Monthly Archives: April 2015

A Spool of Blue Thread – Anne Tyler

A Spool of Blue Thread - Anne Tyler

A Spool of Blue Thread – Anne Tyler

Anne Tyler is one of my favourite authors. I love her narrow focus – like Austen’s three or four families in a country village. It is the common experience made extraordinary. I have read Breathing Lessons, The Beginner’s Goodbye and Breathing Lessons and was keen to read A Spool of Blue Thread. I went to the Lane Book store (my small attempt to keep an independent book store alive).

Here is the blurb …

“It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon.” This is the way Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she fell in love with Red that day in July 1959. The whole family–their two daughters and two sons, their grandchildren, even their faithful old dog–is on the porch, listening contentedly as Abby tells the tale they have heard so many times before. And yet this gathering is different too: Abby and Red are growing older, and decisions must be made about how best to look after them, and the fate of the house so lovingly built by Red’s father. Brimming with the luminous insight, humor, and compassion that are Anne Tyler’s hallmarks, this capacious novel takes us across three generations of the Whitshanks, their shared stories and long-held secrets, all the unguarded and richly lived moments that combine to define who and what they are as a family.

I really enjoyed the sections about Abby and Red – their courting days and as an elderly couple with adult children. The story is mostly told from Abby’s point of view, but you get snippets from the other family members. Abby is generous and caring always bringing ‘strays’ home for Sunday lunch. It is clear that her children (well at least one) recent her attention being elsewhere. This novel is about the give and take of relationships, differing expectations, secrets and what is required from each member of a family.

However, I didn’t enjoy the section on Junior and Linnie. I thought Junior was repellent. Although I did enjoy reading about his craftsmanship and the beautiful home he built – just whose burglar kit was it?

As always, the writing was lovely and I have a real feel for the house – the porch, sun-room and the intricate woodwork. And I want to know what happens next – how will Red cope in his small apartment, will Denny finally settle down, and what about Stem?

More reviews …




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My Brilliant Friend – Elena Ferrante

My Brillant Friend - Elena Ferrante

My Brillant Friend – Elena Ferrante

This novel was recommended by a number of people whose opinions I respect. It is the type of story that I like – mostly character driven. And yet, I struggled.

Here is the blurb …

A modern masterpiece from one of Italy’s most acclaimed authors, My Brilliant Friend is a rich, intense, and generous-hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila. Ferrante’s inimitable style lends itself perfectly to a meticulous portrait of these two women that is also the story of a nation and a touching meditation on the nature of friendship.
The story begins in the 1950s, in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples. Growing up on these tough streets the two girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else. As they grow, as their paths repeatedly diverge and converge, Elena and Lila remain best friends whose respective destinies are reflected and refracted in the other. They are likewise the embodiments of a nation undergoing momentous change. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists, the unforgettable Elena and Lila.
Ferrante is the author of three previous works of critically acclaimed fiction: The Days of Abandonment, Troubling Love, and The Lost Daughter. With this novel, the first in a trilogy, she proves herself to be one of Italy’s great storytellers. She has given her readers a masterfully plotted page-turner, abundant and generous in its narrative details and characterizations, that is also a stylish work of literary fiction destined to delight her many fans and win new readers to her fiction.

As I don’t know much about Italy, I found those aspects fascinating – the local school, speaking dialect, how most people didn’t venture beyond the bounds of their local community and the casual violence. It is a fabulous description of a particular time and place. I’m not sure why I didn’t warm to it – on paper it definitely seems to be my kind of novel. Towards the end I was captured and I want to know the rest of Elena and Lila’s story, but do I want that enough to read the next two installments?

More …


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