Commonwealth

commonwealthBel Canto is one of my all time favourite books.  It set the bar high in my expectations of Ann Patchett’s books.

With a different author’s name on the cover I would say I quite enjoyed Commonwealth.  The author showed a lot of skill moving back and forth between the past and present and even in chronological order in the past.  There were twists and surprises.  Characters grew and changed through the novel.  Your sympathy moved between the characters.  The narrator moved between characters.  This was a technically very well written novel.

However, it does have Patchett’s name on the cover.  This feels like one of her second (or even third) tier books.  The premise is odd.  It starts with someone bringing a large bottle of gin to a christening party.  Attendees observed that the bottle of gin seems to miraculously regenerate, lasting for hours.  It’s mixed with fresh orange juice from the tree in the backyard.  Gin and orange juice shouldn’t mix, and yet somehow they do.

A strange beginning, right?

The cast of characters grows through the novel as two couples breakup and find new partners and then more new partners.  And the kids grow up and find partners and have kids.  They are all flawed.  They all have plenty of their own baggage.  And they weave in and out of each other lives.  I needed a family tree to keep track of everyone.

This was a good enough book, but I can’t put my finger on why it wasn’t great.  It didn’t have magic.  I want to read this with a book group to get other opinions on what’s happened.  How did it fall short when it technically checked all the boxes.

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