cover image Commonwealth


Ann Patchett, read by Hope Davis. HarperAudio, , unabridged, 9 CDs, 10.5 hrs., $39.99 ISBN 978-0-06-256172-5

In Patchett’s domestic tale, a stolen kiss at a christening party in the 1960s leads to a new blended family of six stepsiblings whom the novel follows over 50 years. Reader Davis, a well-known actress and frequent contributor to the radio program Selected Shorts, boasts a robust resume, but her vocal performance for this title is uneven. On the plus side, Davis’s gentle and unpretentious voice is pleasant, and fits well with the muted emotional climate of the family. But in Davis’s reading, it’s hard to distinguish between the six siblings, and as a result the story as a whole falls flat. Only Caroline, the oldest and most combative of the children, comes across as uniquely individual. In a novel that depends so heavily on dialogue and characterization, Davis’s monochromatic performance fails to realize the richness of Patchett’s careful observations. A Harper hardcover. (Sept.)