All Alison ever wanted for her six children was a blissful childhood.
Together with Ingrid, the family au pair, she transformed a shabby Edwardian
mansion into a veritable shrine of togetherness, complete with special-occasion
dinners on exquisite Limoges china and elegant birthday parties on the
estate's sprawling lawns. For explosive Paul, precocious Gina, pretty
Sandra, adventurous Katie, clever Roger, and flighty Clare, their home
seemed the perfect place to grow up. But was it?
Alison has perfected the persona of devoted wife and doting mother;
Ingrid has been her willing accomplice in shielding everyone from unsightly
truths. Beneath the postcard sheen, however, this picture is clouded
by a distant father, 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 they return
one by one to their former home, they confront the effects of past choices
on their current adult lives. Once family mysteries begin to unravel,
each must grapple with new and difficult truths.
Quietly provocative and utterly compelling, Family Album is a highly
nuanced work that showcases a master of her craft.
Praise for FAMILY ALBUM
Alison wants the world to know that she presides over a large, happy,
close-knit family. She and her distracted, uninvolved scholarly husband,
Charles, have a brood of six who, along with Ingrid, the au pair, fill
Allersmead, a somewhat worn, sprawling Edwardian English manse. Through
the masterly use of emotional intricacies, Lively gradually reveals
the simmer beneath the surface that belies the image of unity Alison
has insisted on for decades, both within the family framework and without,
to the world at large. Tradition and a sense of duty compel the adult
children to return to Allersmead over the years, and it is through the
mature observations of their childhood traumas (along with those of
Alison, Charles, and Ingrid) that one learns the true cost of the shared
and separate secrets that have informed their grownup lives as well
as their relationships to one another. No doubt frazzled mothers of
much smaller families will find comfort in Lively's probing, challenging
take on large family life and maternal competence. Lively's 17th adult
novel is a wonderful follow-up to Gil Courtemanche's A Good Death.
Library Journal, 10/15/2009
Employing her trademark skill at honing detail and dialogue, Lively
(Moon Tiger) delivers a vigorous new novel revolving around a house
outside of London, the sprawling Edwardian homestead of Allersmead,
and the family of six children who grew up there.
By degrees-in shifting POVs and time periods cutting from the 1970s
until the present-Lively introduces the prodigious Harper family. There's
Alison, the frazzled matriarch, who married young and pregnant, and
persuaded her historian husband to buy Allersmead; distracted father
Charles, who writes recherché tomes in his study and can't remember
what ages his children are; and the children, who range from the wayward
eldest and mother's favorite, Paul, to the youngest, Clare, whose parentage
involves a family secret concerning Ingrid, the Scandinavian au pair.
Lively adeptly focuses on the second-oldest, Gina, a foreign journalist
who planned her life to stay far away from home until, at age 39, fellow
journalist Philip goads her to contemplate settling down for the first
time. With its bountiful characters and exhaustive time traveling, Lively's
vivisection of a nuclear family displays polished writing and fine character