Review Room

Book reviews and miscellanous thoughts

Audiobook Review : Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Written By: amodini - Oct• 11•17

Title : Commonwealth
Author : Ann Patchett
Narrators : Hope Davis
Genre : Contemporary
Publisher : Blackstone Audio
Listening Length : 10 hours 33 minutes
Rating : 4/5
Narrator Rating : 4.5/5

Deputy District Attorney Bert Cousins gate-crashes Franny Keating’s christening party in Torrance, California,, with an inappropriate gift – a bottle of gin. Also, he kisses Franny’s mother, the beautiful Beverly Keating. She, apparently, kisses him back. When the divorces happen, Beverly and Bert marry and move to Virginia with Beverly’s two daughters Franny and Caroline. Bert’s ex-wife, Teresa, is left to bring up her four kids single-handedly, and Francis “Fix” Keating, Beverly’s LAPD cop ex-husband moves on with his life stolidly.

The Keating and Cousins children live together every summer when the Cousins kids visit their father in Virginia. Bert, as always, makes himself unavailable, and the children’s responsibility is shouldered, almost unwillingly, for the most part by Beverly. When she balks, which she does often (turning up the air-conditioning in her car and lying down in the back-seat to escape), the six children are left to amuse themselves. One such time, a tragedy occurs, and they carry the weight of it around all their lives.

Patchett spins this domestic drama in a non-linear fashion. We start off at the christening party, jump to a grown-up Franny’s affair with much older, renowned novelist Leo Posen, and then skip back to vignettes of childhood as remembered by any one of the children. From these different perspectives, we piece together the complete story, and so masterful a storyteller is she, that Patchett manages to make us feel for every heart-breaking twist. It is not like she tells us of every single happening, but just the right ones, with enough emphasis on tone and emotional tension so that we can make up our own minds of the unfolding drama.

Commonwealth is poignant, and Patchett wrote much of it to reflect her own experience as the child of divorce. The fact that I, having had a very different childhood, cannot identify with it at all is of no matter; Commonwealth is still a powerful story of all the unnecessary, hand-wringing heartbreak that life ensures.

The last novel I read by Ann Patchett was State Of Wonder. I adored that, partly because of the Indian-American protagonist and partly because of the scientific slant to the story. While Commonwealth delves deeper into relationships than “State of Wonder”, it is a harder read and not as engrossing. Patchett is still fabulous, and if you need familial drama, Commonwealth will give it to you.

Narrator Davis is fantastic. Her voice lends itself to the everyday tragedy that is Commonwealth. Her inflections carry weight, and convey the angst, fear, sadness and humor as Patchett, I imagine, intends it.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

%d bloggers like this: