“Commonwealth” by Ann Patchett – Book Review

I’m happy to say that TLC Book Tours gave me an excuse to try out an author I’ve always meant to read, but somehow never got around to reading.  Thanks TLC!  I own three of Ann Patchett’s books, including the award winning “Bel Canto“.  However, with review commitments, I didn’t get to them.  Now I know I’ve got some excellent reading in store.

commonwealthCommonwealth” was unexpected.  Its myriad characters put me off at first.  There were so many that I couldn’t seem to keep them straight.  Then, there were the extreme jumps in time period, sometimes as much as fifty years…  After I got my head around accepting the challenge, I just decided to roll with it and see where it led.  What a good decision!

Our memories are a collection of disjointed scenes, colored by our emotions at the time. Like our memories, “Commonwealth“, is a treasure trove of vivid scenes sewn together to make a cohesive whole.  And what scenes!  There was one I will always remember.

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

It was of six young children, negligently unsupervised, who are left to their own devices for seven hours in a strange motel.  They decide to seek out a nearby lake and set off with several cans of Coke, several chocolate bars, a full bottle of gin, and… a gun!

lobstersThen there was one of a young woman taking (very expensive) lobsters that someone had purchased for a meal, and snipping their bands, released them back into the ocean.

sore-footAnd the one where Franny meets Leon while working behind the bar.  She takes her heels off because her feet are hurting…

The one where Albie, the smallest boy, is drugged with Benadryl by the other children so that he won’t have to accompany them on their adventures.  They leave him sleeping in a pile of dirty laundry.boy-sleeping

And one scene, particularly poignant, where an older man was taken to the beach in his wheelchair…wheelchair-on-beach

Scenes which, while separately seem disjointed – join to form a portrait of a blended family.

It all began at a christening party.  When an uninvited guest, (a married father of four) felt attracted to the baby’s young and beautiful mother of two.  Their lives moved on to break apart two marriages and the lives of their six children.  Strangely, the children held no animosity toward one another, they kept that solely for their parents.blended-family

“Commonwealth” may refer to the Commonwealth of Virginia, where one of the sets of parents lived.  Or, it could refer to the ‘common wealth’ of the blended family.  Children who seemed much richer when together.  The story is set in two states: California and Virginia.  The two children from California spent their summers with the four children from Virginia.calif-virginia

A traumatic event happens to the family one summer which forever colors their psyche and the family’s collective memory.  Years later, when this event is related to a novelist by one of the grown up children, their story, once deeply personal, is made into a novel (also called “Commonwealth”) which exposes their story to the world.

“How difficult it would be to map out all the ways the future would unravel without the moorings of the past”.

There are so many interesting characters in “Commonwealth” that it is hard to say that one is the ‘protagonist’.  Though… if I had to chose one, it would be Franny.  She is the baby who was being celebrated at the christening party at the beginning.  She is a reader, and introspective.  It is she who falls in love with a much older author and shares her family’s story with him. It is she that brings this story to a close.

This is a story of love in its myriad forms. Of siblings who come to cherish one another. It is also a story of fate, loss, disappointments, mistakes, betrayal, and regret. “Commonwealth” is a novel that is, above all else, real and it eloquently depicts the quiet drama that is everyday life.

Now I know why Ann Patchett has garnered a reputation for quality literary fiction.


tlc-tour-hostThanks to TLC Book Tours via Edelweiss for providing me with a digital copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

TLC Book Tours has generously let me host a GIVEAWAY of one print copy of “Commonwealth“!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog between the dates of  October 3, 2016 and October 10th, 2016.  (with apologies to my followers in Canada, Great Britain and elsewhere, TLC has stipulated that the giveaway is limited to residents of the United States only ).



ann-patchett-photo-by-melissa-ann-pinneyAnn Patchett is the author of six novels and three books of nonfiction. She has won many prizes, including Britain’s Orange Prize, the PEN/Faulkner Prize, and the Book Sense Book of the Year. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is the co-owner of Parnassus Books.

Find out more about Ann on her website and follow her bookstore, Parnassus Books, on Twitter.

About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Family sagas, Literary fiction, TLC Book Tours, Women's fiction and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to “Commonwealth” by Ann Patchett – Book Review

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Commonwealth by Ann Patchett (4/5) | Taking on a World of Words

  2. That seemingly disjointed mix of character and scenes seems to me to really represent what it is like to be part of a family. Thanks for being a part of the tour!


  3. Pingback: Ann Patchett, author of Commonwealth, on tour September/October 2016 | TLC Book Tours

  4. CLM says:

    I loved Bel Canto but have not got around to reading her more recent titles. Thanks for the review! I also live in one of the four commonwealths in the U.S.


  5. sbwritingsite says:

    Interesting title choice. It has me thinking over here. Traditionally commonwealth = common good, common well-being, later expanded to mean “a state in which the supreme power is vested in the people; a republic or democratic state”. Could mean either or a little of both, in which I wouldn’t understand until I have read it. I love stuff like this, great choice! #mustRead


    • Fictionophile says:

      Love your comment. In this case I would say it is “common well-being”. The children in the story were there for each other – most of the time…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I love Ann Patchett. I’m amazed at how many different things she can write about. Commonwealth sounds so original – I may have to wait to get it at the library, but I’m sure the wait will be worth it!


  7. skyecaitlin says:

    Great review, Lynne, and I love the idea that life holds many mysterious events and the focus on characterization.


  8. Anne says:

    Interesting giveaway and great feature which interests me.


  9. ruth says:

    This novel sounds captivating. Thanks for your giveaway.


  10. Anne says:

    Your feature and review is wonderful. Thanks.


  11. ellie says:

    Thanks for your wonderful review and giveaway.


  12. itsbooktalk says:

    Really good review! I’ve been on the wait list at the library for this one for awhile. It will be my first Ann Patchett book as well


  13. literaryhues says:

    This seems so interesting, omg. I’m adding this to my TBR.


  14. Annie says:

    Ohhh, I wanted a copy 😦 XD Haha Great review, I have this in my TBR, can’t wait!


  15. Hfineisen says:

    Anne Patchett is a favorite author. I can’t wait to read this one!


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