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The Guest Book


"An American epic in the truest sense…"
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Discuss The Guest Book by Sarah Blake:
Overall, what did you think of The Guest Book?

Created: 07/02/19

Replies: 26

Posted Jul. 02, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 1830

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Overall, what did you think of The Guest Book?

Overall, what did you think of The Guest Book?


Posted Jul. 08, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Tired Bookreader

Join Date: 08/19/11

Posts: 109

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RE: Overall, what did you think of The Guest Book?

I felt 'The Guest Book' took us on a long journey to an unfinished story. It took forever to know what the true storyline was; and to be honest, I didn't realize it until after finishing the book and thinking about it for a few days. It never occurred to me that Nazi sympathizers might be thriving in the United States and that their lives could go untouched while such horror was happening in the world.

It was a story that needed to be told; however, this is not the book to make anyone fully realize the effects on anyone's life because of it.


Posted Jul. 08, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
elizabethk

Join Date: 06/11/11

Posts: 17

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Guest Book?

Overall, I liked it. I think each part reflected the times the characters lived in...I don’t have to like all their attitudes to see that.


Posted Jul. 08, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
ruthiea

Join Date: 02/03/14

Posts: 153

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RE: Overall, what did you think of The Guest Book?

I enjoyed the writing and the historic details. As a cottage owner I enjoyed reading about what the island meant to the family. However I found the story vague, and much too drawn out. I was often confused as to who was "talking" as the narrations changed from person to perso and era to era in each chapter. I prefer alternating chapters. I felt that the author tried to cover too many issues - the insight into the Old Money WASP culture, discrimination, feminism, Nazi issues, etc. Because of this I felt none of the issues were well explored. I also felt that many of the characters were overly stereotypical.
I wish an editor had encouraged the author to narrow her focus and delve deeper into fewer storylines because she can write! Some sentences were just beautiful!


Posted Jul. 08, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Marie De

Join Date: 03/14/17

Posts: 14

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Guest Book?

I agree in part with what ruthlea said. The book did cover many issues, but I think that not going into depth about the issues is justifiable because the book is not so much about the particular issues as it is about past injustices— how one is affected by the past and our responsibility for atoning for and / or compensating for it.


Posted Jul. 08, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dianac

Join Date: 04/02/13

Posts: 49

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Guest Book?

I liked it. However, I feel 1/4 of the book could have been eliminated and it still would have had the desired effect.


Posted Jul. 08, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
katherinep

Join Date: 07/16/14

Posts: 174

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RE: Overall, what did you think of The Guest Book?

It was okay but played the same tired WASP vs all others theme much too much. I am not sure Ogden was a Nazi sympathizer and he actually seemed to believe while in Germany that the Fuhrer was someone who could not possibly win universal support there. Now, Coco Chanel et al in Paris--there were Nazi sympathizers. No, 5 anyone? Sorry, but mea culpas for the actions of prior generations just don't sit well with me,


Posted Jul. 08, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
candacef

Join Date: 12/02/15

Posts: 4

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Guest Book?

After reading the short description of the book I thought I was going to love it. I usually like generational stories. It held my attention at the beginning but the further I got into it the less interested I became. There were parts of the novel that I enjoyed but when I hit other parts they just seemed boring. It became a task to read so I wouldn't be able to give it a very high rating.


Posted Jul. 08, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dorothyl

Join Date: 04/15/12

Posts: 101

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RE: Overall, what did you think of The Guest Book?

I think this book was a very good first draft but it was much too long. Too many marginal characters and unclear time shifts. This novel needed a good editor! There were parts that were interesting but some of the characters were stereotypical.


Posted Jul. 08, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
LisaBB

Join Date: 05/12/19

Posts: 3

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Guest Book?

I liked the book a lot; more than I expected I would in fact. I was initially uncertain if I would find much to relate to in the WASPy characters, but the author delved into some really compelling themes that are totally universal - family, gender and race, complicity and regret, etc. And the prose itself was really lovely. I underlined a lot of passages I wanted to go back and read again. As the book progressed, I ended up relating to some of the characters a lot more than I thought I would initially, and I think that shows a lot of skill on the author's part.


Posted Jul. 09, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
JohnA

Join Date: 07/08/19

Posts: 3

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Guest Book?

Overall, I did not think that this novel rose to high levels of accolades that were given it. The metaphorical language used seemed forced and overused. For example, the character, Moss is an aspiring songwriter who is trying to write a song which will bring harmony to mankind. I felt that the writer brought up this metaphor over and over to the point where I felt that it was worn out and ineffective. To me it kinda felt a little cheesy. As other discussion group members have noted, I believe this novel was way to lengthy. The final party at the end of the novel seemed unending and I was bored ad nauseum with the minute unnecessary details.


Posted Jul. 09, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
victoriac

Join Date: 05/31/19

Posts: 4

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Guest Book?

As I said in my review when I finished, it just didn’t do it for me. I found the story moderately interesting, but my dislike of the characters kept me from getting more engaged. I’m okay with an unlikeable character here and there, I can’t think of one character in this tale that didn’t rub me the wrong way. I was really disappointed that I didn’t enjoy this more. And it’s length just made my dislike more pronounced! I kept wishing for it to be over.


Posted Jul. 10, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
SusanC.

Join Date: 03/25/13

Posts: 28

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Guest Book?

I am a bit more than half way through but I am chomping at the bit to respond to this question. I find the writing to be beautiful in some spots (I have underlined sentences for their sheer perfection). I do agree with everyone else that this book needed a tough editor. It did not have to be so long and yes, like other readers I am longing to find out the result of being a Nazi sympathizer. Ms. Blake takes too long to get to the point. I will finish it but I really wish they took out about 100 pages. I will come back once I have finished. Interested to get to the party scene everyone is talking about.


Posted Jul. 10, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
bestmartin's Gravatar
bestmartin

Join Date: 02/20/13

Posts: 85

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RE: Overall, what did you think of The Guest Book?

I agree with so many of the comments and yet I really liked it. It definitely was too long and jumped around a lot but—- having said that I enjoyed reading it and lost myself in all the stories and details. I really wanted to find out what happened to all the characters.


Posted Jul. 10, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
PiperUp

Join Date: 10/27/15

Posts: 123

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RE: Overall, what did you think of The Guest Book?

I thought that the author did a fantastic job of writing for the time period of the story, especially with expressing the tensions at the time with respect to race/religion and how African Americans and Jewish people weren't really accepted but were instead faced with discrimination expressed 'politely' &/or in an unspoken manner.
There were also some beautifully written lines in the book.
However, I do agree with others that it took a long time for the plot to begin to unfold & was in need of more editing.


Posted Jul. 10, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
marionw

Join Date: 05/26/18

Posts: 2

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Guest Book?

I agree with many of the previous readers: too many "isms". We encountered isolationism, racism, antisemitism, and elitism. (The latter especially rankled! I'd gone to work as a "mother's helper" for a wealthy family in a lovely cottage; I was fifteen, and quit the job after one day, the final blow being when I was told that I was not to read that day's newspaper but was to wait until the next day to see it!)
The Guest Book featured way too many Evelyns!; and the shifts in chronology I found distracting. Personally, I like a book which I can put down, and then turn to later without wondering about whom I'm reading. And I don't like feeling bleak when I've finished.


Posted Jul. 12, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
johnw

Join Date: 03/11/12

Posts: 61

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RE: Overall, what did you think of The Guest Book?

I enjoy historical fiction multi-generational family novels. As indicated previously I found the subject timely in light of the renewed discussions on reparations for descendants of slaves. While I wish several characters had been more developed, I realize sometimes when you try to span generations you need multiple books dedicated to the subject to do it justice. That said, I really enjoyed the book and found it to be one of my best reads this year.


Posted Jul. 12, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Harley's Mom

Join Date: 02/21/19

Posts: 12

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Guest Book?

While I liked this multi-generation family saga, I didn't love it. This could have been at least 100 pages shorter without losing any of the story line. The abrupt time shifts were awkward, particularly when they occurred in the middle of a chapter. While I got a better sense of some characters than others, I don't think any of the main characters were covered in depth. The book seemed overly descriptive, yet underdeveloped in exploring some of the major topics--sexism, racism, etc. I agree with some of the others commenting that this book needed much better editing.


Posted Jul. 13, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
SusanC.

Join Date: 03/25/13

Posts: 28

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Guest Book?

I finished the book about an hour ago and want to append my impression I wrote after reading half. I loved the Guest Book. Yes it was long, meandering and at times a bit frustrating (get to the point already) but it was a satisfying ending to me. I loved the fact that Evie was Len’s biological daughter and loved that Reg was the one who told her the truth. I understand why Reg gave up his share of the cottage, only horrible memories for him. While Ms. Blake never came out and said it, I knew that Reg and Moss were in love. Of course that was a frightening fact in 1959 and Ms. Blake gave it the appropriate treatment keeping them closeted. I did like that Kitty figured it out, just hated her for kicking Reg and Len out when she knew they were in love with her children.


Posted Jul. 15, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
annl

Join Date: 04/03/17

Posts: 31

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Guest Book?

The book is a pleasant read. I could draw a picture of the island and surroundings, and the traditions established there.
Personally, I dont like to feel that someone else is trying to form opinions for me, especially pertaining to social or political issues, and at times, this book falls into that category. It is certainly accurate as to how non WASP folks were treated in those times. It would be nice for a change to celebrate how far forward it has come in so many instances, instead of dwelling on the negative.
The characters felt as if they were developed to justify the messages, instead of being real people.
I never did understand how the death of the child early in the book precipitated the actions of the island’s folks.


Posted Jul. 15, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
ilenem

Join Date: 04/17/19

Posts: 4

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Guest Book?

I thought that the writing was beautiful. I really enjoy books where I ponder over paragraphs and re-read them because of the writing. It was a difficult book for me because I am Jewish and gay. The overpowering sentiments held in the 1930's (and even today to some extent) by WASPs in the USA were and are disgusting and depressing. Given the current day politics, this book hit home even more. The fact that Ogden earned his money and bought the island with Nazi money showed that money, as always, trumps moral and ethical choices. Kitty may have regretted not saving the young boy, but she showed her true colors by not allowing the love relationships of her children to progress.


Posted Jul. 15, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dianaps

Join Date: 05/29/15

Posts: 336

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RE: Overall, what did you think of The Guest Book?

The author's other two books "Grange House" and "The Postmistress" were much better written so I was a bit disappointed with this one. I wish she had given the chapters names to make it easier to know when and where we were and to create smoother transition.


Posted Jul. 17, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
lloyden

Join Date: 07/17/19

Posts: 1

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Guest Book?

I liked the book, but as others said, it did jump around. Our family recently let go of a beach house that had been in our family for over 100 years to my mother's boyfriend who didn't give a whit about the history or the people who had lived in the house for generations. He sold it and never looked back.

I do get tired of the worn out WASP viewpoint by others. I believe that we moved past that several decades ago. All in all a good book, read well and I enjoyed it.


Posted Jul. 17, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
anniep

Join Date: 04/10/12

Posts: 2

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Guest Book?

I loved the writiing and expressions in this book! I found many thoughts that given the chance I would make into fridge magnets or pillows, they really hit home for me. The segueing from age to age without any acknowledgment to the shift threw me for a loop - I never could follow all the characters or times without a great deal of confusion. I should have written them down at the beginning, but at the beginning I didn't realize I would have to. Many of the attitudes of the women in the early parts were very similar to what we have in the South even today. I'm sorry the story didn't take the attitudes and mores of the families to a greater understanding of today's world, although understanding today's world is not a pleasant journey. The death of the first little boy was a tragedy but it only lingered in the minds of a couple of characters, casting a pall over many of the attitudes toward future characters without talking about it. I'd go crazy with self-doubt in this family!


Posted Jul. 18, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
marthas

Join Date: 03/02/17

Posts: 17

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Guest Book?

I enjoyed this book and agree with others that it was too long. Better editing could have tightened it up and still allowed for the generational stories. I was frustrated about Moss's life and wondered if his sibs knew he was having such difficult issues. I do think there was an unspoken Nazi influence in the older generation. I remember asking my mother how her generation could have ignored the Nazi damage done in Germany and elsewhere (her family was of German background). Her answer was that the US didn't know what was really happening in Europe and thought that what they did know could have been rumors. I thought of her answer to me as I read the sections on the older generation. I particularly liked the generational links.


Posted Jul. 18, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
beckyk

Join Date: 02/13/19

Posts: 5

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Guest Book?

I enjoyed the book as a whole. Rather than viewing it as a story of later generations "atoning" for the sins of previous generations, I saw it as a story of each new generation of a family becoming more open and accepting than the generation that preceded it. Attitudes and beliefs can change, even if it happens more slowly than we hope.


Posted Jul. 22, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
nanette s

Join Date: 05/06/12

Posts: 15

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Guest Book?

On a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the best, I rate his book an even 3. The story gave me a New York City feel while reading it. I did feel the "WASPYness" of the story. I didn't relate to any of the characters in this story, yet it kept me interested enough to keep reading. I usually enjoy family sagas, yet this story felt a little disjointed. It took me awhile to figure out the timeline and characters involved once I started each new chapter. Although I did enjoy the story, I felt like I was only getting glimpses of each character and their beliefs.


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