Friday, December 24, 2010
A Patchwork Planet, by Anne Tyler
Ten years ago, oh happy day, shopping in Tesco's (that isn't the happy bit), I spotted a new book with Jeremy Paxman's comment on the back cover; 'I was bowled over... I finished the book wishing it had been twice as long'. Paxman impressed? This had to be worth reading! Conclusion: Anne Tyler is brilliant.
AT washes gently over every day issues (relationships, expectations, temptation, the dependency of old age...) and gives them a normality – life is like that. She writes with such acute observation and insight that the minutiae are like moments of revelation. Her protagonist Barnaby Gaitlin lives in a dark shadow of disapproval, cast aside by his parents, particularly his caustic mother. His old, wealthy Baltimore family set up the Gaitlin Foundation, patronizingly dispensing compassion (which doesn't extend to Barnaby). Ironically, through his 'menial' work with elderly people, Barnaby discretely personifies the compassion for which his family so publicly stands. In spite of strained family relations, a broken marriage, a faltering father-daughter relationship, he is generous, funny, curious, sometimes profound and importantly to the plot, trustworthy.
Anne Tyler provokes an appreciation of the ordinary and unremarkable and shows everyone has the potential to offer something extraordinary to the patchwork of life. This is the Pulitzer prize winner’s 14th novel and if you haven’t yet discovered her this is a good book by which to make her acquaintance.
review by ©Marie Hayward