Book Review: Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

In 1964, Bert Cousins gate crashes a christening party being thrown by a colleague for his daughter, Franny Keating. Impulsively kissing his colleague’s wife, Bert’s actions set off a chain of events  intertwining both the Cousin and Keating families together for the rest of their lives.

This story takes us through the trials and tribulations of blended families and how the behaviour of  parents can have a long-lasting effect on their children.

Growing up in the ’60’s with little parental supervision was an upbringing for many of us which, in today’s world, would probably  be considered neglect. For many, there were no lasting consequences but for the blended family of six children in this novel, there is.  What happens is cleverly teased  across the story by the author.

As an adult, Franny meets a writer and releases her family’s story to him which is published years later. Instead of being a critical turning point, as we expect, this event blends itself into the narrative. The expected uproar never eventuates and we are left wondering why.

Voyeuristically, we are party to the lives of each of the family members and their relationships. And the author compels us to want to know how they turn out. I thought the climax would be the coming together of the family during a funeral, but the novel twisted further into the future leaving me wanting closure on some of the siblings such as Holly and Albie.

The author delivered characters so well that I felt I knew them. I cared what happened and wanted to be part of it. It’s not perfect, it jumps point of view on occasion, some loose ends were left, but the strength of the characters and the style of the writing is hypnotic. I really enjoyed it and am sorry it’s ended.  Check it out for yourself.

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