Rebecca's Reviews > Commonwealth

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
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really liked it
bookshelves: read-via-edelweiss

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 Angeles policeman Fix Keating is throwing for his younger daughter, Franny. DA Bert Cousins turns up, uninvited, with a bottle of gin the grateful guests quickly polish off in their fresh-squeezed orange juice. He also kisses the hostess, sparking a chain of events that will rearrange the Keating and Cousins families in the decades to come. It’s a wonderfully Mad Men-esque opening sequence, never quite matched by what follows, although some later scenes with Franny come close.

The novel spends time with all six step-siblings, but Franny is definitely the main character – and likely an autobiographical stand-in for Patchett (anyone familiar with This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage will recognize some particulars, like the L.A. cop scene). As a waitress in Chicago, she meets a famous novelist who’s in a slump; the story of her childhood gives him his next bestseller but forces the siblings to revisit a tragic accident they never fully faced up to. “We were such a fierce little tribe,” stepsister Holly remembers. It’s intriguing to see the different places life takes them, ranging from law school to a Buddhist center in Switzerland.

This is a sophisticated and atmospheric novel I would not hesitate to recommend to literary fiction fans in general and Patchett fans in particular. Releases September 13th.
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Reading Progress

March 27, 2016 – Started Reading
March 27, 2016 – Shelved
March 27, 2016 – Shelved as: read-via-edelweiss
April 2, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-18 of 18 (18 new)

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Jeanette Some of hers I like to love and others not so much- but this one sounds very much that first category.


Rebecca In general I prefer her nonfiction, but this is my favorite of the three novels I've read by her. I'll put up a quick review tomorrow.


Angela M Great review, Rebecca . I've enjoyed Patchett's fiction and your review leads me to think I'll like this one too . Fortunate to the ARC waiting. Thanks


Rebecca Thanks, Angela. I'll be interested to see what you think. Do you have a favorite of her books?


Diane S ☔ Awesome to hear you liked this one. Will be reading this soon.


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

Ohhhh, this is exciting. State of Wonder is my fave, but this sounds fabulous.


Rebecca It has a very different feel to State of Wonder. (Have you read Elizabeth Gilbert on how the idea for that 'migrated' from her to Patchett?!) For me this one worked better.


Angela M Rebecca, Bel Canto and State of Wonder are my favorites.


Jeanette I have not read Rebecca. But my two favorites are absolutely Bel Canto and State of Wonder too. With hers I can tell right away if I'm going to be encompassed or not. She can write and definitely not in the same patterns or with similar substance or subject matter. This Commonwealth premise sounds great.


Lolly K Dandeneau can't wait to read this


Elyse  Walters If it's better than Bel Canto ...then viva la melty! I though State of wonder was terrific UNTIL
it became just too
Wacky for my digestion towards the end.
I'll read your entire review later- after I read it. - staying away pre details until I read it myself.
But glad you enjoyed it!!!


Diane Nice review! I love Patchett and am very excited for this.


Rebecca Elyse wrote: "If it's better than Bel Canto ...then viva la melty!"

Well, I wasn't wild about Bel Canto like lots of people seem to be. This one was much more to my taste. But if you like her style I think it's a sure thing you'll love this too.


Rebecca Diane wrote: "Nice review! I love Patchett and am very excited for this."

Thanks, Diane :)


Margitte Love your thoughts on this book, Rebecca. I wasn't sure if I was going to like it, but in the end it was a great read. I will look into the books you mentioned in your review. Don't know the two authors, Maggie O'Farrell, and Anne Enright . Thanks for the recommendations.


Debbie Great review, Rebecca. I gave it a 4 too, but I think you liked it a little more. I loved State of Wonder and This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, but hated Bel Canto. I'm kind of obsessed with Patchett as State of Wonder had a profound effect on me. Thanks for the other recommendations; must check them out.


Kathleen Great review, Rebecca! I am looking forward to reading Commonwealth.


Edward  Goetz Great review. I did not know what to read next, so Commonwealth it is!


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