Thursday, October 13, 2016

Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett

Spanning several decades, this novel weaves the intricate story of two intertwined families.  At times I had trouble remembering just who was who, and to some extent, so do these characters.  When Bert Cousins, married father of three with another on the way, more or less crashes the christening party of Francis (Franny) Keating, the second daughter of Fix and Beverly, the plot is set in motion by a drunken kiss.  Bert will marry Beverly, and the six Cousins and Keating children will divide their time and their loyalties between the two families.  Tragedy strikes, and one child is gone.  The dynamics of their relationships continue to evolve after this event.  Franny, the youngest, grows up to become an aspiring writer who works as a hostess a bar in the famed Palmer House.  There she meets Leon Posen, a legendary Jewish author almost twice her age, and begins a long relationship with him.  When he turns her family stories into the novel that will win him honors and renewed acclaim after a long fallow period, the balance of the two families is once again altered.  I probably spent more time than I should of trying to figure out who he was modeled on – Salinger, Roth, Bellow all strike me as candidates.  Maybe it was because of Franny’s name…  Up to Patchett’s standard of excellence.  322 pp.

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