actually the most exciting: a guest turns up uninvited to a party and proceeds to flirt with the host's attractive wife. They begin an affair and ultimately divorce their respective spouses in order to get married. By the start of the second chapter, it's about fifty years into the future, and the kids from both broken families are all grown-up. The rest of the novel is focused on flashbacks and flash-forwards as each child (there are six in all) shares his or her story and how the divorce has affected them.

One of the major problems of this novel is Patchett's huge cast. The six children aside, there are also the four divorced parents, the spouses that the children ultimately married, the grandkids, the in-laws, the friends, the lovers, the enemies, and a wide range of extras and bit players. Inexplicably, Patchett devotes huge chunks of text for even the most minor character. For example, in the first chapter, there is a priest who is given his own scene so that you'd think he has an important role to play, but he never shows up again. In the second chapter, we are treated to a lengthy flashback about a guy called Lomer who was already dead even before the novel began. Heck, there's even a small paragraph where a real estate agent expresses her thoughts.

Do we really need that much information on these individuals? The protagonists don't even have enough page time as it is.

plague

The second major problem is the extreme use of head-hopping. Patchett starts with a specific character's point-of-view written in the third person, but then leapfrogs to another character with no warning. The result jars you like a turbulent plane. Here's one example, a LONG paragraph where a multitude of perspectives crash together without so much as a break:
The children were seated across the aisle from one another, the boys on the left and the girls on the right, and each was given a set of junior airman wings, which only Cal refused to wear. They were glad to be on the plane, glad to be free of direct supervision for six hours. As much as they hated to leave their mother— they were unquestionably loyal to their mother— the four Cousins children thought of themselves as Virginians, even the youngest two, who had been born after the family’s move west. All of the Cousins children hated California. They were sick of being shoved down the hallways of the Torrance Unified School District. They were sick of the bus that picked them up on the corner every morning, and sick of the bus driver who would not cut them a break, even thirty seconds, if they were made late by Albie’s dawdling. They were sick of their mother, no matter how much they loved her, because she had on occasion cried when they returned to the house after missing the bus. Now she would be late for work. She went over it all again in the car as she drove them to school at terrifying speeds— she had to work, they couldn’t live on what their father gave them, she couldn’t afford to lose this job just because they weren’t responsible enough to walk to the goddamn corner on time. They blocked her out by pinching Albie, whose screams filled the car like mustard gas. More than anything they were sick of Albie, who had spilled his Coke all over the place and was at this very moment kicking the seat in front of him on the plane. Everything that happened was his fault. But they were sick of Cal too. He got to wear the house key on a dirty string around his neck because their mother told him it was his job to get everybody home after school and make them a snack. Cal was sick of doing it, and on most days he locked his sisters and brother out for at least an hour so that he could watch the television shows that he wanted to watch and clear his head. There was a hose on the side of the house and shade beneath the carport. It wasn’t like they were going to die. When their mother came home from work they met her at the door screaming about the tyranny of their situation. They lied about having done their homework, except for Holly, who always did her homework, sometimes sitting Indian-style under the carport with her books in her lap, because she lived for the positive reinforcement her teachers heaped on her. They were sick of Holly and the superiority of her good grades. Really, the only person they weren’t sick of was Jeanette, and that was because they never thought about her. She had retreated into a silence that any parent would have asked a teacher or a pediatrician about had they noticed it, but no one noticed. Jeanette was sick of that.

sick

Well, I got sick from reading that too. There are a lot more examples throughout the book.

Despite these setbacks, I have to give credit to Patchett. She's a superb writer. After all, she won the PEN/Faulkner Award in 2002, and they don't hand out those plaques to amateurs. Even though this is the first novel I read that was written by her, I could tell she has mastered the craft on a sentence level. Here are some juicy passages that I really enjoyed:
The six children held in common one overarching principle that cast their potential dislike for one another down to the bottom of the minor leagues: they disliked the parents. They hated them.

Here's another one:
Bonnie X was wearing a dress with blue daisies on it that was short enough to make a priest wonder where he was supposed to rest his gaze, though when she’d gotten dressed this morning she probably hadn’t taken into account that there would be men sitting on the ground while she remained standing.

Here's my favorite:
He knew that making a move on a married woman was a bad idea, especially when you were in the woman’s house and her husband was also in the house and her husband was a cop and the party was a celebration of the birth of the cop’s second child. Cousins knew all of this but as the drinks stacked up he told himself there were larger forces at work.

simon-cowell-winking

In the end, I was satisfied with the novel. The writing quality is through the roof, and Patchett really manages to capture the essence of her characters as well as the feeling of melancholy as we take a trip through their lives from womb to tomb. However, the viewpoint shifting is so frequent it made me nauseous, and the plodding nature of the story requires massive reserves of patience in the reader. If you are willing to sit through some parts where nothing much happens, you will be sufficiently rewarded in the end. But if not for my stubborn principle of always finishing a book that I started, I probably never would have made it that far.
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Candi
"Had the Keatings just put the gin in their liquor cabinet no one would have thought less of them. But Fix Keating had given the bottle to his wife, and his wife, worn down by the stress of throwing a good party, was going to have a drink, and if she was going to have a drink then by God everyone at the party was welcome to join her."

A couple receives a very unusual gift at a christening party. I don’t remember anyone ever showing up with a bottle of gin at either of my children’s baptisms, but t
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Jamise // Spines & Vines
Oct 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
I love this book cover, the book not so much. When I reached the end I had an overwhelming feeling of what did I just read? What was the point or purpose? I was disappointed because I love Ann Patchett's beautiful writing but this story just never gained momentum. The story started off intriguing, fell into a state of whimsical melodrama and flatlined. At times it was difficult to keep up with all the characters or even care about them. I wanted to give up on this one because I simply never conn ...more
Paula Kalin
Oct 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Literary novel fans
Recommended to Paula by: National Book Critics Circle
Nominated by the National Book Critics Circle in 2016, Commonwealth is a terrific family saga about two families that spans over fifty years of their lives.

Bert Cousins crashes a christening party at the Keating’s house and nothing is the same again for the two families. One kiss between Bert and Beverly Keating and a divorce is in the making. Lives are changed and the six combined children head off to Virginia each summer together where friends and enemies are made.

Fast
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Carmen
Sep 08, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No One on Earth
That was a complete waste of time. I am very angry.

The writing is mediocre. I can't believe how much praise Ann Patchett gets. The book is boring and pointless.

I would rate it right up there with Fates and Furies, and we all know how much I hated that piece of shit.
Norma * Traveling Sister * On hiatus due to health
Dysfunctional family drama * Dysfunctional formatting * Dysfunctional review

COMMONWEALTH by ANN PATCHETT is a literary fiction novel to cherish for its many different interwoven and blended stories of love, destiny, loyalty, loss, secrets, disappointments, betrayal, and mistakes creating a family bonded together by a common understanding of each other.

ANN PATCHETT delivers an interesting, complicated, and well-written read here but I did find it to be somewhat challenging at times t
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Helene Jeppesen
Dec 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a beautiful book to finish off my reading year of 2016! It was my first novel by Ann Patchett, and throughout my reading of it I couldn't help but wonder how difficult the writing of this book must have been.
That's because "Commonwealth" isn't written in chronological order. In fact, it starts in the middle of the story and proceeds to the ending of the story in chapter two. The rest of the book goes back and forth between the present, past and future, and you would think that that wou
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Suzanne Leopold (Suzy Approved Book Reviews)
The book starts off at a party for Beverly Keating’s daughter Franny. Bert Cousins, attends the party and finds himself attracted to Beverly despite the fact that she is married to his colleague, Fix. Bert and Beverly, share a kiss which serves as a catalyst in changing both their family’s lives.

Bert and Beverly marry and move to Virginia. The book now focuses on the six children between the two families. During the summers, when the children and stepchildren are together, they devel
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Dem
Jan 05, 2017 rated it liked it
The saying "Gin makes you sin" sure plays a role in Ann Patchett's latest novel Commonwealth.
A novel about Family dynamics after marriages end and new relationships form and the fallout that folks have to deal with.

One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited but with a large bottle of Gin. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the j/>One
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Rebecca
Mar 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Previously I’d always preferred Patchett’s nonfiction to her fiction. However, this, for me, was much better than Bel Canto and State of Wonder. As a deep study of blended family dynamics, it reminded me of Jonathan Franzen, as well as This Must Be the Place (Maggie O’Farrell) and The Green Road (Anne Enright). Like those two, it shifts elegantly between times and places, often without any overt triggers like a date heading or a chapter break.

It all starts with an early 1960s christening party Los An
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Phrynne
Nov 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Four stars. Very well written, loved Frannie and Fix and even Albie by the end. I had some difficulty remembering who was whose child and who married who from time to time but I sorted myself out. I enjoyed the different stories of the various characters and how they all came together by the end.
However (and this is where it lost a star) did no one else feel that the author was having trouble winding the book up. She was still introducing characters in the last chapter at the Dinesons' Christma
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Marie
Dec 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
The opening scene is set up like artwork. You understand the background of the characters, the pace of their movements, the absurdity of their choices. You feel the heat of the summer day, understand the lives that the characters lead and the small town that they live in. You feel the music, the alcohol, the excitement, the dramatic turn of events that awaits. You feel some characters sliding out of focus while others are becoming more intensely illuminated even electrified. It’s as if a magic s ...more
DeB MaRtEnS
I love this book. Ann Patchett has put the "normal divorced family" on a platter, stuck an apple in its mouth and presented it with all of the showmanship of a true performer- and bludgeoned the pretence while gently uncovering the deepest wounds. Commonwealth is tartly humorous, painfully straight faced, baldly tragic and a trifle optimistic.

It is unbelievable how much destruction that one person can cause. One person who can act without consideration or any thought of the enormous consequence
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8,112 followers
Patchett was born in Los Angeles, California. Her mother is the novelist Jeanne Ray.

She moved to Nashville, Tennessee when she was six, where she continues to live. Patchett said she loves her home in Nashville with her doctor husband and dog. If asked if she could go any place, that place would always be home. "Home is ...the stable window that opens out into the imagination."

Pat
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“Did you ever want to be a writer?” “No,” she said, and she would have told him. “I only wanted to be a reader.” 65 likes
“Life, Teresa knew by now, was a series of losses. It was other things too, better things, but the losses were as solid and dependable as the earth itself.” 26 likes
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