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  • Tara Sonin 2:00 pm on 2019/10/09 Permalink
    Tags: , , commonwealth, family sagas, , , from screen to page, , , , , , queens of innis lear, rich people problems, ross poldark, , the dinner, the divine secrets of the ya-ya sisterhood, , , , the next, , the stationary shop   

    21 Books to Read for Fans of HBO’s Succession 


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    The second season of HBO’s Succession is in full swing, and I’m absolutely obsessed. The Roy family saga is one of constant undermining, financial deceit, cozying up to power, and lots and lots of secrets. But who would expect anything less from a story about a media mogul’s duplicitous attempts to secure his family dynasty and the ill-advised actions of his three children? If you love the show, here are twenty-one books full of family drama across all genres you might want to check out.

    Ask Again, Yes, by Mary Beth Keane
    Which moment was it, that defined the Gleeson and Stanhope families? Was it when they moved to the same neighborhood? When their children, Kate and Peter, became friends? Was it when Anne, Peter’s mother, started to suffer from mental illness, or when his father struggled with alcoholism? Or was it what came after, when a devastating incident of violence forces the two families apart and only the next generation can start to heal the wounds that came before? A triumphant novel about how individual people often are lost in the claustrophobia of family, and how the mistakes of the past can either condemn or liberate the next generation.

    The Immortalists, by Chloe Benjamin
    When they were children, the Golds visited a psychic who claimed she could pinpoint the day they would die. It is the end of the 60’s and their entire lives are in front of them. After hearing the prophecies of their eventual demises, each of the children responds in differing extremes: Simon comes out as gay and finds love in San Francisco; Klara finds solace in magic and a family; Daniel joins the military; and Varya becomes a scientist determined to outsmart time itself. The novel follows each child on their journey, wrestling with whether the fate they were given is one they deserve, one that was destined, or one they should have attempted to escape.

    Flowers in the Attic, by VC Andrews
    After a terrible tragedy, four children are locked in an attic, presumably for their own protection—and that of their inheritance. Alone in their grandmother’s house with infrequent visits from their mother, the children must turn to one another in order to survive—even if the consequences are a forbidden love. Money, secrets, scandal and romance combine in this classic start to the Dollanganger series. If you didn’t read this family drama as a teenager when your parents thought you were asleep, then you should definitely try to emulate that experience when the 40th anniversary edition publishes this fall!

    Ross Poldark, by Winston Graham
    Ok, fans of another TV show should be familiar with this one, but there are so many similar elements to Succession in Poldark that I had to include it! Sure, it takes place after the Revolutionary War in Cornwall, Britain and not modern-day America, but— there’s a family feud that ends in bloodshed, new money vs. old money, forbidden love, and one man holding onto hope that he can make a better life for his family in an era that seems poised to make him falter. Money is largely the enemy, because it is what enables the Warleggans, the primary villains, to enact their spite and hatred on the Poldark family.

    One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
    A multi-generational epic about the Buendía family, beginning with their founder, José Arcadio Buendía, who founded the fictional town of Macondo in Colombia. Lush descriptions infused with magical realism makes this one an intimidating selection for high schoolers (which is when I read it the first time), but it deserves returning to again and again. The story begins, and is punctuated throughout, with violence: a man and his wife flee their home after a murder, and everything that happens after seems rooted in the haunting lack of justice for that original sin. History repeats itself over and over throughout seven generations, and the ghosts of Buendías past watch as their descendants perpetuate their own mistakes.

    Fleishman is In Trouble, by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
    Toby Fleishman is getting a divorce. He thinks. It’s not super clear right now, because his wife may have gone completely off the grid, leaving him to raise their two kids alone. This sharp examination of marriage, masculinity, and motherhood written from the perspective of one of Toby’s friends from high school as she watches him try to juggle single parenthood and her own marriage teeters on the edge of imploding. It is less of a sweeping an epic and more of an intimate drama, where every single line of dialogue and observation serves a purpose, leading to a fitting ending.

    Commonwealth, by Anne Patchett
    When Bert shows up at Franny Keating’s christening and unexpectedly kisses her mother, the ramifications spiral throughout two marriages and the generation that follows. The story eventually jumps forward in time to Franny’s twenties, when she makes a decision that, like that kiss, will also have unforeseen consequences: she tells a famous writer the story of her blended family, and he decides to profit from it. I love how this story directly confronts not only how a single action can reverberate through the ages, but how a story itself can do the same.

    The Leavers, by Lisa Ko
    Another inter-generational story where a single action has a lifetime of consequences, this time about a Chinese American boy and his mother, Polly, who suddenly vanishes without a trace. Deming is only eleven when this happens, and he spends the rest of his childhood and early adulthood in a state of looming and receding turmoil. Even though he is adopted by two white middle-class academics and has what most would describe as a “good life”, the scars of his mother’s abandonment never fade. As the novel traces his journey, it follows Polly’s as well, crossing the ocean to China, where her story began.

    The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, by Rebecca Wells
    Succession is about the legacy of a domineering, abusive father on his two sons and daughter—but mothers leave an indelible imprint on their children as well, a dynamic explored in this by-now classic story of friendship, family, and how the fractures in those relationships can alter the future. When Siddalee and her mother, Vivi, get into a fight over the differences in their perception of events from when Sidda was young, Vivi’s friends (aka, the Ya-Yas) intervene to reunite them.

    The Nest, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
    Perhaps the most similar to the show that inspired this list (they even share a scandal in common), this novel features a wealthy family fighting over an inheritance. Leo Plumb was just released from rehab after a devastating tragedy when, under the influence, he caused an accident with an innocent passenger. His actions means that he, and his siblings Melody, Beatrice, and Jack might not receive their  trust fund after years of waiting for it. It’s money that everyone needs with varying levels of desperation, believing that it can rewrite the past and protect the future. Sweeney’s characters are inherently flawed and entirely relatable, with prose that is both effervescent with humor and laden with dread.

    The Most Fun We Ever Had, by Claire Lombardo
    Four women—four sisters—struggle to come into their own in the looming shadow of their parents’ seemingly epic romance. Set in Chicago and its suburbs, this uniquely American saga spans almost fifty years and culminates when a long-buried secret shows up to unsettle their already trembling definition of family.

    A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin
    How could I not include the ultimate family succession drama on this list? Even if you take away the dragons and the blood magic (though why would you want to?) Game of Thrones is about feuding families, plain and simple. Combine torrid love affairs, secret alliances, hidden heirs and surprise deaths, and the saga of Starks, Lannisters, Baratheons, and Targaryens could look like something ripped from the headlines. (Also, since the last season wasn’t everyone’s favorite, now is the perfect time to re-read the books in case Martin finishes the next one!)

    Queens of Innis Lear, by Tessa Gratton
    A fantasy inspired by King Lear puts his daughters center stage: the ruthless and strong Gaela, seductress and political manipulator Regan, and the sweet priestess Elia. Each of them believes they have a part to play in the future of their father’s kingdom, even if it means rebelling against one another and turning towards dangerous magic in order to achieve their aims. Lear’s daughters were always the most fascinating part of Shakespeare’s play to me, and this inventive, impeccably-written novel explores each of them with depth, making even their most horrific choices relatable.

    Rich People Problems, by Kevin Kwan
    [Spoilers if you haven’t read the first two books!]
    In the third book in Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians series, an elderly relative on her deathbed inspires family to descend upon her in the hopes of claiming some of her riches for their own. Nick and Rachel are happily married in New York City when their lives are uprooted with the news of his grandmother, Su Yi’s illness. When he married Rachel, he forfeited his inheritance but now his mother believes that if he returns home to make amends, he might be able to get it back. But Nick isn’t the only one with a financial scheme against Su Yi. Different in tone to many of the other books on this list, this romcom features flawed characters with hearts of gold, and is as gilded in humor as it is in fun.

    Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
    The trailer for the new movie has me in a mood to re-read this classic about four sisters and their mother living in Concord during the Civil War. With Mr. March away, Marmee must make do with what little they have to support the girls—unless, of course, they can be married off into better circumstances and gain some financial footing. It always comes down to money and marriage in the end—but each girl has their own beliefs about what kind of life that would mean for them. Most opinionated on the matter is Jo, who wants to pursue a career as a writer (unheard of at the time), and while she falls for two men over the course of the novel (and does marry one of them), she does it on her own terms. Alcott’s novel remains so loved today because the themes and characters ring true no matter the century or decade, as all young people (and women) wrestle with coming of age, family obligation, and love.

    The Stationery Shop, by Marjan Kamali
    Roya lives in Tehran, Iran in 1953, where she falls in love with Bahman, a budding revolutionary. They are engaged to be married when disaster strikes and instead of the life she had planned, Roya and her sister emigrate to America. She marries someone else, and has a family. But sixty years later, Bahman shows up with a stunning story to share about why they couldn’t be together, and the family secret that kept them apart. Told in alternating chapters between past and present, this beautiful novel about lost love is about the sacrifices we make for the people we love, that often wind up hurting them just the same.

    Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
    This coming-of-age novel infused with magical realism follows “Milkman” Dead III, the first African-American child to be born in his Michigan town. As he learns about his origins and grows into his destiny, he learns the jagged edges of family and the dark underbelly of love. How can a boy become a man and learn to love who he is, when he is born into a legacy of violence and anger?

    Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee
    A teenage girl falling in love is a simple story. A girl in 1900’s Japan falling for a married man, and then getting pregnant…isn’t simple at all. The saga in Pachinko is tragic and hopeful; Sunja decides to marry a traveling minister, turning away from what her family believes is honorable and the powerful influence of her son’s father. Her choice has an impact on generations to come, turning a not-so-simple story into a beloved, award-winning epic.

    The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah
    Two sisters engage with the trauma of World War II in different ways: Vianne works to save Jewish children in occupied France, even adopting a little boy she isn’t sure she will be able to save, and suffering severe consequences for her bravery; while her younger sister Isabelle joins the French Resistance and becomes a soldier for the cause. While war tears them apart, a secret unites them both that can only be revealed by the narrator, whose identity remains unknown until the end. If you’re tired of stories about sibling rivalry and betrayal, this is the antidote to Succession: a story of war where people fight for one another, in addition to against their enemies.

    King Lear, by William Shakespeare
    How could I not include this classic play about a larger-than-life King who destroys his family by using his kingdom as a bargaining chip? Lear is a play about family, greed, and what love looks like without any ornaments or jewels to make it shine. It’s also about how power can pollute the mind, and as his daughters watch Lear’s sanity unravel, they each have differing reactions including rejecting him, manipulating him, and trying at any cost to save him.

    The Dinner, by Herman Koch
    In this suspenseful thriller, two families meet for dinner to discuss the terrible thing that involved both of their fifteen-year-old sons, and the police. The catch? The two fathers are also brothers. Double catch? One of the brothers is running for prime minister, and has a lot to lose politically if the wrong decision is made over dinner. I love this story for doing what Succession does so well: examining how the actions of parents impact children, which then cause them to act in ways that impact parents—and on and on the cycle of family goes, until someone is brave enough (or angry enough) to stop it.

    What books would you recommend to fans of Succession?

    The post 21 Books to Read for Fans of HBO’s <i>Succession</i> appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 2:00 pm on 2019/06/07 Permalink
    Tags: , ann patchet, , , commonwealth, grange house, hotel new hampshire, , , , , , sarah perry, , the essex serpent, , , , the ninth hour, the postmistress   

    12 Books to Read if You Loved The Guest Book, May’s B&N Book Club Selection 


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    The Barnes & Noble Book Club selection for May, Sarah Blake’s The Guest Book, opens in 1935 with the story of Ogden Milton, the head of a wealthy and privileged American family at the height of its power. When tragedy strikes, Ogden purchases an island in Maine in an attempt to help his wife Kitty overcome unspeakable loss. It quickly becomes a place of central importance to the family, one that bears witness over the years as three generations of Miltons struggle through the decline of their social status and the erosion of their family fortune. A lush novel, filled with secrets that are slowly revealed as Blake moves back and forth through time, The Guest Book is filled with incisive observations about wealth, systemic racism, and the lengths a family will go to in order to conceal the dark and unpleasant truths behind its legacy. Once you’ve read The Guest Book and discussed it at your local B&N Book Club meeting on June 11th at 7pm, you may find yourself adrift, looking for your next great read and wondering what could possibly follow in the footsteps of this haunting and evocative novel. That’s where we come in. Here are twelve books to read once you’ve (regretfully) finished The Guest Book.

    The Postmistress, by Sarah Blake
    If you loved The Guest Book, your next stop is Blake’s intricate, thought-provoking 2011 novel The Postmistress. Set during World War II, the story is anchored by three very different women—Iris, the straitlaced postmistress of the Cape Cod town of Franklin; Emma, the young, lonely wife of newly-arrived doctor Will; and Frankie, a self-reliant journalist covering the Blitz in London. Blake follows the lives of these women as Will, crushed by a tragic mistake, heads to London to make himself useful and meets Frankie, leaving a very pregnant Emma behind to wonder about his fate. All the threads come together when Iris, normally a fierce defender of the sanctity of the postal system, confiscates a letter, setting events in motion she can’t possibly predict.

    Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson
    If your sweet spot in The Guest Book was the inexorable ripple-effect of unintended consequences that come from even the smallest of choices, imagine a book about a girl who experiences all the alternate lives she might have led. In 1910, Ursula Todd is stillborn—and then she is born again, managing to live just a little longer before dying. And then she is born again—and again, each time retaining vague hints about her previous existence, hints she can use to avoid tragedy and to potentially change the course of human history. Atkinson’s novel is a story about how our decisions affect both our own lives and those of everyone around us, and she makes the burdensome secrets of the past feel as real and consequential as Blake does. As an added bonus, the story of the Todd family is continued in Atkinson’s book A God in Ruins, which tells the story of Ursula’s younger brother, Teddy.

    The Ninth Hour, by Alice McDermott
    McDermott is a National Book Award recipient for Charming Billy and a multiple Pulitzer Prize finalist. The Ninth Hour, set in Brooklyn in the 1940s and ’50s, tells the story of a family impacted by terrible, tragic decisions that reverberate throughout their lives. Tended to by an elderly nun after her husband commits suicide, a young widowed mother and her newborn baby are brought into the fold of the Little Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor. In a time and place that was unforgiving at best toward families overcoming scandal, the young mother discovers that the worst moment of her life is best not mentioned. The consequences of her husband’s act will affect generations to come, but so will the loving friendships she makes with the nuns’ help.

    Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan
    Egan won the Pulitzer Prize for A Visit From the Goon Squad, and fans of Blake’s novels will enjoy this evocative period novel, which features a less-experimental but just as moving story set in New York City during the Depression and World War II. Manhattan Beach follows the struggles of Anna Kerrigan, first as an adolescent idealizing her beleaguered father, and later at 19, after his disappearance, when Anna is charged with supporting her sister and mother by working at the Brooklyn Naval Yard as its sole female diver. A chance encounter with her father’s mobster boss begins to shed light on the truth about Anna’s dad, landing squarely on similar themes to The Guest Book: how the actions of our loved ones can change our lives with unintended consequences. You may want to have tissues on hand for this beautiful, detail-rich novel.

    The Hotel New Hampshire, by John Irving
    This charming, eccentric novel has all the sprawling and strange family history a fan of The Guest Book could want, telling the story of Win and Mary Berry and their five children (and dog, Sorrow) as Win struggles to attain the sort of great life he always assumed he’d lead. A teacher at his second-rate alma mater in New Hampshire, Win buys the girls’ school when it closes and transforms it into the doomed Hotel New Hampshire, then later uproots the family for Vienna to run a hotel owned by a near-magical figure from Win and Mary’s past. There’s tragic death, tragic love, and dark comedy to spare; if you loved the epic family entanglements in The Guest Book, this one is a must-read.

    Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen
    One of the great pleasures of a novel like The Guest Book is the complicated trips through time that give you glimpses of a family’s grand story as it slowly coalesces into clarity. Franzen is a modern master of the ambitious family saga, and this novel is a family study told through layered flashbacks and various voices and points of view, tracing the slow, graceful arc into disappointment of the Berglund children as they realize the idyllic life promised by their parents’ own seemingly ideal lives isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be—nor is the freedom they possess to make their own choices and their own mistakes. As in The Guest Book, the various pieces of the Berglund’s story slowly come together into a whole, revealing secrets and illuminating the patterns they find themselves trapped in, the power of this story builds.

    Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett
    Patchett drew on her own life story to craft this memorable tale of the aftermath of a drunken, stolen kiss that detonates two marriages. In the wake of the divorces that follow, a new relationship is forged, one that will impact the children of those broken marriages for decades to come. Anchored by a core mystery, Patchett follows the fates of Bert and Teresa’s children as they’re brought together by their parents’ affair and second marriage, examining their relationships with each other, and observing the influence of their childhood experiences on their adult lives, which are marked by dysfunction and unexpected tragedy. If you were on the edge of your seat flipping pages to find out the secrets at the center of The Guest Book, you’re going to love Commonwealth.

    The Most Fun We Ever Had, by Claire Lombardo
    Lombardo’s debut novel slots perfectly into a Blake-inspired reading list, following the Sorenson family—David and Marilyn and their daughters Violet, Wendy, Liza, and Grace—from their 1970s childhoods to their 2017 crises. Though their parents’ marriage was a seemingly ideal pairing of passion and affection, the daughters struggle miserably in their own relationships, and find that their adult lives are nothing like what they expected. The sisters uncover secrets about each other, meddle in each other’s lives, and continue to learn how to live on a near daily basis, while Lombardo teases out the slightly-less-than-perfect truth about their parents’ union. The end result is a delightful exploration of family that will reverberate deeply with readers.

    Grange House, by Sarah Blake
    Fans of The Guest Book will be delighted to discover that Blake’s debut novel explores many of the same themes of family secrets, with the added pleasures of a Victorian gothic twist and a shivery ghost story. Set in Maine in the summer of 1896, the titular house was once the grand home of the Grange family, but now only spinster Miss Nell Grange remains, living simply while a small staff runs the estate as a hotel. A young girl named Maisie Thomas spends every summer there with her family, and becomes obsessed with Nell, an author, who inspires her to dream of writing a book. Maisie’s relationship with Nell prompts the old woman to offer ominous hints about past events, and Maisie loses herself in the old woman’s story as her own life becomes less and less real. All the threads come together in a gripping, emotionally powerful ending.

    The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters
    Maybe what really drew you into The Guest Book was the sense of a lost and tarnished family legacy—which makes this frightening tale an ideal chaser. Set in a crumbling estate in Warwickshire after World War II, this novel combines classic Gothic ingredients—a once-great house gone to seed, a family in dire straits, inexplicable illnesses, haunting spirits, encroaching madness—into a modern, meaty, character-driven story. The dwindling Ayers family struggles to survive in the dilapidated, crumbling family estate known as Hundreds Hall as the world outside, transformed by war and technology, becomes less and less familiar. Waters tells the story from the point of view of a brilliant doctor from humble roots, who has fond memories of Hundreds Hall from his childhood, which makes his determination to explain everything with science and logic all the more unsettling.

    The Confessions of Frannie Langton, by Sara Collins
    If you want more of the secrets, the mysteries, and the sense of dread inspired by having an incomplete picture of what really happened found in The Guest Book, look no further. Set in the early 19th century, this story follows Frannie, a slave owned by John Langton, who is given to George Benham in London. Benham has Frannie spy on his wife, Meg, whom he suspects of scandal, but Frannie and Meg become lovers. When George and Meg are found murdered, Frannie is arrested—but claims she cannot remember the events leading up to their deaths. This novel combines all the pleasures of a historical romance and a murder mystery, made all the more complex and tragic by Frannie’s status as a slave.

    The Essex Serpent, by Sarah Perry
    Perry’s novel, set in 19th century England, focuses on Cora Seaborne, an intelligent and restless woman pushed into a society marriage at the age of 19. When her husband dies unexpectedly, leaving her with her young son and his nanny, Martha, Cora is glad to be free again. She travels to the country to enjoy freedom and privacy, and finds herself drawn to a local legend about a magical serpent, blamed for a recent death. A naturalist, Cora decides she will prove superstition false and perhaps discover a new species, and meets William Ransome, the local vicar, who seeks to do the same for different reasons. Their relationship is at the heart of this dark, magical story of love, mystery, and seeming opposites who can’t seem to resist each other. If you loved Blake’s nuanced female characters, Cora Seaborne might be your next favorite fictional heroine.

    What readalikes would you recommend to readers who loved The Guest Book?

    The post 12 Books to Read if You Loved <i>The Guest Book</i>, May’s B&N Book Club Selection appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Dell Villa 3:00 pm on 2016/09/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , , commonwealth, , ,   

    Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth Paints a Thorny Family Portrait 


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    For a story that begins and ends with a party, there’s an astonishing amount of anger, sadness, and deceit in Commonwealth, Ann Patchett’s latest novel about intertwining families. But this powerful story reflects life, so for every broken relationship, harrowing circumstance, or unforgivable offense, there is an equally weighty counterpoint: forgiveness, growth, or even levity. Herein lies an optimistic central point, which we have come to expect from Patchett: the defining moments of our lives are only as dark as we allow them to be.

    The Keating and Cousins families become suddenly, inextricably connected on a sultry Sunday afternoon in Torrance, California in the early 1960s. Citrus trees are heavy with fruit, and a modest bungalow is filled to bursting on the occasion of baby Franny’s christening. Her parents, Beverly and Fix Keating, have thrown the party, and when Bert Cousins—an acquaintance twice-removed—arrives with an unwieldy bottle of gin, the celebration severely alters its course. Bert and Beverly’s instant connection, though discreet, will soon tear their immediate families apart.

    Instead of detailing Beverly and Bert’s romance, which ultimately takes the couple from Torrance to Arlington, Virginia, Patchett’s superbly woven narrative quickly shifts its focus to the children. In the wake of divorce and remarriage, the two Keating girls and the four Cousins children come to lead unsettled, peripatetic lives. They live with their mothers on opposite sides of the country during the school year, but are thrust together into two bedrooms “with one bathroom and one cat between them” every summer in Virginia.

    Unsupervised and unruly from the start, the six kids become a “fierce tribe,” and they share common enemies: their parents. But, even though there is unquestionable loyalty among them, their own relationships are fraught with difficulties. Caroline and Franny Keating despise each other, and nobody can tolerate the obnoxious baby of the group: Albie. Left to their own devices summer after summer, the posse resorts to unorthodox methods of control where Albie is concerned and tragedy, always lurking just beyond the page, swoops in at the earliest opportunity to break the fragile families even further.

    From there Patchett fast-forwards and rewinds seamlessly, relaying the experiences of each of the Keating and Cousins kids far into adulthood, eventually taking us to a place where the stories of their childhood become more public than any of them could have imagined.

    At once a spellbinding narrative and a realistic mediation on the elasticity of truth, love and relationships, Commonwealth begs an essential question: does your life story actually belong to you? There are the stories we are told, the stories we tell ourselves, and then there are the stories we believe. At some point in all of our lives, these narratives collapse, and all that’s left is love—and family. In a novel where every single word matters—even the names of the richly drawn characters are meaningful—Patchett asks a lot of her readers. And she might be suggesting, rather eloquently, that having a family means you never have your own story. Instead, every member holds a thread.

    Commonwealth is on shelves September 13.

     
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