Author(s): Ann Patchett
THE NO. 1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A powerful story of two families brought together by beauty and torn apart by tragedy, the new novel by the Orange Prize-winning author of Bel Canto and State of Wonder is her most astonishing yet
It is 1964- Bert Cousins, the deputy district attorney, shows up at Franny Keating's christening party uninvited, bottle of gin in hand. As the cops of Los Angeles drink, talk and dance into the June afternoon, he notices a heart-stoppingly beautiful woman. When Bert kisses Beverly Keating, his host's wife, the new baby pressed between them, he sets in motion the joining of two families whose shared fate will be defined on a day seven years later.
In 1988, Franny Keating, now twenty-four, has dropped out of law school and is working as a cocktail waitress in Chicago. When she meets one of her idols, the famous author Leon Posen, and tells him about her family, she unwittingly relinquishes control over their story. Franny never dreams that the consequences of this encounter will extend beyond her own life into those of her scattered siblings and parents.
Told with equal measures of humour and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a powerful and tender tale of family, betrayal and the far-reaching bonds of love and responsibility. A meditation on inspiration, interpretation and the ownership of stories, it is Ann Patchett's most astonishing work to date.
'Dazzling ... The combination of lightness, warmth and remarkable incisiveness creates a novel that is life-affirming and compulsively readable' Sunday Times
An outstanding novel ... The opening is a show stopper ... Patchett is a pleasure to read: there is a no-fuss casualness to the prose that is only possible when a writer is in control of every word and she is master of her art ... What is so skilful is the way Patchett makes no moral judgments ... Brilliant Observer The opening scene ... is a faultless set piece ... Her prose is equally powerful when she's evoking a 1970s summer in Virginia ... Patchett deftly summons up a simmering childhood anger and dangerously ricocheting energy The Times Dazzling ... sharply observed, ripe with humour, laden with significance ... Patchett weaves a complex structure ... Yet always feels in control ... She is adept at showing, not telling, her characters shimmer with life-likeness, and she pulls you into every one of her vibrantly drawn scenes with great ease ... The combination of lightness, warmth and remarkable incisiveness creates a novel that is life-affirming and compulsively readable Sunday Times The book flows easily between narrators, constantly switching from past to present, and slowly revealing what happened that summer, allowing Patchett to play with memory and perspective to surprisingly moving effect ... Commonwealth is a book about relationships and the obligations they bring .. Poignant ... funny ... An engaging novel that draws you in with sharp observation, a gin-fuelled plot written in beautiful prose and convincing dialogue. You miss the characters once it's over Evening Standard Commonwealth is full of heart, and is Patchett's most complex and emotionally suspenseful novel. She never hits a wrong note although she conjures with many deftly drawn characters. The opening chapter is one of the best party-scene seductions ever written -- Louise Erdrich, author of The Beet Queen A deft craftsman ... Patchett ultimately wins the reader over with her perceptive qualities, alluring characters and undertone of humour ... In Commonwealth, Patchett's nimble storytelling floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee Literary Review Patchett writes excellently and seemingly artlessly, her many sub-stories wandering in and out of each other like rivulets in a stream. Some characters swim into brilliant focus, while others remain dimly lit in the shadows, but Patchett boldly avoids resolving any of it and what emerges instead is the captivating music of life's random, relentless pulse Daily Mail So clear and clean and at the top of her game ... It is just so masterfully done. The sweep of it and the subtlety of the ideas -- Esther Freud Beautiful -- Katie Roiphe Observer Gorgeously evocative writing and complex characters ... Patchett is a writer of exceptional talent, and this is one of her best yet Good Housekeeping This delicate exploration of the ties that bind us never seems to lose focus Stylist An absorbing, brilliantly observed novel Women & Home From the mesmerising first chapter to the final page, Ann Patchett's new novel is utterly brilliant. This domestic drama deals in loyalties, sibling rivalries, jealously and heartbreak in an effortlessly graceful style that makes for unputdownable reading Sunday Express Rich and engrossing ... her observations about people and life are insightful; and her underlying tone is one of compassion and amusement ... Patchett also skilfully illustrates the way that seemingly minor, even arbitrary decisions can have long-lasting consequences and the way that we often fear the wrong things -- Curtis Sittenfeld New York Times Delicious. From the moment a kiss at a christening ends up sparking the divide and re-merging of two families, I was drawn into the minutiae of the drama ... Patchett makes you feel like you've lived among it and have been subsumed into the newly drawn clan Grazia Humourous and heartbreaking, this quietly brilliant collage of a novel also happens to be semi-autobiographical itself Mail on Sunday Life-affirming and compulsively readable Sunday Times She achieves the great novel of American domestic life with a spare hand and a demotic prose that seems to come from the mouths of her characters, even when they aren't speaking ... Her unshowy account of public and private stories addresses the great puzzle of what our lives are really made of ... This novel convinces me she's wiping the floor with her heftier competitors -- Linda Grant Daily Telegraph All of this will make Commonwealth sound like a domestic novel, and it is - one of the finest in recent memory, which is reason enough to admire it ... Part of Patchett's design is to curve every type, bend every cliche, adulterate every formula ... Subtle, startling and painful ... Commonwealth is one of the most discerning novels about siblings I can recall ... The novel is alive with provocative insights that sum up entire relationships Guardian She moves effortlessly between perspectives ... Patchett's own powers are such that the reader is not only never confused, but is wholly convinced by the individuality of each character. Told with great sympathy and even greater wit - it should be said that Commonwealth is very funny indeed - this is a book to savour The Lady
Ann Patchett is the author of six novels and three works of non-fiction. She has been shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction three times; with The Magician's Assistant in 1998, winning the prize with Bel Canto in 2002, and was most recently shortlisted with State of Wonder in 2012. She is also the winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and was named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2012. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages. She is the co-owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, where she lives with her husband, Karl.