Therese Anne Fowler's 6 favorite books filled with family drama
The author recommends works by Jane Austen, Maria Semple, and more
In Therese Anne Fowler's new novel, It All Comes Down to This, the fate of a summer house divides three sisters as their mother nears death. Below, the author of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald recommends other books about messy families.
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett (2016)
I devour everything Patchett writes, but this insightful, compassionate story is one of my favorites. We follow the abruptly and reluctantly blended Keating-Cousins clan over five decades as they sort through the consequences of a fateful moment's choice. Buy it here.
The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough (1977)
I read this as a teenager, enraptured by not only the exotic setting and scandalous romance, but also the intricate plot and tangled motives of the Carson-Cleary family. Ever on the edge of melodrama, it's possibly the best "bad" book I ever read. Buy it here.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)
The Bennet family's problem is deceptively simple: Get five daughters married off as well as possible before their father's death confers his estate on a distant cousin, leaving them homeless. As good as the TV and film adaptations are, one needs to read this story to truly appreciate the intelligence, wit, and complexities that come from Austen's pen. Buy it here.
Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (2012)
An epistolary novel that's as smart as it is funny as it is moving. Semple unfolds this absurd — I mean this as praise — and sublime tale about the Fox family, and the disappearance of its matriarch, masterfully. Anchored by the perspective of precocious daughter Bee, this is one of the best feel-good family dramedies out there. Buy it here.
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (1920)
I love how involving this novel is — how Wharton unflinchingly puts us inside the perspective of a man whose family entanglements, and the society that has created the family's attitudes and strictures, bind him up, and us with him. A subversive and brilliant tale. Buy it here.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (2013)
The Cooke family appears ordinary enough but is extraordinary in ways I won't spoil for those new to this award-winning book. And Fowler — no relation to me — tells her stories with such subtle intricacies; I'm always left feeling somehow smarter and better for having read her. Buy it here.
This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.