The Guest Book (Barnes & Noble Book Club Edition)

The Guest Book (Barnes & Noble Book Club Edition)

by Sarah Blake

Hardcover(Barnes & Noble Book Club Edition)

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This Barnes & Noble Book Club Edition includes a personal essay from Sarah Blake, as well as a discussion guide.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250244239
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication date: 05/07/2019
Edition description: Barnes & Noble Book Club Edition
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 1,792
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Sarah Blake is the author of the novels Grange House and the New York Times bestseller The Postmistress. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two sons.


Washington, DC

Date of Birth:

December 10, 1960

Place of Birth:

New York, NY


BA Yale College, 1983; MA San Francisco State University, 1991; PhD. New York University, 1996

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The Guest Book 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 41 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very difficult to keep up with the characters, the different time periods and who was whose relative. Would not suggest for my book club.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Breathtakingly beautiful family story. I could not put it down. I fell in love with the Milton’s and their triumphs and heartbreaks in the midst of a stunning seashore setting
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The depth of the characters and the intricacies of the times were so well depicted.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
sjillis More than 1 year ago
Imperfect mothers have been on my mind today. There are some good ones—along with a fascinating family history—in THE GUEST BOOK. #ReadTheGuestBook #TheGuestBook #BookSharks #FlatironBooks In 1935, despite her husband’s frequent absences due to business in Germany, Kitty Milton is happy with her life on the Upper East Side. Until a tragedy takes their eldest child. Ogden Milton brings Kitty back to him by buying Crockett’s Island off the coast of Maine, which becomes Kitty’s refuge. There, their youngest child, Evelyn, is conceived. Twenty-four years later, the Miltons are celebrating Evelyn’s imminent marriage with a house party on the island. Moss Milton has invited two friends—Len Levy, an up & coming employee at the family firm, and Reg Pauling, an African-American photographer who is becoming Moss’s muse. Unfortunately, some of the Miltons and their WASP friends aren’t quite ready to socialize with a Jewish man and a black man. Particularly Kitty, who suspects Len’s interest in her older daughter, Joan. Nearly sixty years later, only the third generation of Miltons survives, and they are forced to confront not only the waning family fortunes but the secrets Kitty, Joan, and Evelyn kept. Unfortunately the systemic racism the Milton descendants are shocked to learn about in their family history is as present in 2019 as it was in 1959. Sarah Blake has crafted a superb multigenerational family saga filled with inspiration and truths about family relationships—sisterhood, in particular. As with many books that deal with uncomfortable subjects, THE GUEST BOOK is not always enjoyable to read, but is ultimately worth it.
grandmareads102 More than 1 year ago
The Guest Book is a beautifully written story that details the life of three generations of a wealthy and privileged American family. The author has a lyrical style that carries the story forward through the years. It details the political and racial upheaval that change the country's dynamics and changed the family's dynamics. The Milton's suffer tragedy and betrayal but they soldier on. Their Island retreat becomes their stability and refuge. I was caught up in their story. The characters reached out and pulled me in. The dialogue is beautifully written. I felt as if I was there moving through history as they struggled to adjust with the changes and expectations. Sarah Blake took my breath away with The Guest Book. It made me aware how the past and the present are intertwined. The truth wouldn't be buried and life comes full circle. This is a compelling book that left me overwhelmed. I received a copy of this book which I voluntarily read and reviewed. My comments are my honest opinion.
Anonymous 9 months ago
Beautifully written. Sarah Blake's writing style drew me in from the start. I slide right into a most pleasant trance as her poetic narrative pulled me deep into the story and allowed me to be there, to witness the lifestyle of the characters, their aspirations, their inner conflicts, to know them and feel them. Thank you for the lovely journey.
Anonymous 11 months ago
KDavio 11 months ago
I am only half way through the book and I don't normally write a review until done but I REALLY LOVE THIS BOOK. The author has created excellent characters - very complex and likable characters. While it may take a little bit to get use to the writing style, the story spans three generations and you jump forward and back (not systematically but compellingly random) and it is thoroughly enjoyable in each era. This is not a "lazy" summer read - you need to concentrate and immerse yourself in each chapter to enjoy the full effect. Enjoy - i am going to go back out to my deck chair and continue the journey!
Anonymous 12 months ago
This book brought up too much past family garbage for me to enjoy. Had to make myself finish it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read and enjoyed this author’s first novel, The Postmistress, so was thrilled to receive an e galley of her second novel, The Guest Book. The Guest Book was chosen as a Barnes and Noble book club read and it is easy to see why. This is the sort of novel that the reader wants to talk about with others who spent time getting to know the Miltons, their circle, and those who are on the outside of it. The story covers three generations in a narrative that moves back and forth in time, beginning with Ogden and Kitty. They appear to literally own all that they could ever want, even including an island in Maine that is central to the book. The next generation includes Moss, Evelyn and Joan. Children who grew up with so much and who each make decisions about how they want to live in the world. Their children form the book’s third generation. Other important characters are Leonard, who is Jewish and Reg who is African American. The world of these characters resembles the dance on the island late in the book. People dance with “their own” and occasionally with “others.” These interactions fuel the plot and thinking of the novel. This is a story about those with power who casually dislike those who are not like them. So…can Leonard, who is Jewish, ever truly be with Joan? Is there a reason that Reg, who is African American does not sign the guest book of the title? The reader spends much time with Kitty. No spoilers but several of her decisions, one casual and without awareness of the tragedy that will befall and one with knowledge of that but still a particular decision. The reader will be immersed in Kitty’s thoughts about the choices that she has made. It can be easy to dislike some of the characters for their choices. The author tries to show that life and decisions are complex, made for reasons that are not always clear and may or may not be regretted. Ms. Blake has a message that she would like readers to take away. Around it, she creates a novel of considerable depth. I highly recommend this one. Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an e galley in exchange for an honest review.
Beachbabe1 More than 1 year ago
I have really tried with this book, considering the great reviews. But, I feel like I am slogging through it. I may not finish it. I read 15 pages and it puts me to sleep. I can tell where this is going, but I don't really care about any of thiese characters anymore. Going bck and forth in time is very confusing. I am a reader, but this book just doesn't do it for me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
“We were kind. We were generous. We do not owe, more than we could give,” Kitty Milford. This story follows generations of the wealthy, privileged Milford family from the early 1900s to present day. Led by patriarch, Ogden, and matriarch, Kitty Milford, they lived by rules that reflected the social norms of the times. There are secrets, sadness, love, and prejudice. At one point, Kitty makes a decision that will haunt her the rest of her life. Any time a book makes me feel uncomfortable because the description is so accurate the author has succeeded. The accounts of racism and hatred are appalling. This is an intense book, but well worth the time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MatteaLC More than 1 year ago
This is probably one of the most intense novels that I have read in awhile. Beautifully written, Sarah Blake develops this story with complex, very flawed characters. Weaving through three generations of silence, secretiveness, it eludes so much emotion as it focuses on the racism and dislike of those that were viewed as different that was passed along, although it was never really acknowledged! It isn’t a binge book and took me an unusually long 11 days to read it. I had to take it slowly in order to sort out the characters and how they fit. I received an ARC for my honest review, and I thank Flatiron Books for that. I really liked this book, it will stay with me, especially in today’s climate. I love this author, and felt the same about The Postmistress!! #TheGuestbook #SarahBlake #FlatironBooks
Peppyob More than 1 year ago
After reading the Guest Book with Sara Blake's beautiful style of prose, I finally understand the difference between general fiction and literary fiction. The Guest Book will be one of the most significant novels of 2019. I will definitely need to read it again. The Milton's, story unfolding from the 1930s to the present day is one powerful family saga. The novel is a testament to WASP culture in the U.S. wrought with racism and antisemitism. Secrets abound throughout the novel. Ogden and Kitty Milton, descendants of “Old Money," buy their own island in the 1930s to escape the real world. For many years, the island becomes their family's personal utopia. In 1959, an incident will occur that will change the family forever. The characters of the novel are so credible and have been brought to life through Ms Blake’s meticulous character development. I found the matriarch of the family, Kitty Milton to be a very complex character. Kitty cannot get past her privileged background. The decisions she makes, time and time again will haunt her forever. In the present era, the family wealth has diminished greatly. The heirs have to make a decision about what to do with the island. Kitty’s granddaughters, Evie and Min go to the island to tidy up loose ends and in the process uncover disturbing secrets about their family's history.
Anonymous 3 months ago
While beautifully written with poetic descriptions and a fascinating plot, the book was a bit of a struggle to follow and I was left feeling a bit perplexed .
brf1948 3 months ago
I received a free electronic copy of this novel on July 25, 2019, from Netgalley, Sarah Blake, and Flatiron Books. Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me. I have read this historical novel of my own volition, and this review reflects my honest personal opinion of this work. I am pleased to recommend The Guest Book to friends and family. This is a novel you can't put down, so reserve a couple of lazy days and go for it. The Guest Book is the family saga of the Milton family, old school bankers, beginning in 1935 and carrying through three more generations. The family spends 10 months of their year in NYC or Long Island, but for that wonderful summertime, they hie themselves to their summer place in Maine, on their own Crockett's Island. The men of the family more or less define themselves by their work, but the women and children find their self-image in the summer sun, their hopes and dreams winding around the island trails, their purpose and heart songs all a part of Crockett's, all formed and bound by the island's tides. We follow them through heartache and pain, joy and happiness, peace and war. We watch as these ladies and girls re-define the roles they wish to play as women in a changing world. And we see all the decisions and choices, good and bad, that go into the making of this tight family, the forming of their alliances with others, the effect of those choices on themselves and others. And the influence on all of them, cast by Crockett's Island. For some, summer is just a time out. But for others, it is the be-all of their lives. It is how they define themselves, and their relationship with siblings and extended family. What is the cost of remembering? What is the value of memories? And we see the damage done by secrets. I hope you are gonna love this family. I sure did.
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Anonymous 12 months ago
It was a memorable read. Love,lies,secrets. The rumblings of history. The times of living life. I loved the book
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