Monday, 13 April 2015

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

“It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon…”

This is the way Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she and Red fell in love that day in July 1959. The whole family on the porch, relaxed, half-listening as their mother tells the same tale they have heard so many times before.

And yet this gathering is different. Abby and Red are getting older, and decisions must be made about how best to look after them and their beloved family home. They’ve all come, even Denny, who can usually be relied on only to please himself.

From that porch we spool back through three generations of the Whitshanks, witnessing the events, secrets and unguarded moments that have come to define who and what they are. And while all families like to believe they are special, round that kitchen table over all those years we see played out the hopes and fears, the rivalries and tensions of families everywhere – the essential nature of family life.

This book represents what Anne Tyler does best in that she takes an ordinary family and develops them into something engaging and fascinating. She does this by looking at the idiosyncrasies of the individuals and then develops the dynamics of the family as a whole.

In addition to the well rounded characters of this book is the house in which Abby and Red live. The house plays an enormous part in this book and is the vehicle in which we can understand the family as a whole, not just Abby and Red but their adult children. The narrative then moves back a generation to the time when Red’s parents were living in the house and the part it had to play in their lives.

Ms Tyler is a great storyteller and I found it easy to lose myself in this book. I think what I really liked was that she makes her characters and their situations reassuringly recognisable and in reading this I almost felt part of the family as their secrets and lives were revealed.

I have read a few of Anne Tyler’s books and enjoyed them all. Her writing appears to flow effortlessly, which in my opinion is a sign of an excellent writer. This book is her on top form and is well worth reading.

ISBN: 978 0701189518

Publisher: Chatto & Windus

Price: (based on today’s price on £12.91

About the Author: 

Born on 25th October 1941 Anne Tyler is a Pulitzer Prize winning American novelist, short story writer, and literary critic. She has published 20 novels, the best known of which are Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant (1983), The Accidental Tourist (1985), and Breathing Lessons (1988). All three were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the third won it.  While many of her characters have been described as quirky or eccentric, she has managed to make them seem real through skillfully fleshing out their inner lives in great depth. Her subject in all her novels has been the American family and marriage: the boredom and exasperating irritants endured by partners, children, siblings, parents; the desire for freedom pulling against the tethers of attachments and conflicted love; the evolution over time of familial love and sense of duty. Tyler celebrates unremarkable Americans and the ordinary details of their everyday lives. Because of her style and subject matter, she has been compared  to Jane Austen.

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