Kindle ☱ Family Album ☣

Although most critics acknowledged that Family Album was not her best work, they thoroughly enjoyed Lively s latest tale of middle class family dysfunction, a theme that fans will recognize from earlier novels Lively is particularly skilled at exploring the small, seemingly inconsequential details of domestic life with an authenticity that will have readers cringing with empathy There is a foreshadowed family secret that comes to light than halfway through the novel it s effective, but not as dark and foreboding as a weary reader might be expecting On the technical side, several reviewers were distracted by Lively s constant mixing of first and third person narratives and past and present tenses So you ll have to pay attention Nevertheless, Family Album was considered an entertaining, highly readable addition to Lively s venerable body of work This is an excerpt from a review published in Bookmarks magazine. It s rare that I give up on a book I managed to plod through to the end of this blunder of a read, but for naught The only properly developed character was the house, thus the title should have been Allersmead If it had been, I might have known to skip it It was a pained experience from which I learned nothing and enjoyed little. Kindle ♩ Family Album ☦ A Novel Of Family Intrigue From One Of The Most Accomplished Writers Of Fiction Of Our Day The Washington Post 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 Hmm, did I miss something Because I didn t find this novel quietly devastating, as the NY Times reviewer called it Rather, I found it plodding and very staged Perhaps I m inured by too many memoirs of dramatic domestic dysfunction I was sincerely moved by the chapter narrated by the eldest son, Paul, and surprised by the empathy Lively shows each of her characters, but it amounts to little than a collection of roughly drawn character studies. My only other Lively experience was How It All Began, her latest, which I LOVED This was different, sombre and conventional The story of a family mother, father, six now grown kids, and the au pair who never left The main conceit of the book is that families are not what they seem That s not exactly a stunning revelation, but this secret is interestingly juicy And Lively is great both on dialogue and on the intricacies of how people relate to one another I thought the most interesting part of the novel was the way that Alison, the mother, understood family and her role within it She had the husband and thus the money to allow family to be her everything But that meant making a lot of sacrifices and turning many a blind eye when things didn t turn out quite as she had planned I also loved the relationship between Corinna and Martin husband s sister and her partner, both academics and the husband, a writer of popular non fiction Lively absolutely nailed the disdain that each had for the other. Penelope Lively s books are always a pleasure This one, written about a large family six children who grow up in a huge and rambling turn of the century house, is a prismatic glimpse into the experience of each of the characters the children, parents, and the au pair The upshot, at least for me, is that memory is potent and highly individual An experience may be shared, but each participant can come away from it with a profoundly different perspective, and those perspectives will likely shape their lives and world view in radically different ways No two or three or four siblings experience their childhood in exactly the same way. What a stroke of luck Had in the back of my mind to get round to reading some Penelope Mortimer and browsing the selection in the Wilmette library secondhand store I picked this up by mistake The wrong Penelope But it had a reassuring NY Times Notable book of the Year sticker on the cover and after a quick google search told me she was a past Booker winner, I decided to give this a read And how brilliant was it Very, very The story of a large family, six siblings all told from their different viewpoints from varying points in time Cleverly constructed so you get hints of things that happened in the past, hearing about the fallout and then it cuts back so details are revealed And then a different sibling has a different take Its such a great portrayal of a large, dysfunctional aren t we all family I m so thrilled I made this error and discovered an excellent writer Very English in the best sense. Family Albumis the sixteenth novel Penelope Lively has written for adults As the title suggests, it is a series of snapshots, episodes from the life of an upper middle class family Charles, the father, is a writer who, it seems, never wanted marriage and children and who spends the majority of his time hidden away in his study, working on his next book His wife, Alison, was the original 1960s Earth Mother whose whole life revolved around having and bringing up children The children have all, unfortunately for Alison, now grown up And then there s Ingrid, the Scandinavian au pair, still there after all these years One wonders why There are six children As the novel opens, they are all grown, and all bar Paul, the eldest and Alison s undisguised favourite, have flown the nest From afar, they remember snapshots from their childhood, but everyone has a slightly different angle on the past, a different version of the family s history Alison believes she was the perfect mother and that each of the children enjoyed a perfect upbringing in a perfect environment Charles seems to contradict her with his sarcastic comments and Ingrid keeps her views to herself, but it is only Allersmead, the family home, that sees the complete picture, knows the whole story Like any family, there are secrets no one talks about What really happened to Gina in the pond on her eighth birthday What went on downstairs in the cellar game, with its Forfits sic and Penalties Why is the au pair still there years after the children have grown And why did she disappear for so long when the children were still so young You can probably guess The way Lively illustrates the dynamics between the different members of the family at Allersmead is certainly the strong point of the novel And, up to a point, the characterisation is equally strong The point, though, is that there are almost too many characters for such a slim volume to fully explore Half of the children are well drawn while the other younger half are just there in the background, never quite fully forming on the page Peripheral observers, like Charles sister Corinna and her husband, are simply there to give a different point of view Even the house in which the family lived, Allersmead, which is intended to be a character in its own right, never quite makes it convincingly enough For me, the brushstrokes are too broad, too impressionistic And then when the secrets are revealed, they are less shocking than I imagine the author intended Some are predictable, others simply anticlimactic several times I thought, is that it One of the children, Roger, says to his wife who finds the family exotic , We were middle England, to the core There are thousands and thousands of households like Allersmead But then he thinks that might be so He was right first time I have to confess I discovered Penelope Lively late For some reason, I always thought I wouldn t like her writing, but I was completely entranced and emotionally moved by her previous offering Ultimately, though, I found this book something of an anticlimax. There is both good news and bad news about this book The good news is that it was only 200 pages The bad news is that it was 200 very boring pages I finished it, but barely, and I am hard pressed to think of a unpleasant 200 page book.While the concept was somewhat intriguing, the characters were so unpleasant, and the writing so trite, that it was a highly unpleasant reading experience The book was about what There didn t seem to be any particular plot while Jerry Seinfeld may have been able to make a fortune with a show about nothing, the concept didn t work as well in book form If you think about each chapter as a photo in an album, with a different character s memories of the event, it could have been a rather interesting little book Unfortunately, there was not a shade of nostalgia in the memories Real people, while looking through a family album, remember the good times and gloss over, or forget, the bad times These characters not only refused to forget the mostly imagined bad times, they wallowed in them.If I had been the mother character, Alison, and raised such tiresome, ungrateful brats as her adult children turned out to be, I would have shipped them off to boarding school and moved to India to join an ashram or something Yes, she was a bit of a pain but what mother isn t and their father was somewhat uninvolved, but they actually had a lovely upbringing, for which they were all completely ungrateful.And then we get to the triteness of the writing I find it hard to believe that Penelope Lively was a Booker finalist maybe it was a bad year for novels The writing was dreadful, in particular, relating to the mother Alison seemed to always be crying as in, speaking loudly, not actual tears This is a real family home, Alison cries You know that isn t true, Alison cries Alison seems to be crying at least 4 times on each page Surely, a Booker finalist should be able to come up with another descriptive term to indicate speaking loudly Alison also beams , glows , fizzes pink faced, runs herself to ground Runs herself to ground what is that Is she a fox trying to outrun the hounds This was my first Lively book, and will definitely be the last. This is one of those cases where many things that normally annoy me in books were forgiven because I liked the writing Not so much a story as a character sketch of a family and its members, Family Album reads like a series of snapshots Distant, self absorbed Charles is married to Allison, a mom on steroids if there ever was one, raising her large brood of six children The au pair, Ingrid, has been present since the children s babyhood and mysteriously never left, even though all the children have grown up and left home Despite or maybe because of Allison s overinvestment in raising a Happy Family at all costs, Paul has a history of drug addiction and is largely unsuccessful while the other adult children, though far successful than Paul, are spread all over the globe and not particularly connected to their family of origin There is also a Family Secret which gradually unfolds over the course of the book.This is a situation and not a story, with frequently shifting viewpoints and little plot I m normally pretty critical of books like these, but somehow this one worked for me I loved the writing, which managed to keep me interested in the book despite its flaws I also find that whereas books describing situations often tend to be burdened with excessive detail, here the details were well chosen and sparing and Penelope Lively never spent too much time on any one character or event So though there wasn t much of a plot, the book somehow moved and you never felt like you were wading through mud.This book is clearly not for everyone but I found it a pleasant and enjoyable read.