Review: The Guest Book

The Guest Book


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.

Rating: 4-stars


The Guest Book by Sarah Blake is an intriguing yet deep generational book. It spans three generations of women and their family story. A story so full of secrets, betrayals, and mistakes. The current generation of the privileged family is barely holding everything together. To add to the intensity secrets start coming out of the closet and a long pathway to sorting out the mess begins. It shows the true life of those with wealth and how they hold it over others. Power, wealth, and family are woven strongly in this novel. It was entertaining from the first chapter to the last. Guilty consciences, sorrow, grief, loss, and love is so deeply buried on every page. The atmosphere was heavy and dark. The characters were fascinating. I liked that they were not perfect.

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