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Family Album by Penelope Lively (2009)

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Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
Penelope Lively is one of my favorite authors, and this novel did not disappoint. Gina, the oldest daughter of Alison & Charles, brings her partner Philip to meet her parents and stay the weekend at her childhood home, Allersmead. Philip, an only child, is fascinated by Gina and her five siblings, and begins to draw stories out of her. It’s obvious Gina’s family has more than its share of dysfunction, but most of it is masked until Lively expertly reveals a detail, and until those details start to add up and connect. As each family member’s character is developed, Lively shows how the same incident can affect each person in radically different ways. And of course there was a huge family secret which was a constant, unspoken presence which everyone pretended to ignore.

This was an excellent character study with a few “aha moments” in the storyline, making for a quick and satisfying read. ( )
  lauralkeet | Jul 1, 2017 |
Not as engaging as the other books by Lively.Hidden secrets in the childhood past of the 6 siblings come forward at an adult reunion. The father's dysfunctional distancing and the mother's efforts at pretending everything was all 'happy families' come unravelled. ( )
  SandyAMcPherson | Jun 19, 2017 |
I have enjoyed other novels by Lively but can't count this one among them. The topic was insubstantial: a family built on what the mother believed to be the ideal family, large, happy, close, with lots of traditions to maintain and keep them in touch with her stereotypical idea of a model family, which of course this family is definitely not. While most of the characters were unpleasant and without depth, the father, who had very little presence at all in the story, still managed to be the most unpleasant. While reading this I was reminded of the type of people I dislike most. But it was Lively's writing style, harsh and staccato with short abrupt sentences, that condemned this book for me. ( )
1 vote VivienneR | Jan 4, 2017 |
Was disappointed with this book. Not sure why I even read it, it was so boring. You would be reading the book in a narrative voice and then all of a sudden it would be in the first person of one of the characters. It was very disjointed and just blah. ( )
  MHanover10 | Jul 10, 2016 |
families, who'd have them. A large family dynamic well portrayed. ( )
  Helenliz | May 30, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 32 (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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