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: 42
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 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
Anonymous 10 days 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 20 days 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 21 days ago
The depth of the characters and the intricacies of the times were so well depicted.
Anonymous 28 days ago
grandmareads102 3 months 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.
sjillis 3 months 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.
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Beachbabe1 7 days 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 8 days ago
I really enjoyed a lot of the book although parts of it were wordy, but it seemed to fall apart quickly at the end. So much unresolved. I felt like there were missing chapters. Could have been amazing...
Anonymous 10 days ago
It was okay - but kind of dragged!
Anonymous 14 days ago
no character development because the book jumped forward to future generations and so there were too many characters and no time to develop any kind of story with them. Half the time it wasn't clear what year it was. Lots of semi-boring prattle about not very much and it didn't seem authentic in evoking either period or lifestyle. Disappointing read overall. Is there anything else to read about besides WWII B&N book club book-choosers?
FrancescaFB 25 days ago
Disappointing in that I expected better and bigger revelations.
Anonymous 27 days 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 27 days 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.
beckwith_usa 3 months ago
Wars, plagues, names upon tombs tell us only what happened. But history lies in the cracks between. In the inexplicable, invisible turns—when someone puts a hand down, pushes open one particular gate, and steps through." Just as Professor Evie Milton challenges her students in the opening pages, Ms. Blake challenges the reader to acknowledge the words and fill in the cracks. I was completely swept away by the prose in this moving saga of the Milton Family, and was challenged to re-think how history bends in abstract and unexpected ways. A gravestone, a photo, a spoon, a toy car, are all markers of history - guiding the reader to enjoy the story and create a personal and profound connection to its message. Ms. Blake's cleverly crafted plot is unspooled with just enough tension to keep the pages turning. "The Guest Book" is sure to be received as a perfect summer read, best enjoyed in large portions
Susan1215 3 months ago
Magnificent. An epic family saga, filled with secrets, privilege and money. I was instantly swept away in this instant classic. We will be talking about this remarkable book for years to come.
medwards429 3 months ago
Thank you in advance to the publisher, Flat Iron Books for an Advanced Reader Copy to review. Tragedies, privilege, family secrets, deep prejudices, old ideas … an island. This World War II/Family Life/Literary fiction story spans over three generations of a once privileged family – the Milton family; told in four (4) parts over 45 chapters and nearly 500 pages. The story spans from about 1935-2019 (last entry in the Guest Book in 1959, and it’s been 60 years since). Once so rich the family owned an island, but in today’s time, the descendants can no longer afford to keep it. Evie soon learns a terrible truth about her grandparents, particularly her grandfather and his involvement in Germany. The story does go from the past to present without letting the reader know where/when they are in the story (with dates under the chapter, i.e.: August 1959, Present Day, etc.). Part I (page 1-119) of the book alternates between Kitty & Ogden Milton in the 1930’s with present-day Evie, Kitty’s granddaughter who is trying to come to terms with her late mother’s passing, her family’s truth, and the disposition of the island. The story starts in 1935 with Kitty and Ogden Milton – just before World War II. Their youngest son dies in a horrible accident, which continues to haunt Kitty throughout her life and is the catalyst for a decision she is forced to make. Milton purchases an island for Kitty, hoping to bring her back as he sees her as slipping away from him. The couple is content to ignore what is going on around them as it doesn’t affect them. Kitty is then asked to do someone a favor, but refuses, a refusal that will haunt her for the rest of her life. The first part ends before the US enters World War II and thus the reader is left to wonder – how did the Milton family react to something they thought wouldn’t happen? Part II (page 123-268) starts in Summer of 1959 with the grown Milton kids (Moss [Ogden Jr.], Joan, Evelyn), and builds from there what will soon happen in Part III, the heart of the story – which surprisingly is only 2-3 months in length. Again, some of the chapters unevenly alternate with Evie’s story. Kitty eventually learns how devastating her refusal was. Part III (272-458) continues from 1959, where part II left off with the alternating view points. It is here that contains the heart of the novel, taking the writer nearly 200 pages to get to the climax of the story. Since it is 1959, there are a lot of controversial social topics covered – however I don’t know that they were discussed as much or in that way at the time. Part IV (461-482) stays in the present day, rapidly sliding to an end of the saga. The reader is left not knowing what happens to the island, but learns who Evie really is. It is, on the surface, a stunningly poignant and challenging read. I would’ve liked to have seen the story expand more on World War II. I believe there were areas of the “family interaction” that could’ve been reduced in order to accommodate that. This book took 15 days to go through, so it was a difficult read (to be honest – basically a chore). Most of that difficultly was that I had a hard time finding any point where I could relate to them. Perhaps this was due to my disconnect with their privilege. I would recommend this book to those who are fans of the author, the genre, or the subject. A book to read, if only once in a lifetime.
Rhonda-Runner1 3 months ago
I have been struggling to get this book read for the past month and finally I had to skim the last 100 pages or so to do it. The book started out really slow for me and combined with the multitude of characters, along with the going back and forth between time/generations, it was a struggle to get through it. I was disappointed in it. Thank you Flatiron Books for the ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
DanieleK 3 months ago
THE GUEST BOOK tells the sweeping saga of three generations of the prestigious Milton Family. Told through the filter of three distinct eras, we meet Ogden and Kitty Milton in 1935, beautiful, wealthy, and content until tragedy strikes; the Milton children in 1959; their grandchildren in the present day. All of the threads are woven around the family’s summer island home. It is a close examination of privilege, family legacy, wealth and cultural inequalities, and it hones in on the personal perspectives and experiences that often make us blind. It is at times lovely and full of hope, but ultimately heartbreaking as no one is truly happy. Readers are left wondering what might have been had different choices been made. Author Sarah Blake’s writing is lavish, if a bit wandering at times, and the book is hefty at 480 pages (which I think could have been shaved down). Highly recommended. Many thanks to Flatiron Books for the opportunity to read an ARC of this title and voluntarily share my unbiased thoughts and opinions here.
MatteaLC 3 months 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 3 months 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.
dspinlexo 3 months ago
This is a wonderful read exploring the many family secrets, emotions, and people that carried this family through life. The tragedies and triumphs, and how each played a role in who they were and who they became. A great bookclub read that would generate wonderful decisions. Sarah Blake is a marvelous storyteller. I became immersed in this book in the first few pages and stayed engaged until the last page. I could feel the sand on my toes and smell the saltwater. I would highly recommend this book.
Aqswr 3 months ago
A multi-generational saga that attempts to explain WASP control of American life in the 20th Century, THE GUEST BOOK just misses greatness. Author Sarah Blake hopes to tell readers something essential about the the 20th Century American Dream, its winners and losers, and even about the WASP belief in their own manifest destiny. She describes a monied and privileged life so deftly created that its rules cannot be described to those outside its borders. At least not in any way that would make sense. Her problems aren’t with the world-building or her writing, Blake excels in both, and the book delights in both areas. But she struggles to differentiate her characters across the generations, and because their names and behaviors are so similar, they become blurry. Some of the side stories are fascinating; yet not fully explored. A major character is a historian who has failed to ask any reasonable questions about her own family of origin. It doesn’t seem ironic, it rings false for the character. This is a book that is almost great but very good. It is frustrating at times for what is missing and what the author is capable of. I wanted more. I received my copy from the publisher through NetGalley.