The Guest Book: Book summary and reviews of The Guest Book by Sarah Blake

The Guest Book

A Novel

by Sarah Blake

The Guest Book by Sarah Blake X
The Guest Book by Sarah Blake
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  • Publishes in USA 
    May 7, 2019
    448 pages
    Genre: Novels

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About this book

Book Summary

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 twenty-first 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, Sarah Blake's The Guest Book looks at the racism and power that has been systemically embedded in the U.S. for generations.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Sarah Blake is such a beautiful writer she can make any world shimmer, but The Guest Book is particularly fascinating―an intergenerational exploration of memory, identity, love, and family loyalty―of what it costs to inherit a name, a place, and a difficult alignment with history. Powerful and provocative storytelling." - Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife and Love and Ruin

"I loved The Guest Book. Sarah Blake has managed the extraordinary feat of writing both an intimate family saga and an ambitious excavation of the subterranean currents of race, class, and power that have shaped America. This is a vivid, transporting novel, written by a master conjuror of time and place." - Jessica Shattuck, New York Times bestselling author of The Women in the Castle

"Sarah Blake's powerful, beautifully written story portrays a couple's secret choices that come to haunt succeeding generations. The Guest Book is richly atmospheric and morally compelling in a way that stirs the mind long after the last page." - Nancy Horan, author of Loving Frank and Under the Wide and Starry Sky

"Spanning three generations of Miltons, The Guest Book deserves a spot on your summer TBR in 2019." - Bustle

The information about The Guest Book shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

Write your own review

Esther L. (Newtown, PA)

Not To Be Missed
Thank you to BookBrowse for sharing this wonderful book with me. It was beautifully written and the characters were human and deeply compelling.

The book follows the Milton family through three generations from 1935 until the present. Kitty and Ogden are from prominent, upper crust New York families. Ogden runs a private bank that he inherited from his family and Kitty is a devoted wife and mother, both believing that perfect manners and their insular and quiet life are what matter most.

1959 brings both a Jewish man and a black man into their orbit and their prejudices are shown. The author uses the stereotypical mannerisms for both men. Len being gregarious, money grubbing and noisy and not knowing his place in their polite society. Reg is portrayed as the angry black man.

I finished The Guest Book wanting to start reading it again. It's a perfect discussion book for my book club.

Barbara L. (Novato, CA)

The Gust Book
Wow... just finished this wonderful book and I miss it already. Beautifully written, this story is of love, class, race and our own individual blindness to all of these. The setting on The Island makes the perfect backdrop for the tale of sameness and change. I loved it.

M K. (Minneapolis, MN)

History Through Many Vantage Points
From the first paragraph on the first page I was hooked by how beautifully written this book is. The Guest Book by Sarah Blake is about the Miltons, starting in 1935, and their history is about wealth (including an island they bought off the coast of Maine), power, tragedy, and secrets. Through nearly five hundred pages, like any detective, I was curious as to how each character would evolve while all that happens within the family is shadowed by a World War that's going on and the racism against Blacks and Jews that permeated our country. From the first words to the last words I was not disappointed.

Jean B. (Naples, FL)

The Guest Book
If you have ever believed you could write you will feel diminished by this novelist. Sarah Blake is an extraordinary writer. Her prose enables the reader to know the people in her novel and to see and feel the settings. But this novel, The Guest Book, is much more than beautiful descriptive writing. It is an indictment of a group of wealthy and entitled citizens. This is an important novel.

Mary B. (Laguna Woods, CA)

Great historical fiction
This book follows the Milton family through 3 generations from 1935 to today. Grandmother Kitty has many rules the upper class live by and these lead to secrets that almost tear the family apart. I found the alternate chapters in different time periods hard to follow in the beginning, especially since two of the main women are named Evelyn & Evie. The last part of the book is hard to put down. It would make for good discussion in a book club.

Ariel F. (Madison, WI)

A three generation saga
Can money, greed, mistakes, and lack of trust destroy a family? The author of The Guest Book, showed the reader extremely well how money, greed and lack of trust can destroy a family in this 3-generation saga of the Milton family. In some instances, I felt some of the incidents could be tied to things happening today.
A great big thank you to Book Browse and the publisher for providing me with this advanced reading copy of The Guest House to read and review and provide my personal opinions and comments.

...10 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Sarah Blake Author Biography

Photo: Liz Norton

Sarah Blake is an American writer. Her debut novel Grange House, set in Victorian era Maine, was published in 2001. Her second, The Postmistress, a story set in Second World War Massachusetts and London, was published in 2010.

Blake taught school and college-level English in Colorado and New York for several years and has taught fiction workshops at institutions including the University of Maryland and George Washington University.

Sarah Blake lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband, the poet Josh Weiner, and their two sons.

Author Interview

Other books by Sarah Blake at BookBrowse
  • The Postmistress jacket
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