Reviews

The Splendid Things We Planned: A Family Portrait, by Blake Bailey

marciamoselle's review against another edition

Go to review page

3.0

3 1/2

lnkc's review against another edition

Go to review page

2.0

Considering the fact at David Sedaris recommended this book, I was surprised by how underwhelmed I was by it. It was difficult to get into and didn't find the story particularly remarkable.

radballen's review against another edition

Go to review page

5.0

Fantastic. Blake Bailey is excellent as always. What a story and so well told.

matritense's review against another edition

Go to review page

5.0

One of the best books I've read in a very long time. Bailey is brutally honest and moving in his brother's portrait, and love oozes from every page even during moments of true anger. Needless to say, it is a deeply sad book, however beautiful, and will surely touch you.

pghbekka's review against another edition

Go to review page

3.0

A hard book to read, and, I'm sure, a hard book to write. The glimpses of self-awareness from both the author and his brother make the story heartwrenching instead of just vaguely revolting.

howifeelaboutbooks's review against another edition

Go to review page

2.0

It took me a long time to get through this one. It was interesting and well-written, but kind of hard to read at times. It got pretty depressing. When I finished, I wasn’t sure what to do with all I had read. I thought there was going to be some sort of revelation or change, but it was kind of just… done. Which is real life, and the book was about real life, but I felt like it was missing something, or I was missing something from reading it.

onejordo's review against another edition

Go to review page

3.0

Talk about dysfunction! If you need to read about a family who doesn’t get along well so that you can realize maybe your own family is not all that bad – this is probably the book for you.

Blake and Scott grew up with an abusive German mother and a lawyer father. They were provided for, attended school, had almost normal childhoods, and grew up carrying their demons through adulthood. The story is a memoir mostly about Scott and the crazy things that occur in his life. Blake has a love/hate relationship with his brother. Still, he tells the story of his big brother’s life as fairly as he can.

There is some graphic content in this book but nothing terribly offensive or too detailed. The book certainly does a good job of taking the glamor out of drinking and using drugs. I enjoy memoirs so I’m glad I read this. I don’t want to reread it, but it was appealing enough for me to read it quickly.

whatsnonfiction's review

Go to review page

4.0

This was so extraordinarily written and darkly hilarious and honest and pretty much everything I love in a memoir. I only can't say it's perfect because it was just so painful sometimes. That's not fair, of course - it's someone's experience and it's what happened and how they acted and how they felt, but it feels gut wrenching even with the remove that Bailey uses to describe events particularly in the latter half. And thankfully there is some remove, because when he shows how much this hurts, it's something. There's a line where he writes, recalling one such scene, that he couldn't bear it then and he still can't now. It's haunting.

I can't imagine this appealing to everyone - you've got to be willing and able to spend time with a fairly difficult and troubling bunch of people, author included - and stomach some serious, disturbing subjects and the downward trajectory of a lost and hurting person, but if you can, this is some kind of brilliance. The best writing I've read in a long time.

4kids4me's review

Go to review page

2.0

I expected this to be a memoir, but instead, learned more about the Bailey’s brother’s terribly sad life than I learned about Bailey. Based on the description, I thought this book was going to be funny, but except for some bits of humor here and there, it was a disturbing account of his brother’s struggle with drug and alcohol addiction and mental illness. Bailey’s tone is unsympathetic and flippant throughout. Several times, Bailey makes reference to people in his life who believe Bailey is also alcoholic, yet he never really gives us much insight into his own life, for instance, how he managed to go from a sort of aimless college grad to respected author.

In the end, the book itself is well-written, but I just didn’t understand what Bailey’s point was in writing this book. He comes across as self-indulgent with very little regard for what may have driven his brother into such a downward spiral and no real desire to help him. Instead, Bailey seems determined to get him out of his life. There is nothing insightful about this book. Hard to believe this was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

cokie's review

Go to review page

5.0

Stunning. I read this in one sitting. Bailey is an amazing writer--unsparing, unsentimental, fearless. It was all the more riveting because I knew these people--I worked for Bailey's father' law firm. Contrary to what one reviewer said, these were all exceedingly charming people, adept at hiding their pain. The few times I met Scott, he just seemed sweet and sad. I was horrified to learn how bad things actually were, and feel nothing but compassion for any of them.