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The Resource The ghost at the table, a novel by Suzanne Berne

The ghost at the table, a novel by Suzanne Berne

Label
The ghost at the table
Title
The ghost at the table
Statement of responsibility
a novel by Suzanne Berne
Title variation
Last of Mark Twain's Daughters
Creator
Subject
Genre
Language
eng
Storyline
Tone
Review
  • Berne (A Crime in the Neighborhood, 1997) sets this unsettling novel in a picture-perfect colonial house in Concord, Massachusetts, during the Thanksgiving holidays. But the family that gathers there is riddled with secrets, jealousy, and guilt. The narrator, Cynthia, is single and a writer for a young-adult series called Sisters of History (or, as her colleague wryly refers to it, «hysterical fiction for young girls»). Her married sister, Frances, has inveigled Cynthia to visit, intent on fostering a reunion with their long-estranged father, now 82 and suffering paralysis from a stroke. Cynthia believes that her father is responsible for her invalid mother's death when Cynthia was only 13, while Frances has a very different take on the past. As the family gathers at the table, tense arguments ensue as bitter feelings and warring memories erupt in ugly fashion, ensuring a memorable holiday experience for all. Berne uses a number of skillful techniques, including an unreliable narrator and the dark connections between Cynthia's books and her personal life, to create a truly horrific atmosphere. -- Joanne Wilkinson (Reviewed 08-01-2006) (Booklist, vol 102, number 22, p36)
  • Adult/High School— Sisters, living and dead, loom large in Berne's tale of family secrets unraveled. Cynthia Fiske writes a series of historical fiction for girls, depicting the lives of remarkable women through the eyes of their slightly less-remarkable sisters. An invitation to her own sister's house for Thanksgiving in New England coincides with her need to visit Mark Twain's home in Hartford to research a new novel on the writer's daughters, whose story of a charismatic father and three troubled siblings parallels the Fiskes' history. Complicating the usual holiday tensions is the presence of their elderly father, once brash and manipulative, now disabled and facing a divorce from his much-younger wife. As the family struggles with generations of dysfunction and unspoken secrets, including the mysterious death of their mother decades earlier, Cynthia rebels by sharing the most sordid details of the long-gone Clemens family. Although she is nearing middle age, her feelings of isolation and rejection that began in childhood have left her a perpetual adolescent in relation to her family. Much like the child narrator of Donna Tartt's The Little Friend (Knopf, 2002), Berne portrays a confusing, comic, even sinister family dynamic and eschews a pat, happy ending in favor of a very real, if provocative, choice that will appeal to teen fans of family dramas.—Jenny Gasset, Orange County Public Library, CA --Jenny Gasset (Reviewed January 1, 2007) (School Library Journal, vol 53, issue 1, p164)
  • /* Starred Review */ This taut psychological drama by Orange Prize–winner Berne (A Crime in the Neighborhood ) unfolds as San Francisco freelance writer Cynthia Fiske acquiesces to her maternal older sister, Frances, and attends the Thanksgiving family reunion Frances is hosting at her perfectly restored Colonial home in Concord, Mass. Cynthia believes her father, now 82, murdered their invalid mother with an overdose of pills when Cynthia was 13, and she has no wish to ever see him again. Within months after their mother died, their father packed Frances and Cynthia off to boarding school and married the much younger Ilse, a graduate student who worked as part-time tutor to Frances. But now he's suffered a stroke. Ilse is divorcing him, and the family is placing him in a home. Tension is high by the time the assorted guests, including Frances's complicated teenage daughters, her mysterious husband and the speech-impaired patriarch, are called to Frances's table, and it doesn't take much to fan the first flares of anger into the inevitable conflagration. Berne takes an inherently dramatic conflict—one sister's intention to obfuscate the hard truths of the past vs. another's determination to drag them under a spotlight —and ratchets up the stakes with astute observation and narrative cunning. (Oct. 20) --Staff (Reviewed June 12, 2006) (Publishers Weekly, vol 253, issue 24, p26)
  • Family dysfunction gets a much-needed makeover in this solid, satisfying novel from Orange Prize winner Berne (A Crime in the Neighborhood ). When Cynthia Fiske, a successful author, reluctantly agrees to visit one of her sisters, Frances, for Thanksgiving, the siblings resume their long-running argument over what really happened the night their mother died. Despite their best efforts, this disagreement permeates their conversations, lacing each word with passive-aggressive meaning and adding suspense to daily routines. Readers who like a measured pace will enjoy the tension that builds as Cynthia’s visit progresses, while those who appreciate a good metaphor will relish the parallel between Cynthia’s latest project—a history of Mark Twain’s daughters—and the Fiskes’ own trauma. Amusing concrete symbols, e.g., a Jacuzzi-thawed turkey and one of the ugliest family heirlooms to grace the pages of contemporary fiction, add heft to the narrative, making it easy for the reader to see (and choose) sides. An original take on a frequently explored subject; recommended for medium to large fiction collections.—Leigh Anne Vrabel, Carnegie Lib. of Pittsburgh --Leigh Anne Vrabel (Reviewed July 15, 2006) (Library Journal, vol 131, issue 12, p61)
  • /* Starred Review */ Rivaling sisters search for family truths over a Thanksgiving holiday. Frances Fiske longs for harmony and decides to host a blowout dinner to reunite her estranged family. In her quest for unity, Frances packs the house with high-wattage conflict. When three generations of the Fiske family gather, tempers flair and skeletons begin tumbling out of closets. Out of pity and a sense of obligation, Cynthia Fiske flies east from her sequestered life as a writer to join in her sister's feast. Coming home stirs up bitter memories of a lonely childhood for Cynthia. She narrates the story and at first seems to be a reliable source for learning about the Fiskes' dirty little secrets. Cynthia talks of Frances's rocky marriage, Frances's reckless teenage daughters, Frances's Martha Stewart–like obsession with interior-design perfection. Cynthia relays tales of their mother's mysterious death and their father's romantic indiscretions. A maelstrom develops in the days leading up to the big meal. All the combustible energy makes for a great read as Cynthia and Frances battle it out to preserve a particular view of their childhood. Berne (A Crime in the Neighborhood, 1997, etc.) challenges the reader to pick a side. Cynthia's paranoia creeps through her storytelling and Frances's imperious nature furthers the chaos and miscommunications, making it tough to know whom to trust. Sampling from a few genres—mystery, historical fiction, chick lit and psychological thriller—Berne cooks up a literary feast. Her tactile descriptions and enigmatic characters saturate the story and provide a filling repast. The plot can be frustrating at times—it's a struggle to discern past from present and truth from fiction. But this is intentional. Berne prefers questions to answers.This substantial tale of a dysfunctional family reunion promises a holiday, and a read, to remember. (Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2006)
http://library.link/vocab/ext/novelist/bookUI
146612
Cataloging source
DLC
http://library.link/vocab/creatorName
Berne, Suzanne
Index
no index present
Interest level
UG
Literary form
fiction
Reading level
6.5
http://library.link/vocab/resourcePreferred
True
Study program name
Accelerated Reader AR
http://library.link/vocab/subjectName
  • Sisters
  • Families
  • Thanksgiving Day
Target audience
adult
Label
The ghost at the table, a novel by Suzanne Berne
Link
http://www.loc.gov/catdir/enhancements/fy0645/2006040073-d.html
Instantiates
Publication
Note
"A Shannon Ravenel book."
Carrier category
volume
Carrier category code
  • nc
Carrier MARC source
rdacarrier
Content category
text
Content type code
  • txt
Content type MARC source
rdacontent
Control code
615844
Dimensions
23 cm
Edition
First edition.
Extent
292 pages
Isbn
9781565123342
Isbn Type
(hardcover)
Lccn
2006040073
Media category
unmediated
Media MARC source
rdamedia
Media type code
  • n
System control number
  • (Sirsi) i9781565123342
  • (OCoLC)64336197
Label
The ghost at the table, a novel by Suzanne Berne
Link
http://www.loc.gov/catdir/enhancements/fy0645/2006040073-d.html
Publication
Note
"A Shannon Ravenel book."
Carrier category
volume
Carrier category code
  • nc
Carrier MARC source
rdacarrier
Content category
text
Content type code
  • txt
Content type MARC source
rdacontent
Control code
615844
Dimensions
23 cm
Edition
First edition.
Extent
292 pages
Isbn
9781565123342
Isbn Type
(hardcover)
Lccn
2006040073
Media category
unmediated
Media MARC source
rdamedia
Media type code
  • n
System control number
  • (Sirsi) i9781565123342
  • (OCoLC)64336197

Library Locations

    • Central LibraryBorrow it
      710 W. Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX, 78701, US
      30.2713021 -97.7460168
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