The Sunday Times best seller
Shortlisted for the Man Booker prize
Shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Fiction prize
A Richard and Judy Book Club pick
"It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon..."
This is the way Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she and Red fell in love that summer’s day in 1959. The whole family on the porch, half-listening as their mother tells the same tale they have heard so many times before.
From that porch we spool back through the generations, witnessing the events, secrets and unguarded moments that have come to define the family. From Red’s father and mother, newly arrived in Baltimore in the 1920s, to Abby and Red’s grandchildren carrying the family legacy boisterously into the twenty-first century - four generations of Whitshanks, their lives unfolding in and around the sprawling, lovingly worn Baltimore house that has always been their home....
©2015 Anne Tyler (P)2015 Random House Audiobooks
"She’s changed my perception on life." (Anna Chancellor)
"One of my favourite authors." (Liane Moriarty)
"She spins gold." (Elizabeth Buchan)
"Anne Tyler has no peer." (Anita Shreve)
"My favourite writer, and the best line-and-length novelist in the world." (Nick Hornby)
"A masterly author." (Sebastian Faulks)
"Tyler is not merely good, she is wickedly good." (John Updike)
"I love Anne Tyler." (Anita Brookner)
"Her fiction has strength of vision, originality, freshness, unconquerable humour." (Eudora Welty)
I have only listened to the audio edition
Linnie Mae, I think because of her innocence at some level and her strength to follow through with her love for Junior no matter what - I saw her as a strong character who did not succumb to Junior's authority but worked her wishes around the relationship.
Many, the swing on the porch story! There was also a lovely point where Abbey is welcomed by Linnie in the kitchen.
Not sure really
I would have liked the book to have developed the characters further, I would have liked to hear Nora's voice, what were her thoughts, I would have liked to have heard more of Denny's voice - the ending seemed to leap and be a bit hurried. I think there could have been more development of the overall story to bring it together a bit more some aspects seem to be brushed over so why where they in the story - on the other hand, is this not what families are like over time, some people are not remembered as well to all members and their lives are hidden for no special reason other than what some people focus on as having meaning to them.
Kinda blanked out for long periods and was looking forward to it being over. Which is very rare for me and my audio books. Tyler has always been one of my all time favorites and this was a disappointment.
Book blogger that who has delved into the world of audiobooks to reduce the monotony of the daily commute.
I seem to be saying this a lot lately, but although this is my first Anne Tyler book, it definitely won’t be the last. Two things enticed me to read A Spool of Blue Thread – the gorgeous cover and the fact that it was longlisted (and now shortlisted) for the Baileys Prize. I think I need to thank the Baileys Prize for such a stunning longlist this year, as it’s been the best ever for me in terms of finding new authors that I adore.
I listened to A Spool of Blue Thread in the car and it almost had me hoping I’d end up in a traffic jam so I could listen to more. The story is so good that I just wanted to devour the whole thing (perhaps binge listen is the right term). Kimberly Farr’s narration is spot on and I’m always impressed by narrators that can produce different nuances of speech for each character. She is Abby, Red, Junior, Stem, Denny and Nora. My only critique of the audiobook is that I don’t know how some of the characters’ names are spelled – is it Linney Mae or Linnie Mae? Jeanie or Jeannie? Anyway, it doesn’t matter. Anne Tyler has taken one family with its own quirks and skeleton (no matter how much they try to hide them) and created a wonderful story over three generations of the Whitshank family that is never dull. It’s comical, sad, thought provoking and downright crazy at times, but it shows the love that the family have for each other.
Of course, no family is perfect (even though Junior, Red’s father, did try to build the perfect house). The story opens as Red and Abby, now elderly, get a phone call from black sheep son Denny. He says he’s gay – maybe. The family aren’t sure if they’ve heard correctly. Denny’s an enigma to the rest of the open Whitshanks – he doesn’t live nearby, doesn’t have a steady job (they think) and doesn’t really partake in family gatherings wholeheartedly. The Whitshanks are pretty damn hot in their own eyes – it’s not flaunted, but the family are secure in their love for each other. But it’s not as simple as that. There’s Stem, who was taken in as an orphan and his wife Nora, who the family see as a bit different. But daughters Jeannie and Amanda have their own issues with their Hughs (love that Anne Tyler took what happens so commonly in real families, that two people have the same name) and Denny’s life isn’t that straightforward. But now Abby and Red are getting old – Abby’s memory isn’t too good and Red is getting frail. Will the family bond over this?
We also learn more about the previous generation of Whitshanks – Junior and Linnie Mae. How did Junior go about acquiring such a grand house in Baltimore? How did he and Linnie Mae meet?: How did Red and Abby meet? It’s a wonderful journey across the generations proving that no family is ever straightforward or boring. And as for the Whitshank house…it sounds amazing. (How dare that real estate agent complain so much?) It was built with love and an aim for perfection, just like the family.
Anne Tyler’s prose is wonderful, enveloping and warm. She tells simple things so well, with honesty and an eye for the detail of families – long buried grudges, adult siblings that can still bicker and the bonding that occurs during hard times. This is a wonderful read and I’m crossing my fingers it wins the Baileys Prize this year.
A deep and rich evocation of family. Anne Tyler creates yet another wonderful world full of the details that make fiction seem even more vivid than life. A writer at the peak of her imaginative powers sharing with us her wisdom and insight on the frailty and wonder of what it means to belong to the people we are related to.
Ah, Tyler does it again! So satisfying and complete. Heart filled and sweeping extended family drama with unexpected forays and a good ending.
"eventually you did. Happy endings all around."
“The trouble with dying,” she’d told Jeannie once, “is that you don’t get to see how everything turns out. You won’t know the ending.”
― Anne Tyler, A Spool of Blue Thread
Beautifully written and full of interesting characters, a study of love in families, with all the misunderstandings, bindings and secrets that individuals carry to build a unit that shifts through time and our very existence.
“Abby had a little trick that she used any time Red acted like a cranky old codger. She reminded herself of the day she had fallen in love with him.”
― Anne Tyler, A Spool of Blue Thread
I did not think I was going to like this book, but in the end it seduced me into its rhythm and language and the people that it so gently loves and describes, sometimes with humor, sometimes with sadness that made the pages difficult to see.
“But it has occurred to me, on occasion, that our memories of our loved ones might not be the point. Maybe the point is their memories—all that they take away with them. What if heaven is just a vast consciousness that the dead return to? And their assignment is to report on the experiences they collected during their time on earth. The hardware store their father owned with the cat asleep on the grass seed, and the friend they used to laugh with till the tears streamed down their cheeks, and the Saturdays when their grandchildren sat next to them gluing Popsicle sticks. The spring mornings they woke up to a million birds singing their hearts out, and the summer afternoons with the swim towels hung over the porch rail, and the October air that smelled like wood smoke and apple cider, and the warm yellow windows of home when they came in on a snowy night. ‘That’s what my experience has been,’ they say, and it gets folded in with the others—one more report on what living felt like. What it was like to be alive.”
― Anne Tyler, A Spool of Blue Thread
A celebration of what families are and the love we sometimes find so hard to express, made all too evident in the lives of this family Anne Tyler created with so much skill and care for all the delicate memories, that remind us that our memories and of their importance; of how we never want to misplace them because they are the essence of our lives.
Love the reader Kimberly Farr, she presented the story even more vividly than a group of actors could.
"What a surprise!"
This is the first of Anne Tyler's books I have read and for the first couple of chapters I didn't like it, it seemed to be dull and not going anywhere.
I am a Psychotherapist and we don't make judgements - wrong, I made judgements about the beautifully drawn characters at first negatively, but each time I heard their stories I found myself empathising with them. They made me laugh and cry, feel angry and happy by turns. This a great book for anyone who is interested in people and what makes them tick.
Now I can't wait to read another of her books.
I read this because it was on everyone's must read list. I never felt as though it really got going. I have read several books which focus on the minutiae of life and thoroughly enjoyed them. This was kind of meh.
My first Anne Tyler. The story of an ordinary family. And of all us. And of all our lives. So perceptive. Beautifully read.
"When is something going to happen?!"
No to Anne Tyler, yes to Kimberly Farr.
It has put me off other books by Anne Tyler.
Enjoyed Linny May and Junior's story more than the rest.
I found most of the book very tedious, and I kept waiting in vain for something interesting to happen.
"Wonderful characters and absorbing story"
Beautiful attention to detail in dialogue, characterisation and description. Relates the everyday drama and highs and lows of family life.
"Seamless Sewing at it's Best!"
I absolutely loved this book in all its multi-layered glory.Kimberly Farr does an exquisite job of the narration, each character's voice clearly resounding, making the story come alive. I won't talk about the plot as it would spoil Ann Tyler's twists and turns, but the writing is beautiful and the characters take on a life of their own. Suffice to say that if you purchase this book you won't regret it.
"Not For Me"
I love many of Anne Tyler's books and have read almost of them I think. But this is the second audio book of hers I have bought and I didn't enjoy either of them. Maybe I chose the wrong books, or maybe they work better for me 'in my head' rather than being read to.
I see from the reviews of this recording that views are polarized - but several reviewers said they found it boring and so did I.
The gentleness of her writing and skillful character drawing are both present in this book - the problem really began with me realizing about 25% of the way in, that I didn't like any of the characters she had drawn, except maybe one of Abby's daughters. The elder son just annoyed me, as did the family's rather pathetic 'fear' of him and his casually nasty behaviour. Then we veered off into a distant back-story...I was bored by this point and I considered abandoning it, but I kept going.
The story goes back and forth and though there are some plot twists, nothing much really happens. I don't usually mind that, as long as the journey is rewarding but for me, it was not.
The narration was OK; it did seem to match the dull, rather whiny tone of the book. No-one was ever really happy it seemed; but no-one was unhappy enough to tackle it. So the family, much like the book, just drift.
"no plot, no characters, no anything"
I honestly have no idea who would want to read about such a mondain subject matter.
It would have been really helpful if at least one character had done something even remotely remarkable
If lituary books are about character and popular books are about plot, then this novel has failed spectacularily on both fronts.
I have listened to this book on audible as a professional narrator can bring a book alive. The narrator was very good, but where there is no plot, there is no plot. I have listened for 7 hours and there is no way I can go for another however many hours. In fact I can't bear nother 5 min of it. Why would anyone read about such an utterly unremarkable family? I did not get to like even one of the characters, every single one was just so plain that you could not even hate them. They merely irritate ! Its like spying on your neighbours through the bedroom curtains !
"Well worth the listen."
I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Itntook me a little whilento get intomit but gradually I was drawn in completely. The narrator enhanced my experience as her voice was so interesting to listen to.
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