Tag Archives: Anne Tyler

#BookReview ‘French Braid’ by Anne Tyler #literary #family

Anne Tyler writes about everyday relationships with a sharp eye and a silken pen, choosing subjects which to people who have never read her may appear boring or worthless. Her books are never boring. French Braid, her 24th novel is, like all the others, about people, individuals and their families, ordinary people who become so familiar they could be real. Anne TylerWe first meet college students Serena and James, on the train returning to Baltimore from a Thanksgiving visit to James’s parents in Philadelphia. They’re in love and think they know each other well but this visit has highlighted differences in their experience of family and childhood and the expectations each has of how their own family will be in the future. Not all families are alike, they discover. After this shortish section, Tyler settles into the main story of Mercy and Robin – Serena’s grandparents – and their three children Alice, Lily and David through births, marriages and deaths from the 1950s to today.
The Garretts think themselves an awkward family, aware they’re not perfect – as Robin thinks when preparing for his and Mercy’s fiftieth wedding anniversary party, ‘Oh, the lengths this family would go to so as not to spoil the picture of how things were supposed to be!’ But in fact they’re being themselves, getting along together in the way that suits them, dealing with what life throws at them.
There’s a brief scene in the kitchen between sisters Alice and Lily as the family gathers at Easter to meet David’s new friend, Greta. They’re setting out food for lunch when their mis-communications and misunderstandings are laid bare. Hilarious lines – ‘Was bottled mayonnaise not a good thing?’ – are typical Tyler and made me smile. It’s a classic way of showing how two sisters can be so unalike but still rub along together. Tyler has such a deceptively simple way with words, summarising sprawling emotions so concisely that I want to write it down to enjoy again later.
Tyler examines how each family finds its own way through life. Not all siblings are best friends, not all spouses live in each other’s pockets. There is no right way or wrong way of being a family. Close-knit families may find looser-knit families cold or odd, but may in turn themselves seem claustrophobic and cliquey to outsiders. Neither is odd, simply different. Everyone muddles through the best they can. The trick to being part of a family, in Tyler’s world, is to adapt. Allow individuals to be themselves and accept annoying traits, awkward memories and uncomfortable truths along with the happy memories and shared laughter as part of a family’s mosaic.

Read my reviews of these other books by Anne Tyler:-

And read the first paragraphs of:-

If you like this, try:-
At Mrs Lippincote’s’ by Elizabeth Taylor
The Goldfinch’ by Donna Tartt
The Pull of the Stars’ by Emma Donoghue

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#BookReview FRENCH BRAID by Anne Tyler https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5PV via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘Redhead by the Side of the Road’ by Anne Tyler #literary

Anne Tyler is one of my favourite writers, so elegantly understated, so spot-on with her characters. Her latest Redhead by the Side of the Road is slim, at 180 pages, but a delight. Why? Because she writes about what it is like to be human, the everyday things, the ticks, the habits, the way we are and the subtle ways we change. Anne Tyler

Hers are not plot-driven page-turning books, they are thoughtful portraits of people who seem to be like us – they chop vegetables and mop the kitchen floor, like Micah Mortimer, an unmarried 44 year old self-employed IT specialist and janitor of his apartment block. His family teases him about his finicky household habits and he accepts the teasing with good grace. He is infinitely patient with his elderly clients, going round to reboot computers and routers. No scene is wasted in this novella. I particularly loved Micah’s visit to new client Rosalie Hayes who has inherited a house, and computer, from her grandmother. Rosalie cannot find her grandmother’s passwords and is tearing her hair out. This is how we see Micah’s world, through his interactions with neighbours, family, clients, girlfriend Cass and a stranger who turns up on his doorstep – the student son of Micah’s old college girlfriend. Brink’s arrival precipitates change.

Because we see and come to understand Micah’s thought processes, we see how he misunderstands Cass and fails to say the right thing. And we see him find the right thing to say to student Brink who knocks on Micah’s door under a misapprehension and stays because of a problem he cannot express. It is Micah’s gentle nature which finally reveals Brink’s difficulties. Anne Tyler is brilliant at creating characters who, whether you love them or hate them, make you want to read about their story.

A definite 5*. A book you will read and enjoy, wanting to get to the end while at the same time wishing it would last longer.

Read my reviews of A Spool of Blue Thread, Vinegar Girl and Clock Dance, also by Anne Tyler, and read the first paragraphs of Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant and Back When We Were Grown Ups.

If you like this, try:-
A Wreath of Roses’ by Elizabeth Taylor
Brooklyn’ by Colm Tóibín
A Sudden Light’ by Garth Stein

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#Bookreview REDHEAD BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD by Anne Tyler https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4Di via @SandraDanby