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The O'Briens
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Published:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group 2012
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Description

An unforgettable saga of love, loss, and exhilarating change spanning half a century in the lives of a restless family, from the author of the acclaimed novel The Law of Dreams.
 
The O’Briens is a family story unlike any told before, a tale that pours straight from the heart of a splendid, tragic, ambitious clan. In Joe O’Brien—grandson of a potato-famine emigrant, and a backwoods boy, railroad magnate, patriarch, brooding soul—Peter Behrens gives us a fiercely compelling man who exchanges isolation and poverty in the Canadian wilds for a share in the dazzling riches and consuming sorrows of the twentieth century.
 
When Joe meets Iseult Wilkins in Venice, California, the story of their courtship—told in Behrens’s gorgeous, honed style—becomes the first movement in a symphony of the generations. Husband and wife, brothers, sisters-in-law, children and grandchildren, the O’Briens engage unselfconsciously with their century, and we experience their times not as historical tableaux but as lives passionately lived. At the heart of this clan—at the heart of the novel—is mystery and madness grounded in the history of Irish sorrow. The O’Briens is the story of a man, a marriage, and a family, told with epic precision and wondrous imagination.

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
03/06/2012
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780307907097
ASIN:
B005IEH8MQ
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Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Peter Behrens. (2012). The O'Briens. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Peter Behrens. 2012. The O'Briens. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Peter Behrens, The O'Briens. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2012.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Peter Behrens. The O'Briens. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2012.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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Jun 12, 2018 16:25:33
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        Peter Behrens is the author of The Law of Dreams (which received Canada’s Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction and was published around the world to wide acclaim) and Night Driving, a collection of short stories. His stories and essays have appeared in many publications, including The Atlantic and Tin House. Honors he has received include a Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University’s Creative Writing Program.

      • name: Peter Behrens
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title
The O'Briens
fullDescription

An unforgettable saga of love, loss, and exhilarating change spanning half a century in the lives of a restless family, from the author of the acclaimed novel The Law of Dreams.
 
The O’Briens is a family story unlike any told before, a tale that pours straight from the heart of a splendid, tragic, ambitious clan. In Joe O’Brien—grandson of a potato-famine emigrant, and a backwoods boy, railroad magnate, patriarch, brooding soul—Peter Behrens gives us a fiercely compelling man who exchanges isolation and poverty in the Canadian wilds for a share in the dazzling riches and consuming sorrows of the twentieth century.
 
When Joe meets Iseult Wilkins in Venice, California, the story of their courtship—told in Behrens’s gorgeous, honed style—becomes the first movement in a symphony of the generations. Husband and wife, brothers, sisters-in-law, children and grandchildren, the O’Briens engage unselfconsciously with their century, and we experience their times not as historical tableaux but as lives passionately lived. At the heart of this clan—at the heart of the novel—is mystery and madness grounded in the history of Irish sorrow. The O’Briens is the story of a man, a marriage, and a family, told with epic precision and wondrous imagination.

reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: The New York Times Book Review
      • content: "Impressive . . . World War II hovers in this novel's path like flak and rips the lives of the novel's characters to shreds. The last hundred pages are a powerful evocation of that war's effect . . . A major accomplishment. "
      • premium: False
      • source: The Washington Post
      • content: "As befits a saga so ambitious in design, there is an able mixture of agony and ecstasy throughout. Time and time again, Behrens proves himself a first-rate seanchaí, the Irish term for a storyteller, by bringing the O'Brien clan to life on the page. En route, he fashions a topographically capacious narrative that relishes the scents of Santa Barbara, the pastoral beauty of the Ojai Valley and the tidal mantras of coastal Maine."
      • premium: False
      • source: Publishers Weekly (starred)
      • content: "Powerful . . . Moments of grace and romance are rocked by cruel words and violence in this epic, a piece of rough beauty itself."
      • premium: False
      • source: Booklist
      • content: "Illuminating . . . An epic along the lines of Middlesex in the way it follows a family through time and examines the results of their actions . . . A brooding novel, engrossing in its scope and detail, The O'Briens keeps sight of the family's personal stories amid the larger history of much of the twentieth century."
      • premium: False
      • source: Library Journal
      • content: "Behrens's characters are engaging and the history of the various cities, budding industries, and wars expertly handled."
      • premium: False
      • source: Vogue.com
      • content: "Peter Behrens's family saga The O'Briens (Pantheon) spans the first half of the Canadian twentieth century, finding a parallel epic in an unforgettable narrative of marriage."
      • premium: False
      • source: The Seattle Times
      • content: "[A] deftly painted portrait of a marriage . . . Two smart, determined individuals are hardly the recipe for a tranquil marriage. But they certainly make life--and fiction--more interesting."
      • premium: False
      • source: Huffington Post
      • content: "The story of Joe O'Brien and his family is epic in its scope (the building of the North American railroads, two world wars, the Depression, Prohibition, children and grandchildren, businesses built and lost and restarted) and lifetimes unfold in its pages. That the lives hold our attention so closely is a tribute to Behrens' beautiful writing, and a reminder of just how vital, brutal, and pervasive, love is."
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        Starred review from January 2, 2012
        Afamily saga spans the 20th century, from Pontiac County, Quebec, to Venice Beach, Calif., and beyond, through two world wars and countless intimate tragedies, in Behrens’s powerful second novel (after The Law of Dreams). Joe O’Brien, the eldest of five children, takes on the role of patriarch at age 13 when his father is killed in the Boer War and his family struggles to make a life in harsh northern Quebec. Joe’s business savvy, the power he feels in his bloodline, a strong work ethic, and a mentor in a well-traveled local priest help Joe build a lumber business by the time he’s 15. But difficulties remain: their new stepfather, who married their mother six months after their father’s death, molests Joe’s little sisters and hardens all the O’Briens—to his own detriment. This is a family possessed of a “strange, rough beauty,” as the priest describes them, and it’s this dichotomy that keeps them struggling internally long after they leave Pontiac County. Joe wins a construction contract for a railroad project that takes him to the Selkirk mountains of British Columbia and then to Venice, Calif., where, en route to Mexico, he visits his brother, Grattan, and meets Iseult Wilkins, who has just taken the first risk of her life by moving into her own apartment near the Beach. Iseult is soon on friendly terms with not only Grattan and Joe but also their gruff sister Elise, who sells the young woman a camera. By choosing Joe, Iseult welcomes a riskier, messy existence, and what follows, as their children age and the couple grows apart, is just that. Moments of grace and romance are rocked by cruel words and violence in this epic, a piece of rough beauty itself. Agent: Sarah Burnes, the Gernert Company.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        February 15, 2012
        Spanning 60 years, this chronicle of an Irish-Canadian family is the second novel from the Canadian Behrens (The Law of Dreams, 2006). It's 1900, and the five O'Brien siblings are struggling to survive in barren rural Quebec. Their father has died fighting overseas; their sickly mother has married again, a wastrel. Everything depends on 13-year-old Joe, the oldest. When he learns their stepfather has been molesting his two sisters, he passes an early manhood test by stomping him half to death, then becomes a breadwinner (small logging jobs). At 17, his mother dies, and, needing room to grow, he heads West with brother Grattan, having parked the three youngest with nuns and Jesuits. Waiting for him there, though she doesn't know it yet, is lovely Iseult, another refugee from the East, another orphan. She has bought herself a bungalow in Venice, Calif.; Grattan was the realtor. By now Joe is 25 and building a railroad in the Canadian Rockies. After a whirlwind courtship, they marry, the perfect couple, tempered by hardship yet ready for more risk. So far, so good; there are glimpses of the elemental in human nature. But then Behrens stops digging, becoming an observer of a marriage with the usual personal and historical markers. Babies: they lose one, keep three. Business booms, more construction projects after the railroad. Returning East, to Montreal. World War I. Grattan, a fighter pilot and decorated hero. Prohibition. Grattan bootlegging. Marital crisis; Iseult bolts. Reconciliation. World War II. Letters from the front. A son dies; a son-in-law survives. The jerky forward motion begs some profound questions, left unanswered. Behrens is an effective storyteller, but his idiosyncratic vision is not yet fully formed.

        COPYRIGHT(2012) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        October 1, 2011

        Joe O'Brien starts out in the Canadian wilds and becomes both a railroad magnate and patriarch of the family at the heart of this amazing epic, as the folks at Pantheon describe it. Given all the in-house excitement and Behrens's having won the Governor General's Literary Award in Fiction for his previous novel, The Law of Dreams, I'm chagrined to admit that I'm unfamiliar with his work and am eagerly anticipating this introduction.

        Copyright 2011 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        February 1, 2012
        Behrens makes it clear early on in his latest historical novel that the O'Brien men are a restless group. What follows is the story of railroad magnate Joe O'Brien and his marriage and family, from the late nineteenth century in the Canadian wilderness to John F. Kennedy's run for president. Behrens chooses illuminating segments of the characters' lives to present, skipping years to the next significant period and switching the focus to different family members without losing the thread of the story. The novel is an epic along the lines of Middlesex in the way it follows a family through time and examines the results of their actions. Also the author of the award-winning novel The Law of Dreams (2006), Behrens keeps dialogue at a minimum, instead exploring the internal lives of the characters amid richly imagined surroundings. A brooding novel, engrossing in its scope and detail, The O'Briens keeps sight of the family's personal stories amid the larger history of much of the twentieth century.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2012, American Library Association.)

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shortDescription

An unforgettable saga of love, loss, and exhilarating change spanning half a century in the lives of a restless family, from the author of the acclaimed novel The Law of Dreams.
 
The O’Briens is a family story unlike any told before, a tale that pours straight from the heart of a splendid, tragic, ambitious clan. In Joe O’Brien—grandson of a potato-famine emigrant, and a backwoods boy, railroad magnate, patriarch, brooding soul—Peter Behrens gives us a fiercely compelling man who exchanges isolation and poverty in the Canadian wilds for a share in the dazzling riches and consuming sorrows of the twentieth century.
 
When Joe meets Iseult Wilkins in Venice, California, the story of their courtship—told in Behrens’s gorgeous, honed style—becomes the first movement in a symphony of the generations. Husband and wife, brothers, sisters-in-law, children and grandchildren, the O’Briens engage...

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