The O'Briens: Book summary and reviews of The O'Briens by Peter Behrens

The O'Briens

A Novel

By Peter Behrens

The O'Briens
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  • Published in USA  Mar 2012,
    400 pages.

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Book Summary

An unforgettable saga of love, loss, and exhilarating change spanning half a century in the lives of a restless family.

The O'Briens is a family story unlike any you have read, a tale that pours straight from the heart of a splendid, tragic, ambitious clan. In Joe O'Brien - backwoods boy, railroad magnate, patriarch, brooding soul - Peter Behrens gives us a fiercely compelling character who exchanges isolation and poverty in the Canadian wilds for a share in the dazzling possibilities and consuming sorrows of the twentieth century.

When Joe meets Iseult Wilkins in Venice-by-the-Sea, California, the story of their courtship - told in Behrens's gorgeous, honed style - becomes the first movement in a symphony of the generations. The O'Briens is the story of a marriage and a family moving through history - from the first flying machines, through two world wars, to the election of JFK - told with epic precision and wondrous imagination.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Moments of grace and romance are rocked by cruel words and violence in this epic, a piece of rough beauty itself." - Publishers Weekly

"Illuminating.... An epic along the lines of Middlesex in the way it follows a family through time and examines the results of their actions.... A brooding novel, engrossing in its scope and detail, The O'Briens keeps sight of the family's personal stories amid the larger history of much of the twentieth century." - Booklist

"Behrens's characters are engaging and the history of the various cities, budding industries, and wars expertly handled." - Library Journal

"Peter Behrens's family saga The O'Briens (Pantheon) spans the first half of the Canadian twentieth century, finding a parallel epic in an unforgettable narrative of marriage." - Vogue.com

"Impressive in its scope and ambitious in its goals. Some of [the] descriptions are flat-out jaw-dropping... In giving his family a past few of them knew existed, Behrens has made The O'Briens unforgettably alive." - Globe and Mail (UK)

"A distinctly twentieth-century family epic... Pitch-perfect." - National Post (Canada)

"Having read both Buddenbrooks and The O'Briens this summer, I can affirm they are definitely in the same league - great, juicy tales that will make you take a second look at annoying relatives. They are, after all, part of the big picture, otherwise known as history and destiny." - The Gazette (Montreal)

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More Information

Peter Behrens continues the family saga he started with The Law of Dreams, the tale of Fergus O'Brien, who fled the Irish potato famine and came to Montreal in the 1840s. Find him online at www.peterbehrens.org.

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