Saturday, 19 May 2012

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant

At the Oxford Literary Festival last month Anne Tyler was asked which of her own novels she prefers. She said that Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant is her favourite because of all her novels it most closely represents what she intended when she started it.  She also said that she was particularly fond of the character Ezra, and hinted that he may have re-surfaced in a disguised format in some of her other novels.

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant begins with the dying Pearl reflecting back over her life, her courtship and marriage, her three children and her strength in raising them alone when her husband leaves the family home.  Pearl is a tough woman.  When the children were young she was not averse to violence and verbal abuse, but she bought home the bacon and the children survived and flourished.

Well not flourished exactly.  Cody, insanely jealous of Ezra since childhood, steals his girlfriend, marries her and wildly speculates that his son may be Ezra's.  Cody is the kind of person who not only has to win at Monopoly but is not happy unless everyone else is thousands of pounds in debt. Jenny trains as a doctor and after an unfortunate first marriage produces a large extended family.  Ezra takes over a local restaurant which he names The Homesick Restaurant and his dishes are somewhat experimental.  While Cody and Jenny have a fractious relationship with their mother, Ezra is genuinely sweet-natured and gets on with everybody
.
The recurring motif of the novel is Ezra attempting to get the whole family to eat together in The Homesick Restaurant without somebody bursting into tears or storming out.  You will have to read it to discover whether he ever manages it.  A fabulous novel, but oh so sad.

12 comments:

Bellezza said...

It's been years (decades) since I've read this novel, but I remember loving it. Anne Tyler has such a way of piercing one's soul, with beautiful, unpretentious, spot on writing.

whisperinggums said...

I loved this book too ... And generally love Tyler.

I like her comment that it's closest to what she intended. It's not always easy for we readers to know what was intended though we try don't we?

Mystica said...

I'v read other books of hers and was put off so never got to this one.

LizF said...

I came to Anne Tyler around the time of A Patchwork Planet and although I have read most of her subsequent books I haven't got around to the earlier ones.

I discovered a rather battered copy of this at the back of a book shelf when I was looking for something else at the weekend - it must have been there for going on 20 years as the book exchange it came from hasn't existed for that long (and that was when we moved into our current house!).
As it is quite a small book and will fit nicely in my hand luggage for when I go on holiday in a couple of weeks, I think that its destiny is to keep me sane while travelling.
Thanks for your timely post on it!

A Bookish Space said...

This sounds wonderful - thanks for the review!

lifeonthecutoff said...

It's been a great number of years since I read this one and now you've reminded me of it and how much I liked the book. In fact, I saw it on the shelf at a charity shop recently and must go back and see if it is still there.

Nadia said...

Great post! Makes me want to read this one just to find out if Ezra succeeds or not. I'm hoping he does -then again after what you've written about their family, I highly doubt it. Thanks for the review - looks like this one will by my first Anne Tyler book ;)

Danielle said...

This book has been on so many of my 'reading this year' lists (including this years) that I have to read it. It always gets as far as my bedside pile...where it sits right now as a matter of fact. It sounds good, but will have to be in the right frame of mind for the sad part!

Ellen said...

Yet another book on my huge "to read" pile! I am intrigued to read it after Tyler said it was her favourite of her books. Your review has made me want to read it even more now!

Shelley said...

So often the book has a mind of its own and doesn't do what the writer intends!

Thanks for this reminder.

Vintage Reading said...

Bellezza, yes, I appreciated the book far more this time around. I'm all Tyler'd out now, though!

whisperinggums, I'm fascinated by the writing process and I love to hear writers talk about their writing.

Mystica, you might like Digging to America or Breathing Lessons?

LizF, Oh A Patchwork Planet is brilliant because of lovely Barnaby! Enjoy your holiday!

A Bookish Space, I'm Tyler'd out now, so I'm moving on to biography or memoir!

Life on the Cut Off, always good to pick up a Tyler in a charity shop, still can't fill the gaps in my collection, though.

Nadia, if you do read it please post.

Danielle, yep, I've had Vanity Fair on my must-read pile for about ten years. Way ahead of ya ...!

Ellen, I keep remembering different things she said at the Sheldonian. I remember she said something about disowning her first four novels as she hadn't learned to re-draft at that stage.

Shelley, always good to hear from writers as well as readers. It must be so satisfying to be able to write.

Arti said...

I've a few Anne Tyler books in my TBR boxes. Must start soon. This one sounds like a good read. Thanks for the review.