​Commonwealth by Ann Patchett


'Commonwealth' is an  entertaining, engrossing domestic drama. It begins with Bert Cousins arriving uninvited(but bearing gin) at Franny Keating's christening, and putting the smooch on Fran's mum, Bev Keating. Oh, the repercussions! We then follow the subsequent interweaving of the lives of all those in these two families over the next few decades. 

Every Patchett book (and there aren't enough) is something to savour- she is an elegant stylist with unrivalled insight. She cannot write a boring book. Her stories are strong, in this case the family melodrama is uncompromising and gripping. It's funny and sad. What elevates 'Commonwealth' above Franzenesque hollowness is the authenticity of the blended family characters and the believability and readability the scenes. Patchett isn't one to show off, she puts the reader first. That said, there is a nervy moment when she introduces a famous author into the cast. Where this may have become a glib, self-referential turn in the hands of a less masterful writer, here it becomes the move that makes 'Commonwealth' one of the year's true literary gems. All class.

- Paul