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Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Full disclosure here – I’m tweaking words from one of my fellow BookBubblee’s, who couldn’t make our face to face together, so marshalled her thoughts to send to the rest of us. As she put it so well, it seemed a bit silly to try and start from scratch.

“Really enjoyed this book.  I like her style of writing; it flows so easily, you can just get swept along.  I liked the format of switching to see the perspective of different characters and also altering the time frame.  Again, these changes seemed so fluid and natural, but also compelling.   You wanted to read every word, not to miss anything.  Some bits were funny, especially the pages early in the book describing the relationship between all the siblings, where they were all sick of each other for different reasons. All the characters were obviously very flawed, but you felt a lot of compassion towards the children, without ever feeling overly-invested in any one character, or really disliking anyone.  I think her writing does a great job of giving you all the information you need to form a picture, without ever feeling you truly understand.  It left a lot unsaid which I thought was clever.” 

This really reflects a lot of the conversation we had at BookClub (although we did dislike a couple of the characters).  I was running out of time to finish the book and was tempted to skim-read to the end, but in the end I just finished it a little late. I really felt that I would have missed a lot of the meaning if I had rushed it. It’s a book that does leave a lot unsaid, so it requires a thoughtful reading. Although the jumping around in the timelines and perspective didn’t work for everyone in our group, I felt it focused in on the formative events and really reflected life. You never know which events and influences have really shaped a person – for many reasons, you don’t always get the full picture of the lives of those around you, and, when the gaps are filled in, they are not always complete, accurate or in the right order and there are often different versions depending on who is telling you. It’s a book that is best appreciated read in large chunk to get the most out of it. Great depictions of the contradictory loyalties, affection and sharp corners of sibling relationships and blended families.

Overall score: 8/10 

Range: 7 – 9

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