#ReadThemAllThon Review: Commonwealth (and other books by Ann Patchett)

September 2, 2016 Fiction 12 ★★★★

#ReadThemAllThon Review: Commonwealth (and other books by Ann Patchett)Title: Commonwealth
Author: Ann Patchett
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads

Summary: I adore Ann Patchett’s writing and her plots always interest me, but the endings of her books always feel anticlimactic to me.

When Bert Cousin decided to crash Franny Keating’s christening party, he had no intention of kissing her mother. That one, unpremeditated act however, ended both of their marriages and irreversibly altered the lives of their children. Through five decades and one tragic accident, the Cousin and Keating children became a tight-knit group. The many issues hidden under the surface of their relationships were largely ignore until Franny’s affair with famous author Leon Posen lead to his publication of a book revealing their story.

I’ve read two of Ann Patchett’s previous books, Bel Canto and State of Wonder, drawn in by their fascinating plots and gorgeous covers. In both cases, as with this book, I fell in love with Patchett’s writing. Her skill is largely beyond my ability to describe. Her writing is just precisely how I expect writing to be. It’s beautiful and so engrossing that I’m still completely absorbed in the story as I enjoy her writing. I don’t know how she does it.

The reason I would give four, not five, stars to this book and the previous two that I’ve read is that felt that something was missing. I haven’t reviewed the previous two books because I couldn’t figure out what that was. I think I can finally explain it. I am simply always expecting something more in terms of the plot. More of a big reveal, more climactic of a confrontation, more dramatic of an ending. Like Neil Gaiman, before I discovered The View From the Cheapseats, Ann Patchett is an author I will probably continue to try again and again until I find the book that works for me. Her writing is so fantastic, I’m certain she can write a book that take my breath away. I just haven’t found it yet.


12 Responses to “#ReadThemAllThon Review: Commonwealth (and other books by Ann Patchett)”

  1. Heather

    I looooooved Bel Canto. I don’t have the same issues as you do in terms of wanting more from the plot but I can see why you would feel that way. You might want to pick up her book of essays, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. LOVE LOVE LOVE. And it might cure your plot issue – no plot in essays! Let me know if you check it out.

    • DoingDewey

      I really felt surprised I didn’t completely love Bel Canto when I finished. The situation was so interesting and the writing was so good. It really did take me a few of her books to figure out why I didn’t love them as much as it seemed like I should. I will definitely put her essays on my to-read list. I think you’re right that they could work for me!

  2. Shay

    The only book I have read by her is State of Wonder, and while her writing was quite lovely, it wasn’t really my thing. I may try again in the future.

    • DoingDewey

      If you the writing wasn’t quite right for you, I’m not sure I’d try more. But if it’s the topic, all of her books are on such diverse topics, I definiltey think you could find another one you’d like better.

  3. Jenny @ Reading the End

    Oh, that’s such a good observation about her endings. I’ve read State of Wonder — which I quite liked — and the first and last bits of Bel Canto — because reading the end of that one made me feel very uninspired. Endings a problem in both, for me. And since I haven’t been as wild as you about the rest of the books of hers I’ve tried, it’s made me a little gunshy about trying her other books.

    • DoingDewey

      That makes sense! I’m kind of surprised I’ve been as willing as I have to keep trying her books, but I guess good writing means a lot to me because I did the same thing with Neil Gaiman. The Graveyard Book, Neverwhere, and American Gods were good, but didn’t quite live up to the hype for me. In that case, I’m glad I kept trying because The View From the Cheap Seats was one of the best books I’ve read this year.

  4. Naomi

    I’ve read 5 of her books and have liked all of them, so I’m really looking forward to this one. I agree with Heather – maybe you should try her essays. I’d be curious to know whether they’d work better for you. (I haven’t read those yet, either.)

    • DoingDewey

      I’ll have to check them out. I really do love her writing and as shorter works, they might not have the same build up as her books.

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