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Family Album by Penelope Lively (2009)

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Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
I struggled to finish this book before January turned to February. I read it as a part of the British Authors Challenge, and I am glad I did! It is not a book which grabbed me and would not let go; somedays it was all I could do to read a couple of pages. In the end, about 2/3 of the way through, I finally began to appreciate the family, and the characters, and could see glimpses of what Ms. Lively was getting after. She thinks a lot about "memory"; and seeing the same stuff from all these different points of view.

I liked it that she even occasionally gave the family house a point of view and in the end I loved the house the most of all. ( )
  maggie1944 | Jan 29, 2015 |
Allersmead was once the home of a family with 6 children, husband, wife, and au pair. The novel is not told form the perspective of any singular person but instead alternates through various voices until we see a complete pictures of the family. There is even a secret that is known but not discussed. I loved the descriptions of the food and the moments in the kitchen which are quite prominent throughout the novel, but the writing style was a bit choppy for me although I realized that it was simply a literary style that does not work for me. It's a novel some will read and devour and others will abandon. Its short length makes it one that many will want to give a try. ( )
  thornton37814 | Jan 17, 2015 |
This is a wonderful and thoughtful written family story. It's written in a kind of retrospective from each family member. The most interesting thing is that the offspring's point of view, how their childhood and the family life were, is very much related to each other whereas the adult's view is completely different rather like a misty-eyed one.
There is also a family secret, nobody is speaking about, but everybody knows about it. Only in the end the offspring is discussing this matter. There is a major solidarity among the offspring which helps them to be independent. A death in the family brings all members together and is also a restart. ( )
  Ameise1 | May 13, 2014 |
Astutely written.

This was an interesting study of a large family in rural England, living in an old, crumbling mansion. I loved the earth mother, Alison, devoted to her children, whose only aim in life was to be matriarch to a large family.
Her husband, Charles, was a somewhat cliched version of the distant father, surrounded by constant noise and hubbub, yet almost unaware of it. Somewhat ironically, he was an anthropologist, studying the interactions of distant societies and how they raised their children.

The six children also had the support of Ingrid, an au pair, who had been with the family for years and still remained, even after all the children had left.
This is a largely character driven novel, with the old house, Allersmead, looming large in the background.
Each person has a chapter of their own, providing back-story and further details, but do we really need quite so much information? As an audiobook, it was a bit confusing and I would probably have awarded an extra star if I'd been reading it rather than listening, simply because of the complexity of the family relationships.

As the, now adult, children come home to visit Ingrid and their parents, we start to see the flaws in the family dynamics. In addition, we are drawn forward by the knowledge that there is a family secret to eventually be revealed.
Not a gripping story but entertaining for the astute observations that Ms Lively provides. We are the fly on the wall as these nine people interact through the years. ( )
  DubaiReader | Jan 17, 2014 |
Predictable family drama. ( )
  Elpaca | Dec 1, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
In 16 distinct chapters, from various, smoothly spliced points of view, Lively moves back and forth through the family's history, filling in events that explain apparently casual references....

The success of these chapters is uneven, but several of them are brilliant, full of glancing humor and spot-on truths about the way families maintain the peace through a process of willful ignorance and disciplined forgetfulness.
added by zhejw | editWashington Post, Ron Charles (Nov 18, 2009)
 
Lively immediately plunges us into an entirely convincing world of bustling family life, yet at the same time keeps her distance with lethally sharp observations, and a tendency to watch more effectively than to inhabit. The novel follows no linear progression and has little plot: it swirls between memories, hints, and snapshots of later life, yet it is unflaggingly compelling....

Family Album manages to intrigue and delight, and to keep the reader captivated, racing along without obvious direction but with a very tight sense of purpose. The narrative is distanced to an extreme degree: we are reading an anthropological study of the English middle classes from the 1970s to the present, their traditions and tribal habits causing winces of delighted, uncomfortable recognition.
added by zhejw | editThe Guardian, Joanna Briscoe (Aug 8, 2009)
 
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Gina turned the car off the road and into the driveway of Allersmead.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
All Alison ever wanted was a blissful childhood for her six children, with summers at the beach and birthday parties on the lawn at their family home. Together with Ingrid, the family au pair, she has worked hard to create a real "old-fashioned family life." But beneath its postcard sheen, the picture is clouded by a distant father, Alison's inexplicable emotional outbursts, and long-repressed secrets that no one dares mention. For years, Alison's adult children have protected her illusion of domestic perfection-but as each child confronts the effects of past choices on their current adult lives, it becomes evident that each must face the truth.

Penelope Lively's novels of history, memory, and character have earned her a loyal readership. Like Ian McEwan's Atonement, this novel is a measured, thoughtful look at how events of the past, both small and large, seen and unseen, deeply inform character and the present. Quietly provocative and disturbing, Family Album is a highly nuanced work that showcases a master of her craft.
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All Alison ever wanted was a blissful childhood for her six children, with summers at the beach and birthday parties on the lawn at their family home. Together with Ingrid, the family au pair, she has worked hard to create a real old-fashioned family life. But beneath its postcard sheen, the picture is clouded by a distant father, Alison's inexplicable emotional outbursts, and long-repressed secrets that no one dares mention.… (more)

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