Monday, 8 February 2021

2 x Anne Tyler

 Liz Dexter at Adventures in reading, running and working from home invited those interested to dive into the authorship of Anne Tyler.  I read several of her books when I was younger and always loved them. The books are chosen according to the order in which they were written. For January that meant If Morning Ever Comes (1964) and The Tin Can Tree (1965)

Already with her two first books, she has found her way of telling a story. The characterisation is there, as well as the environment in which her characters live and work. With a few words, she brings you into the world of her characters and you are stuck. 

If Morning Ever Comes

"Ben Joe is the only boy in a family of six sisters, Mama and Gram. He is studying for a law degree in New York when he hears his eldest sister Joanne has left her husband and returned home with her baby girl. Out of a mixture of homesickness and duty Ben Joe returns to the home in which he has always felt like an outsider."

Coming back after having studied for half a year, makes Ben Joe feel even more like an outsider. When growing up he had certain responsibilities in the family, and now he realises they manage without him. After New York, although missing home, he knows that the small-town mentality is not something he misses. He is upset about his sister leaving her husband, but it seems no-one else does. While the rest of the family takes things as they come and does not pay too much attention to things, Ben Joe tends to linger longer on what is happening. 

"At the doorway he turned to look at them again. He was in one of those faraway moods when everything he saw seemed to be inside a shining gold-fish bowl, and he suddenly saw how closed-off his family looked. They went peacefully on with what they were doing; Ben Joe, having vanished, might as well not exist. When he stepped outside he gave the door an enormous slam, just to make himself exist a minute longer. "

He is a person that seems to always want to be in another place. "Every place I go," he said, "I miss another place." Although he is trying to get away from what this small-town mentality is and the life that is lived there, he seems incapable of breaking with the past. "Behind his own eyelids the future rolled out like a long, deep rug, as real as the past or the present ever was."

The Tin Can Tree

"When young Jamie Pike dies in a tragic accident, she leaves behind a family numbed with grief and torn with guilt and recrimination. In this compassionate and haunting novel Anne Tyler explores how each member of the family learns to face the future in their own way."

The story of the Pike family, Aunt Lou, Uncle Roy and their son Simon, is also a story about their neighbours, all with their own problems. Brothers James and Ansel. James is the provider for his brother Ansel who is ill, anaemic but seems to thrive on his illness. The older Potter sisters, Miss Faye and Miss Lucy and Joan Pike a cousin to Jamie Pike living with the family. Joan is introduced in this way: "Joan Pike was twenty-six years old, and had lived in bedrooms all her life." While the parents are trying to come to terms with their loss, their son Simon is suffering. Joan is trying to do the best for him, as does James. 

The everyday drama plays out over a short time, while all of them have to deal with everyday life, where nothing much happens. But when it does it has consequences. Joan is the one who is mostly contemplating her life and what is in it for her. "They were going to stay this way, she and all the rest of them, not because of anyone else but because it was what they had chosen, what they would keep a strong tight hold of."

Anne Tyler already so early in her career, masters the language and the storytelling. Nothing much is really happening in her books, but still, there is. Her characters and how they behave rings so true, and even if she talks about ordinary things, the beauty of her language stands out, as I think you can see from the quotes above. She brings you into her characters' lives and their feelings, good or bad, are your feelings. The descriptions of towns and people are spot on. A real pleasure to read. 

The two books for February are The Slipping-Down Life and The Clock Winder. I have already read the first one. 



6 comments:

  1. Excellent reviews and it's lovely to have you along for the project. I enjoyed both of these an it's interesting to see her having developed her voice and characters right from the start, isn't it?

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    1. Yes, I found the first book excellent, even if she, naturally, has developed from there. But the style is there. I am amazed how she manages to keep your attention with stories which are, or seems to be, rather boring everyday life. But somehow she drags you into her stories. I think it must be her wonderful writing. Making life beautiful with a few lines.
      I am happy I joined the project. Am eager to start book number four.

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  2. I read a few books b Anne Tyler. Half of them I didn't like, the others were really good. My favourite "A Spool of Blue Thread", closely followed by "Digging to America". Maybe I should try these.

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    1. I have not read the ones you mention here, but they are on the list. I have liked the books I have read before by her, although it is not that many. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, The Accidental Tourist and Ladder of Years. Possibly another one, but the titles do not ring a bell.
      I really like her writing. The way she manages to keep you tied to the book, although the stories are very 'small'. Ordinary lives, not much excitement, men she is spot on with her characters.

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    2. I also read "The Patchwork Planet" and "The Accidental Tourist". I didn't care much for either of them.

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    3. I had a slight slump with some of her more recent ones so it'll be interesting if I feel more kindly disposed towards them with this re-read! Still, a poor Anne Tyler is still better than many books, in my opinion!

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