Ogden and Kitty Milton are a couple that have it all Wealth, privilege, love and the right lineage They suffer a tragedy early in the book and for that Kitty has a hard time coping To help snap Kitty out of it , Ogden buys her an island off the coast of Maine, where they can summer each year with their large family and use it as a place to repair and recover from immense grief We also read from the perspective of Moss, Joan and Evelyn their children and then Evie one of their granddaughters Evie is the grandchild that takes her love of the island the most seriously and when it becomes financially clear that it might not be possible for the island to stay in the family any longer, she puts everything on the line to keep it, even when she learns of controversial circumstances in which her grandparents acquired it The Guest Book must be read deliberately and at the right time as there is a lot to absorb If you read too fast you will miss the depth and nuanced ways in which Blake weaves together themes of entitlement, privilege, prejudice, racism, social injustice, idealism, love and family It really makes you look not only at the characters, but at yourself and your own family history through a different lens One of my favorite things about reading it, is that there were moments sprinkled within the book that seemed inconsequential at the time and then later on in the book these moments reappeared and it was like an emotion bomb was dropped If this weren t a library book, I would have been on a highlighting frenzy for all the brilliance that was put on display.
The writing was beyond fantastic and it was never something I tripped over What I loved so much outside of the love story was how thought provoking this was It really made me look deeply at myself and I think it raises some very interesting questions As the book and Milton generations progress, some members of the family begin to evolve and examine the circumstances that they are surrounded by The older generations did a lot of brushing their emotions under the rug that were unbecoming so as to appear respectable and not to create a fuss The truth of very consequential events were also hidden and purposely not talked about The regret this later caused and how this rippled through the family almost 100 years later put a burden on the grandchildren that they in my opinion were not willing to confront I will refrain from writing because I think it best to read this for yourself without being clouded by someone else s opinions Choose to read it for the family drama and historical fiction, but stay for the journey you will take in retrospect With his open American face, his frank American voice, one might think to oneself, There walks a good man A noble manHe appeared dashing and splendid He had the place and the power to make good, to do good And he did so He believed one could do right He had been raised to expect that one could His was the last generation for whom those givens remained as undisturbed as a silk purse Listen to me, Moss We have always been here at the center Always It s only that you ve just decided to take a look The bill is due, Reg pushed It is not coming due It is due And it must be paid or this shit will go on and on and on.
There s a stunning scene toward the beginning of Sarah Blake s new novel, The Guest Book, that follows a wealthy young mother gliding around New York and then to her elegant mansion in a charmingly choreographed dance of delight that ends with her 5 year old son falling from a window to his death.
Such a tragedy might shatter other families, but the Miltons are not other families Ogden and Kitty Milton are the union of America s bluest bloodlines, aristocrats who have provided a model of decorum to a grateful nation since they arrived on the Mayflower Always remember you are a Milton, a young scion is advised Not a Lowell Ogden guides the family s Wall Street firm with wisdom and discretion, just as Kitty manages their home.
As soon as they bury their son, everyone agrees that it s best not to mention it Best not to dwell on it Some things were better off left unsaid This is very much a novel about what is left unsaid, which is ironic considering that so much is said hundreds and hundreds of pages of repressed grief and strained smiles Despite its dramatic opening, the bulk of the story is far immersive than propulsive These are people who imagine their boutique blend of gold and goodness can protect them from the vicissitudes of life, even as their dynasty dissipates with each passing generation The Guest Book offers an exhaustive study of Brahmin pain, the suffering stoically endured by that class of people who ask each other, Where do you summer It s part of a long, distinguished line of beautiful costume dramas that allow us good liberals to luxuriate in the silken folds of privilege while reassuring ourselves that such privilege is doomed To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post https www.
com entert 4 starsA family saga spanning three generations, a story complicated by secrets that take decades to be revealed A privileged family, with money, a father so conscious of the family status reflected in the symbol of the island off the coast of Maine that he just has to buy it I want this place, he said quietly I want this house to be ours And everyone sailing by would know it stood for us It would mean something They d see it and think, there s the Milton place Kitty and Ogden Milton The Milton s of Crockett s Island The mother s belief that they are somehow better, know better and are above anything even prejudice But it s a self delusion really, as they harbor deep seated bias and prejudice that they don t show outwardly But, Kitty s son Moss knows things need to change Why are we here How did we get here To this point in time The situation with the Negroes Dad was talking as if it didn t matter what the television show was called, just that the blacks were sounding off.
But why are they sounding off It s the why that has us here The show was called The Hate That Hate Produced Len Levy, the young Jewish man who works for Ogden and falls in love with his daughter knows It was a game, wasn t it, after all Come and visit, if you re up there anyway, come and see us You went to Columbia, you went to Wall Street, but you were a visitor How could he have missed it He was a guest The Milton s, though are not above everything so no amount of their money or status could make them immune to tragedy, to unhappiness for some of them and there are some heartbreaking moments This started out a little slow for me, but then I found that I was so pulled in by wanting to know all of the things that had happened to get to the present day where the grandchildren of Ogden and Kitty Milton are in disagreement over what to do with the island I was pulled in by the writing as I was in a previous novel by Blake , The Postmistress There was one chapter, Chapter Twelve that depicts the house and the island and the family over the years so beautifully that I found myself highlighting long passages.
The alternating narrative focus on the family in the mid 1930 s, late 1950 s and then late 1990 s and reflect how the ideals of the family change as well as being a commentary on racism, antisemitism, class It is all of those things, but it is also a story of family and it a story of love stories It s a fairly lengthy book at almost 450 pages, but once I got the rhythm of the chapters which are not chronological, I couldn t stop reading the story of the Milton s of Crockett s Island.
I received an advanced copy of this book from Flatiron books though NetGalley.
Lovely writing, a historical family drama featuring generations of characters, a focus on important social themes related race and privilege Slow and a bit lengthy for my personal preference, but I can see many readers enjoying this overall.
Thank you to Flatiron books for generously mailing me an advance readers edition of Sarah Blake s The Guest Book In exchange, I agreed to share my honest thoughts on goodreads and my other favorite social media sites readtheguestbook This book is THE BOOK for general fiction in 2019 An amazing, brilliant read which will have the power of Steinbach An incredible read encompassing three generations, the origins and fall of the old wealth A book which comments on society and bigotry of pre war money, behavior and views on to the recent past This is a profound novel, one which holds you in thrall to the last page, the last word Reasons I enjoyed this book Easy to readEntertainingGreat world buildingHauntingInformativeInspirationaloriginalPage turnerRomanticRealisticScarySteamyTear jerkerTragicTwistedUnpredictableWhimsicalWittyWonderful characters
Privilege Secrets History Family.
The Guest Book is a sweeping tale of three generations of the Milton family This book moves back and forth in time, showcasing secrets and consequences This book showcases old money, racism, glamour, status, opulence, limelight, privilege, power, choices, inequality, and the economic divide Each generation showcases the mindset of not only the family but society at large With each new generation comes acceptance, awareness, growth and change But is it enough Time changes, society changes, the beliefs of society changes, but seriously is it enough What happens to a family that has it all heck, they even own their own island and over time becomes a family desperately trying to hold on to it When a family feels their privilege but doesn t want to lose it The family home ahem, island has been handed down, but so has elitism, racism and antisemitism What happens when change occurs What happens when you look back at your heritage What happens when you learn certain truths about your family What happens when secrets come out This book started slowly for me and I admit it took me a long time to get through this book In the beginning, there were times I felt this book was painfully slow and then I would put it down and pick up another book But I trudged along and soon found myself enjoying it This book is told through three POVs in three different times The book is a family saga but also looks at class, racism lots of racism , inequality, and how choices made in the past can still be felt in the present.
Well written and thought provoking We pass a lot of things down in families our grandmothers broach, or our grandfathers service medals, a wedding dress, pictures, art, etc But we also pass down our stories, our actions, our words, our beliefs The next generation is always watching, learning, absorbing, and this book is a good example of how we pass down things some unintentionally and some covertly The book shows not only how the Milton family changed but how society itself has changed Again, thought provoking Slow to start but won me over This is not a book to speed through, take your time, absorb it, ponder it, think about the issues this book brings up, and maybe examine your own family history.
Thank you to Sarah Blake and Flat Iron book who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review All the thoughts and opinions are my own.
Not rating itBut also not going to finish it It s rare for me to mention a book I ve not finished a few times some books I read and don t even mark let alone review because it was OK or I just didn t feel like writing anything or there are already TONS of reviews and I don t feel I have much to add But this book has me wondering I just can t seem to care enough about it enough Could be the HOT WEATHER lol 100 degrees here for days If my local book club picks it I ll try again but for now glad many people liked itI m going to say goodbye to it for now.
The Guest Book is epic in its scope covering three generations of a larger than life, well to do American family In the beginning of the story, it s 1935 Kitty and Ogden Milton have all the best in life adorable children, beautiful appearances, and the perfect relationship with each other A tragedy happens, and Ogden attempts to soothe Kitty by buying an island for her in Maine That house holds such importance for the family in the present and the future It s also where Kitty proclaims something that will never be forgotten, the effects of which potentially rippling down to her grandchildren s generation Years later, in 1959, Len Levy, is employed by Ogden s bank Ogden and one of his daughters accept and admire Len, but no one else does Not only do they not like him, they despise him Why Because he s Jewish On top of that, Len s best friend is a black man, often the only black man in the room in social gatherings, at college, and in the Milton s Maine house Moving along, in the late 1990s, the Miltons can no longer afford to own the island Kitty s grandchildren may have to sell it, but one of her granddaughters, Evie, refuses to accept this Her husband uncovers a scandal related to Ogden, and now she realizes the potential root of all the secrets embedded in her family The Guest Book blends past and present in a powerful narrative addressing multi generational racism in all its insidiousness The writing is beautiful, and the themes are absolutely thought provoking Sarah Blake isn t afraid to go to the bold places The Guest Book stirred my emotions making me think and feel and examine As each generation of the Milton family goes on to become aware of racism and privilege, is that awareness ever enough Or can they we always continue to grow and open our minds and work to make the chasms in our society smaller It was a fascinating and intelligent view on this topic that certainly illuminated many points for self reflection Overall, The Guest Book is an important look at the evolution of society over time, as reflected in one privileged family, and just how slow that process can be How do we fix the transgressions of the past I received a complimentary copy All opinions are my own My reviews can also be found on my blog and instagram www.