Commonwealth – Ann Patchett

“Life, Teresa knew by now, was a series of losses. It was other things too, better things, but the losses were as solid and dependable as the earth itself.”

         –  Commonwealth, Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth is a slow burner, a realist, brutal work of interwoven characters and relationships. A fragmentary family saga. You could liken it to a flame licking at your fingertips, your own life – it gets you wondering. Basically, I love a good ‘people trying to find their place in this meaningless existence we call life’ story.

It starts off with oranges, gin and a christening party – yeah I know right? What’s not to love?! I was thrilled by this first chapter, the end of a Californian summer (there’s something so right about starting a novel with the end of summer), the small talk giving way to one of those evenings that you will remember for a long time.  The second chapter I was hooked. It felt like just yesterday I was sat with my own family, university textbooks in hand, in the oncology ward. The novel flutters back and forth through time and Patchett’s writing is subtle as she delicately reveals events and shapes her characters with a warmth not unlike that of a freshly squeezed orange.

I think I loved Franny the most, her courage and need to be heard perhaps reminding me of a wistful version of myself. I loved Albie, his ever beating heart, and there was something so simple about Jeanette, so inspiring. I was also glad we met Bert again later in the novel. There is no villain, no femme fatales or home-wreckers so much as life goes on. It truly goes on. Life is at its most painstakingly real; its most mesmerizing. For those of you who read to escape reality best skip this one, or better yet, gift it to someone who yearns to find others like themselves floating through the void. That too bleak?

“Teresa looked at all the people walking past her table at the airport coffee shop and wondered how many of them were starting their honeymoons and how many of them were in love and how many of them would not be in love later on.”

          – Commonwealth, Ann Patchett

A solid 4.5/5 stars for me. There’s something so comforting about Commonwealth, doubly so as Patchett frames her narrative as a book within a book, and I’m pleased to say that I’ll be definitely picking up more of her work in the future.


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