A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
|A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler|
|Category: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: Some say that this is Tyler's best book: I'm not certain about that, but it's certainly an engaging read which stays with you and keeps giving long after you've finished reading. Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 368||Date: February 2015|
|Publisher: Chatto & Windus|
Shortlisted for the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction 2015
Shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize
Every family has its tales which are told and retold and in the Whitshank family it was the story of how Abby and Red had fallen in love one beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon in July 1959. It would usually be told on the porch of the Baltimore house which Red's father had built, but on this final time of its telling the circumstances are different. Abby and Red are ageing - even the glorious house is beginning to show its age - and decisions have to be made about how to look after them. All the family are there, even Denny, who can generally be relied on to do only what pleases him.
From that moment we spool backwards through the generations, savouring the moments which made the people as individuals and family as a whole what it is. We first meet Denny at second hand, so to speak, as he phones home and tells his father that he's gay. Red can be critical of his son, but Denny has a habit of dropping in and out of family life as the whim takes him - but is also quick to resent the family's suggestion that he's unreliable. He's one of four children - Amanda automatically takes charge, there's more to Jeannie than meets the eye and then there's Stem, who's the focus of much of Denny's resentment as it looks as though Stem is going to be the automatic heir to the family construction business. Denny knows that he could have done the work: after all he once did some work for a similar firm and would have stuck at it if it hadn't got a bit boring.
The Whitshanks seem like a very ordinary family but as we look back through the years we discover a thread of, well, dishonesty probably overstates it, but there's a tendency to scheme to acquire that which should rightly have belonged to someone else, to get the better. Anne Tyler does this with such delicacy that it's not immediately obvious - it only occured to me after I'd finished reading the book and thought back through the instances. And there are other threads too which bind the years - and the family - together.
It's a book to read and savour, because it stays in your mind and it will be richer on a second reading. On a first read it might appear a little light, but beware of jumping to that conclusion - days after you've finished reading you'll find yourself connecting incidents, comparing the way that things happened. I've heard it said that this might be Anne Tyler's best book: I'm not certain about that as it would make the book very special indeed, but it's certainly a brilliantly crafted read.
Tyler's books fo tend to stay with you: it's more than a couple of years since I read The Beginner's Goodbye, but the detail is still fresh in my mind.
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler is in the Man Booker Prize 2015.
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