Fiction at its best: The Guest Book (Blake)

The Guest Book: A Novel

I read and enjoyed this author’s first novel, The Postmistress, so was thrilled to receive an e galley of her second novel, The Guest Book. The Guest Book was chosen as a Barnes and Noble book club read and it is easy to see why. This is the sort of novel that the reader wants to talk about with others who spent time getting to know the Miltons, their circle, and those who are on the outside of it.

The story covers three generations in a narrative that moves back and forth in time, beginning with Ogden and Kitty. They appear to literally own all that they could ever want, even including an island in Maine that is central to the book. The next generation includes Moss, Evelyn and Joan. Children who grew up with so much and who each make decisions about how they want to live in the world. Their children form the book’s third generation. Other important characters are Leonard, who is Jewish and Reg who is African American.

The world of these characters resembles the dance on the island late in the book. People dance with “their own” and occasionally with “others.” These interactions fuel the plot and thinking of the novel.

This is a story about those with power who casually dislike those who are not like them. So…can Leonard, who is Jewish, ever truly be with Joan? Is there a reason that Reg, who is African American does not sign the guest book of the title?

The reader spends much time with Kitty. No spoilers but several of her decisions, one casual and without awareness of the tragedy that will befall and one with knowledge of that but still a particular decision. The reader will be immersed in Kitty’s thoughts about the choices that she has made.

It can be easy to dislike some of the characters for their choices. The author tries to show that life and decisions are complex, made for reasons that are not always clear and may or may not be regretted. Ms. Blake has a message that she would like readers to take away. Around it, she creates a novel of considerable depth.

I highly recommend this one. Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an e galley in exchange for an honest review.

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