Monday, 4 January 2016

Re-reading A Spool of Blue Thread

So one day we were at Topps Home and Garden because Abby wanted a kitchen fire extinguisher, and while the man was ringing it up she said, ‘Do you mind hurrying? It’s kind of an emergency.’ Just being silly, you know, she meant it as a joke. Well he didn’t get it. He said, ‘I have to follow procedures, ma’am,’ and she and I just doubled up laughing. We were crying with laughter.’ A Spool of Blue Thread Anne Tyler 2015

Literary prizes may come and go but there is no novelist quite like Anne Tyler for comfort, sustenance and the sheer pleasure of good writing. Her novels are all firmly rooted in her home town of Baltimore and feature a cast of underachievers, misfits, delinquents, women past their prime and men whose ambitions have been thwarted. Tyler rarely intervenes in the narrative to judge or comment on the actions of her characters she just lets the story unfold and the characters find their own solutions or compromises.

Denny from A Spool of Blue Thread is one of Tyler’s notorious misfits. Handsome, elusive, virtually unemployable and touchy as hell he is not as lovable as Barnaby from A Patchwork Planet or as wayward as Lindy from The Amateur Marriage, but the kind of person given to snooping into the diaries and personal papers of his family yet can’t bear any scrutiny of his own life. As his father Red says, 'One question too far and he is out the door.’ 

A Spool of Blue Thread is a novel about a family out of step with each other and it’s a brilliant return to form after the Beginner’s Goodbye. Tyler’s gift for comedy sparkles and the telephone rant which Abby’s assertive daughter delivers to brother Denny extends over two pages and is a joy to read. But it is Abby, the family matriarch who is the warm beating heart of the novel. A woman who prides herself on her phenomenal memory which makes what happens to her later in the novel all the more poignant.
This article from The Guardian is a fascinating insight into how Tyler and other Man Booker short-listed writers created their novels.
Happy New Year! 


Thomas Hogglestock said...

I'm curious why you are re-reading this so soon after it was published? No comment on the book, I'm just curious. Until Spool, I hadn't read a Tyler book since I read Accidental Tourist back in the 1980s when I was in college. Which one is your favorite?

Nadia A said...

I love that you are kicking off the new year with a re-read! What a great way to guarantee a terrific reading experience ;) I've added this one to my TBR list - it sounds absolutely like a book I would most definitely enjoy. I've never read any Tyler, but perhaps its time. I will have to ask for a copy for my birthday later in the year, since I'm a book buying ban - but it sounds like it will be worth the wait. Enjoy your re-read!

Audrey said...

First of all, I agree with Nadia! I've been struggling a little to settle into my first book of the year and this strategy might have helped! :) I've never read Anne Tyler... is this a good place to start? Happy new year!

Sunday Taylor said...

I used to read all of her books, but have fallen out of the habit for some reason. I must get back to them and this one sounds wonderful! Happy New Year!

Claire Hayes said...

I only got round to reading this for the first time towards the end of last year, but found it as good as anything Tyler has written.I can quite understand your rereading - what a warm and wonderful way to start the New Year!

Melody said...

Beginner's Goodby was actually the first of hers I read. I really enjoyed it and ended up having my book club read Breathing Lessons (which, as you mentioned, is rather different in form from Beginner's Goodbye). She is definitely an author whose writing just doesn't get old.

Caroline (Bookword) said...

You have caught the appeal of Anne Tyler's novels so well. I enjoyed A Spool of Blue Thread, but for me the Accidental Tourist remains the one I will return to.

mary said...

I felt bereft when I finished this, so completely understand why you went back to it so quickly.

Bellezza Mjs said...

Happy New Year! This particular book of Anne Tyler's brought me back to the great affection I once held for her. It was a nostalgic read of her tender writing skills, and I loved it, except for the weird two-endings. That part I thought was unnecessary.

Mystica said...

I haven't got to this yet but should considering the reviews! A very happy new year to you belated though these wishes are.

Vintage Reading said...

Hi Thomas, I'm a bit of a Tyler addict and have read each of her novels at least three times! My favourite is A Patchwork Planet.

Nadia, look forward to your Tyler post!

Audrey, I would probably start with one of her three finest novels, Breathing Lessons, Ladder of Years or The Accidental Tourist.

Sunday, I think she is one of America's finest writers!

Claire, always good to meet another Tyler fan!

Melody, yes, Breathing Lessons is fantastic.

Caroline, I think The Accidental Tourist is one of her finest novels. Have you read Ladder of Years?

Mary, rather than read lots of new novels this year I'm sticking to my favourites!

Bellezza, I agree that the main story was stronger than the sub-story. I loved the story of Abby and Red, though.

Mystica, Happy New Year!

Terra Hangen said...

I have read and enjoyed several Tyler novels and now I want to read this one. I really liked the one where a housewife is taken hostage in a bank robbery and she becomes quite friendly with the guy. I don't recall the title.

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I am embarrassed to admit I've yet to read a single Anne Tyler. I have always meant to, but it's just one of those that I've longed to dive into, but just haven't yet. Must rectify that!

Vintage Reading said...

Terra, I think that is Earthly Possessions, an early Tyler title. It's pretty good.

Natalie, sometimes a book comes to you when you need it!

sunt_lacrimae_rerum said...

I really love Anne Tyler too and think that she is brilliant at developing character and depicting the small, ordinary yet fascinating ways of domestic life.