Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Review of Ann Patchett's latest, Commonwealth, which hits bookstores on September 13

Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett, is the 7th novel of hers that I've read.  The 1st 5:

The Patron Saints of Liars
The Magician's Assistant
Bel Canto

I really liked a lot.  In fact, Bel Canto is on my rec table.  It was also where I 1st learned about the Stockholm Syndrome.  But then I read #6, State of Wonder, and was pretty disappointed.  And now with #7 I'm disappointed again - maybe slightly less so than with SoW.

The front flap of the book gives a pretty long synopsis.  But I'm only going to quote the 1st paragraph:

On Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating's christening party uninvited.  Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny's mother, Beverly - thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.

It's not that Patchett can't write.  She most definitely can.  To wit (I love that phrase):

"Frank felt a little ping, like someone had just shot her in the neck with a rubber band."
"...she was the cable on which he had pulled himself hand over hand back into his work."
"Franny was left with a dining room that looked like Bacchus had thrown a bash."

I had several problems with the story:
1.  It took about 1/2 the book to get into a rhythm for me.  And then it lost focus the last 1/4.
2.  There were too many characters and too much jumping around.
3.  The characters appeared in different parts of the book at different ages.  I got it each time it happened, but I don't think it did much for the story.
4.  I had none/zero/no emotional connections to any of them - 2 sets of parents, 6 kids, and countless step-children, cousins, etc.  How often does that happen? - especially when I tear up during ATT commercials!

For me, it's a 2.5/4.

HOWEVER, I will also praise Patchett for being the co-owner of a private bookstore in her hometown of Nashville, TN.  When she and her partner opened Parnassus Books back in November, 2011, it was at a time when independent bookstores (and even some chains - see Borders) were dropping fast.  With her high profile, Ann Patchett helped reverse the trend.  And now independent bookstores are thriving.  Brava!

1 comment:

  1. I've only read Bel Canto and really liked it. Doesn't look like I'll be rushing out to buy this one.