This book is about memories, about family and about who owns your history. Everybody has their own version of the things that happened, especially in families. Is an author allowed to use your memories for their own story and more specifically, if these are not just your own memories, but the memories of all the people involved?
Commonwealth starts somewhere in the sixties when Beverly and Fix have their daughters christening party. Albert Cousins is not invited, but shows up anyway and at the end of the party he kisses Beverly and this is the moment when everything changes.
Sometime later Albert and Beverly live in Virginia with Beverly’s daughters, who long to be with their dad in LA and Cousins’ children live in LA, but want to be in Virginia. During the long Summer holidays the children have to look after themselves and this has some far-reaching consequences.
It is daughter Frannie who tells this story to a writer she has an affair with and he turns it into a book and this is the next layer in this beautifully written story.
I have read State of wonder by Ann Patchett before and utterly disliked it, but I wanted to give her another change with this book.
The way the story moved in time and through time is beautiful. It is done in a very natural way, like you talk to different people and somewhere in a conversation you get another little piece of the puzzle. It is not forced, like the author wants to show her readers how clever she is, but is really flows.
I also loved how much layers the characters have and how the teenagers grow up into adults. You do recognize the teenager in the adult, but you can also see how much they have changed and how they see the things that happened when they were young in a different light.
The big dramatic moment was in the end something different than I thought, but that made it even more painful, since it was something that could have happened to anyone.
I bought this book in Bologna because I had already read the books I brought with me, and I finished it in 1 ½ days. I think Commonwealth will end up in my top 5 of this year.
Published in 2016