Sunday, February 28, 2021

The Guest Book by Sarah Blake ~ My Thoughts #TheGuestBook

The Guest Book

The Guest Book by Sarah Blake
Historical World War II Fiction, 490 pages
Published May 7th 2019 by Flatiron Books

An unforgettable love story, a novel about past mistakes and betrayals that ripple throughout generations, The Guest Book examines not just a privileged American family, but a privileged America. It is a literary triumph.

The Guest Book follows three generations of a powerful American family, a family that “used to run the world”.

And when the novel begins in 1935, they still do. Kitty and Ogden Milton appear to have everything—perfect children, good looks, a love everyone envies. But after a tragedy befalls them, Ogden tries to bring Kitty back to life by purchasing an island in Maine. That island, and its house, come to define and burnish the Milton family, year after year after year. And it is there that Kitty issues a refusal that will haunt her till the day she dies.

In 1959 a young Jewish man, Len Levy, will get a job in Ogden’s bank and earn the admiration of Ogden and one of his daughters, but the scorn of everyone else. Len’s best friend Reg Pauling has always been the only black man in the room—at Harvard, at work, and finally at the Miltons’ island in Maine.

An island that, at the dawn of the 21st century, this last generation doesn’t have the money to keep. When Kitty’s granddaughter hears that she and her cousins might be forced to sell it, and when her husband brings back disturbing evidence about her grandfather’s past, she realizes she is on the verge of finally understanding the silences that seemed to hover just below the surface of her family all her life.

An ambitious novel that weaves the American past with its present, The Guest Book looks at the racism and power that has been systemically embedded in the US for generations. Brimming with gorgeous writing and bitterly accurate social criticism, it is a literary tour de force. 

My thoughts about The Guest Book ~~ 

(I love to note the first lines of the books I'm reading. First lines can really grab a reader's attention and I love seeing where the author takes the reader after their first line.)

First line—"'It's the usual story,' the man at the tiller reflected, regarding the beautiful derelict on the hill. 'At the end of old money there is real estate.'"

This book has a lot of redeeming qualities—great characters, a wonderful setting, the multi-generational family with lots of issues. I love these multi-generational sagas which allow me to really connect with the family members and watch them grow, and hopefully mature with age. 

The only negative I have about the book is the jumping around that happened. Without warning, I found myself in another time and place and it took some thinking to figure out where and when the author was taking me. Maybe that was the author's intent, to make the reader think a bit more? But I found it distracting. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this story and appreciated the author's ability to show the social and racial norms of the time period. I look forward to the next book by this author. 

About the author

Sarah is the author of the novels, Grange House, the bestselling The Postmistress, and The Guest Book; a chapbook of poems, Full Turn, and the artist book Runaway Girls in collaboration with the artist Robin Kahn. 

She lives in Washington DC with her husband, the poet Joshua Weiner, their two sons, and a little white dog.

Connect with Sarah


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  1. I enjoyed The Guest Book on audio and got to meet the author! Glad you mostly liked it, too.

    Thanks for the thoughtful review -


    Book By Book

  2. I don't like jumping around in a book either -- I find it confusing when that happens!


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