Scott's Book Review

Commonwealth

Commonwealth

Ann Patchett

Scott

Ann Patchett’s (http://www.annpatchett.com/about/) new novel is an American family saga involving six children, 50 years and many coincidences. It opens with Bert, a father of three with another baby on the way, sneaking a kiss from Beverly, a married woman hosting a christening party for her second child, Frances. They’re drunk and it’s the Sixties; eventually Beverly ditches her husband, Fix, a Los Angeles cop, to set up home with Bert on the other side of the country — an idea that palls when she’s lumbered with his kids every summer.

 

 

Skipping across the decades we find ourselves with grown up Frances working as a cocktail waitress in 1980s Chicago. Her favourite writer, Leo Posen, turns up asking for a scotch and a hand back to his hotel room. Franny obliges — her work get-up makes her look like ‘the music-video version of the Catholic schoolgirl she’d once been’ — but it’s the subsequent pillow talk about her stepbrothers (one dead tragically early, the other a delinquent with a history of arson) that gets Leo’s novelistic juices flowing. No small strife ensues when he reignites his career by putting Franny’s stories into his new publication called ‘Commonwealth’. 
Patchett’s voice is full of wise observation. Franny and her sister Caroline are ‘connected by neither love nor mutual affinity but by a very small bathroom that could be entered from the bedroom on either side’. And there are some cracking scenes — the pick being a summer holiday in 1971 when Bert’s 12-year-old son Cal pinches his gun (and gin) with help from Caroline, proudly schooled in lock-picking by her LAPD dad. The force of Commonwealth’s ending relies on an argument in favour of privacy (not what you expect from a writer mining her own family history). Cue some big themes about family, love, betrayal and the consequences of all action. Here is a reflective novel for anyone who’s lived from the 60s to the present day.

Enquire at your local library. Check if this new title is in stock by consulting the online catalogue at https://www.sllclibrary.co.uk/cgi-bin/spydus.exe/MSGTRN/OPAC/BSEARCH

 

 

336 pages in Bloomsbury

First published 2016

ISBN  978-1408880401

 

 

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Ann Patchett

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