Leslie's Bookcase

celebrating and recommending unforgettable books

A quick note on Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Commonwealth is the first Ann Patchett novel I’ve read…since I’ve spent the last several years  reading old books and studying Ulysses. Wow, how I’m loving NEW books. More on that later!

Commonwealth wasn’t one of my favorite reads of the years but I still consider it “post-worthy.” (If I don’t like a book much at all I won’t post about it however I still will likely update my goodreads account.)

Obviously the 36 people waiting for this book at my local library are hoping this is a post-worthy book! Wow!! I reserve a lot of books and this is the most people I’ve noticed waiting for a certain book. I certainly bought into the hype and temporarily abandoned my fall-winter reading list.

I’ll start with what I liked about the book.

First I enjoyed the idea that over time fondness can develop among people who are thrust together in not-so-ideal situations (in this book’s case a newly blended family).

Also I am fascinated by the idea of how seemingly random occurrences can affect the outcome of lives. This is scary yet intriguing and oh so true. I remember a quote about this from Roger Ebert I used in my post on his memoir: “So much of what happens by chance forms what becomes your life.”

In this story’s case it all happens because someone brings a bottle of gin to a christening. Far-fetched? Maybe not. And “it all” is an interesting, sometimes sad story, but one that like most real stories turns out ok after all, for most people.

What I didn’t like…well for one it was hard to keep all the characters straight. Some of the kids (4 on one side) weren’t mentioned much at all at the beginning then later I was left thinking which one is that?  Also I’m a big “quoter” and I wasn’t inspired to quote any lines and only one page was earmarked, these items lacking for me means it wasn’t super memorable.

Overall, I enjoyed the read, but I don’t really get the hype. I’m sure if you’ve liked Patchett in the past, you will like it. However, I would consider holding off for awhile and letting the “library lines” die down.

Right now I better get this particular book back to the dozens of people waiting for it!


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  1. I’ve enjoyed Ann Patchett’s work in the past. Just bought this book so I was interested to read your thoughts. My favorite of hers, though, isn’t fiction. It’s Truth and Beauty, a memoir of her friendship with author Lucy Grealy. Hopeful I’ll enjoy this one as much.

    • Leslie

      December 23, 2016 at 7:48 am

      I’ve read great things about her non-fiction work so I will check that out someday. Thanks for the suggestion. I hope you enjoy your book Mary; I’m sure you will. I’m glad to know you aren’t waiting in that “library line” ha!

  2. I have this on my short list. I hope that I don’t find the juggling of the characters a problem, because it something that can be seriously problematic for me. I think that sort of thing relies on the author to develop them well enough that they set in.

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