Sunday, 24 February 2013

More Tyler

The time Pauline got lost in her own alley and the time she confused the brake with the accelerator and the time she backed into a pedestrian, knocked him down, stuck her head out of the window, called, "I'm sorry!" and pulled forward, put her car in reverse, backed up and knocked him down again. The Amateur Marriage, Anne Tyler
Anne Tyler's last novel The Beginner's Goodbye is now out in paperback.  I bought it in Sainsbury's for the princely sum of £3.49.  Rather nice to put a great contemporary novel into your basket alongside your milk, bread and yoghurts!

That's the thing about Anne Tyler.  She is a writer who is both complex and yet popular enough to be stocked in your local supermarket.  I've just read The Amateur Marriage which I think is one of her finest novels.  It's the story of Pauline and Michael, a couple who should never have married.  There is no domestic violence, adultery or debt - the kind of things that often tear couples apart - but their marriage is toxic nonetheless and the novel examines the relentless grind of being married to an unsuitable partner.

Michael is thrifty, cautious and calm.  Pauline is emotional, impulsive and sensitive.  Like Maggie in Breathing Lessons and Muriel in The Accidental Tourist she can be infuriating but I found her a far more likeable character than cold fish Michael.

The novel spans several decades beginning in Baltimore's Polish community where Michael grows up, becomes engaged to Pauline and enlists.  After being injured in the army they marry and raise a family.  Their marriage is put under further strain by the disappearance of their wayward daughter.  The implication is that she has joined the 1960's Haight-Ashbury 'summer of love' community and developed a serious drug problem.  This theme of the novel reminded me a little of Unless by Carole Shields.

Eventually Michael leaves Pauline and finds (rather too quickly I thought) the kind of cool, self-contained woman who suits his character.  The final chapter comes as a surprise and I'm still thinking about it, but there are hints that Michael still yearns for Pauline.  Vintage Tyler.

10 comments:

Alex said...

I have come to the Anne Tyler feast very late which is once sense is no bad thing as it means I still have most of her novels to read. Being something of a 'completist' I'm starting at the beginning and 'If Morning Ever Comes' is sitting on my shelves right now. Clearly, hours of wonderful reading to come.

Ellen said...

I loved "The Beginner's Goodbye" and it is my aim to read all the novels of Anne Tyler I haven't already read this year. I'm currently reading "Celestial Navigation". I just love her characters and turn of phrase, a wonderful writer.

JoAnn said...

I've loved just about everything Anne Tyler has written, including The Amateur Marriage (which I experienced on audio). Still need to read The Beginner's Goodbye...

Kat said...

I love Tyler: thanks for reminding me of her books! I have yet to read her newest.

My favorite is Morgan's Passing: there are puppeteers!

Arti said...

Interesting book indeed. I've several AT's books bought from book sales in previous years, still haven't opened them yet. I know, I should. The only AT story I've exp. is watching the film The Accidental Tourist years ago.

Sunday Taylor said...

This one by Anne Tyler sounds really good. My favorites are Saint Maybe and The Accidental Tourist.

Penny O'Neill said...

Oh, I really must read this. I haven't read Anne Tyler in some time and this looks to be a good one. What a nice review to end my day.

Joan Hunter Dunn said...

Another Anne Tyler fan. I picked up The Beginners Goodbye in Sainsbury's too, though wasn't sure if I wanted to read it, I loved The Amateur Marriage.

Vintage Reading said...

Alex, when I saw Anne Tyler at the Oxford Literary Festival she 'disowned' her first four novels! Do post your thoughts.

Ellen, yes I read Celestial Navigation last year - one of her strangest books I thought!

JoAnn, I enjoyed The Beginner's Goodbye, not sure if it is one of her best books, but very readable.

Kat, oh yes, Morgan's Passing, I remember the puppets!

Aarti, I've still not seen the complete film of The Accidental Tourist, loved the book.

Sunday, I loved Saint Maybe and The Accidental Tourist is a masterpiece.

Penny, Anne Tyler fans always welcome here!

Joan, do post your thoughts on The Beginner's Goodbye, I enjoyed it but it's not my favourite Tyler.

Kathy said...

Late to the party, but I loved The Accidental Marriage. Not sure why this one doesn't appeal to me much from the description, but I'll wait for your review. Found you through Sunday Taylor's blog and perused for an hour last night. Thanks!