Hugh's Reviews > Commonwealth

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
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really liked it
bookshelves: modern-lit, read-2020

I read this because it has been chosen for a group discussion this month by the 21st Century Literature group, and it should be an interesting one.

The American family novel is not my favourite kind, and it took me a while to warm to this one (partly because none of the characters in the first chapter, set at a baptism party in 60s California, were easy to sympathise with), but the storytelling is clever and it becomes a compulsive read.

Patchett writes very well about sibling relationships. The story is told in nine long chapters, and there are many time-shifts and changes of perspective, some of them in mid-chapter, so it is not a simple linear story, and at times the different characters' perspectives bring new aspects to light on stories that have already been partially told. There is also a meta element to the plot - one of the main protagonists Frannie has an affair with a novelist who uses her story as a basis for a novel, also called Commonwealth, which sounds very much like this one, which inevitably causes friction with her siblings. This may sound complex but Patchett's storytelling skill means it is never difficult to follow.
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Reading Progress

May 3, 2017 – Shelved
January 27, 2020 – Started Reading
January 27, 2020 –
page 45
January 28, 2020 –
page 217
January 29, 2020 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

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Jonathan Pool Good review Hugh. Summarises the essence of the book very well.
I find Ann Patchett writing style extremely pleasing for what is a well populated field (domestic/ family/ sibling).

Hugh Thanks Jonathan

Stephen I enjoyed your review Hugh. This was my second Ann Patchett novel, having previously read Bel Canto. I agree with Jonathan she writes well and is very readable. On another note, my wife was 'put off' by the cover. It suggested to her it wasn't a book she would enjoy and certainly not pick up in a bookshop.

message 4: by Richard (new)

Richard I’ve often wondered about this book and author ......... thanks for the very good review.

Jonathan Pool Stephen
Couldn’t agree more about the cover. The USA edition featuring oranges on the cover is so much better.

Elizabeth (Alaska) Thanks for this, Hugh. I have enjoyed others by Patchett and this encourages me to keep chasing after her.

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