The Guest Book


This book was rather exhausting, though I did enjoy it.  The setting is the family summer retreat on an island off the coast of Maine and it was delightful to read about anf reminiscent of my memories of what my husband’s family must have experienced at their summer home in Ipswich.  The memories that are encased in those kinds of summer retreats which include the generational factors, the secrets and longings, the jealousies and long kept anxieties are certainly a mark of those kinds of places.  I really enjoyed learning about the blue blood aristocratic Miltons in the twenties and thirties, amidst the depression, war and civil rights.  Kitty Milton, the matriach, watches as her four year old son falls out a window and dies.  She is overwrought by this and it carries throughout the whole novel with her and the remaining children.  However, they have decided “not to talk about it”. Then there is Joanie, a daughter who had epileptic fits…..and Evelyn and , of course, Moss.  Entr Len Levy, a Jew and Reg Pauling a black musician.  How do these characters fit in with the blue bloods?????  In intervening chapters, we are introduced to the grandchildren of the Milton’s who fight over whether they can afford to “keep” the island and whether they should.  

There is some beautiful prose in this novel.  The culminating chapter describing the traditional lobster bake is vividly wrought and Ogden's (patriarch) toast and dialog is quite lovely to read.

I recommend this book.  Be sure to read the Washington Post review of this book which is linked from the title above and also from here…...  “Is the end of an American dynasty a real tragedy?"