The History of Great Things – Elizabeth Crane

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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The History of Great Things – Elizabeth CraneThe History of Great Things by Elizabeth Crane
Published by Harper Perennial on April 5, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Family Life
Pages: 288
Format: Kindle
Source: Edelweiss
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A witty and irresistible story of a mother and daughter regarding each other through the looking glass of time, grief, and forgiveness.
In two beautifully counterpoised narratives, two women—mother and daughter—try to make sense of their own lives by revisiting what they know about each other. The History of Great Things tells the entwined stories of Lois, a daughter of the Depression Midwest who came to New York to transform herself into an opera star, and her daughter, Elizabeth, an aspiring writer who came of age in the 1970s and ’80s in the forbidding shadow of her often-absent, always larger-than-life mother. In a tour de force of storytelling and human empathy, Elizabeth chronicles the events of her mother’s life, and in turn Lois recounts her daughter’s story—pulling back the curtain on lifelong secrets, challenging and interrupting each other, defending their own behavior, brandishing or swallowing their pride, and, ultimately, coming to understand each other in a way that feels both extraordinary and universal.
The History of Great Things is a novel about a mother and daughter who are intimately connected and not connected enough; it will make readers laugh and cry and wonder how we become the adults we always knew we should—even if we’re not always adults our parents understand.


The History of Great Things took me a bit to get my head wrapped around what was happening. It is a story of a mother and a daughter and they are speaking to each other as they are writing. I will admit that I was super confused for at least the first third of the book. The story is written as almost an autobiography of the lives of mother Lois and daughter Elizabeth. Each is telling the others story, sometimes true and sometimes made up and then they speak to each other at the end of the chapter.

The plot of The History of Great Things was very interesting. It ebbed and flowed between the two lives, but not in a straightforward way. I enjoyed the writing of Elizabeth Crane. I loved the humor and snark sprinkled throughout the story. The pacing was confusing as the time lines went back and forth between the two women and their lives. The world built was also a bit confusing as each perspective was skewed by the second hand telling. The emotions in The History of Great Things were great. The interplay between mother and daughter, the love and at times hate rode high. I had some trouble connecting with the characters as they were speaking for each other and so I never got a solid grasp on who they were.

I did like parts of The History of Great Things, but honestly I was so confused by the story telling that it was a difficult read for me. Elizabeth Crane was able to interject a lot of subtle humor in her writing and I really enjoyed that. I normally hate introductory chapters that lay out the story first, but I think The History of Great Things might have been a better read for me if I “got” the concept before I started. I did really enjoy the last half of the book, so hopefully others grasp this better than I did.

Favorite lines – That’s the argument I started. I said “Mom.”

-You made me yell.

-I made you yell.

-You called an old lady with cancer a cunt.

-I didn’t say it to her face.

Biggest cliché – I’m your mother, you should listen to me.

 Have you read The History of Great Things, or added it to your TBR?

Rating Report
Overall: three-half-stars

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • 2016 New Release Challenge
  • Netgalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge
  • The Goodreads Challenge

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Posted April 2, 2016 by Laura in Reviews / 0 Comments