The Guest Book by Sarah Blake

I rarely read a novel twice. A friend once told me that she reads a particular book she loves every year and I’ve never understood why. However, I’m reading The Guest Book a second time because it’s set for a book club discussion next month and having read it about two years ago, I can no longer recall why I thought it so compelling.

I read on my Kindle and almost always underline passages that speak to me. On this second read, those same passages continue to speak to me, although I’ve added a few more.

Get to the point, Mary. You’re probably wondering whether there is a point!

Evie Milton is one of the main characters. She’s a professor of Medieval History at NYU giving her opening lecture to a new class. At the beginning of the class, Evie poses three questions:

“If you worked at the World Trade Center, and you were told to go back to your desk in the second tower after the first tower had been hit, would you?”

“If a Jew came to you in 1939 and asked to be hidden, would you?”

“Would you risk your life, your family’s life, to free someone enslaved?”

A few students respond to Evie’s questions. And then she goes on to explore what is history. I’ve transcribed the bits that speak to me.

“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.”

“History is in us. Our history lives in us. Lean low and listen, that’s your job. Not that they had lives,” she pushed on. “But how.”

“History is sometimes made by heroes, but it is also always made by us … So know yourselves first,” she finished. “Then look back and account.”

I’m going to keep these thoughts in mind when writing my next historical novel.

The Guest Book is a great story by a wonderful writer. Highly recommended.

The Guest Book by Sarah Blake ~~ An exquisitely written, poignant family saga that illuminates the great divide, the gulf that separates the rich and poor, black and white, Protestant and Jew. Spanning three generations, The Guest Book deftly examines the life and legacy of one unforgettable family as they navigate the evolving social and political landscape from Crockett’s Island, their family retreat off the coast of Maine. Blake masterfully lays bare the memories and mistakes each generation makes while coming to terms with what it means to inherit the past.


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel is THE ADMIRAL’S WIFE, a dual timeline set in Hong Kong. Mary’s other novels, PARIS IN RUINS, TIME AND REGRET, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website

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