If you’ve never read any of Anne Tylers novels you are missing a treat! She has written twenty novels, all of which are different and diverse. Her characters are often described as ‘quirky’ or ‘eccentric’ but Anne has a real flair for making them real, skilfully bringing out their inner selves and giving them great depth. She has a way of celebrating the unremarkable with the ordinary details of their lives day by day.
Although Anne has written novels for many years she didn’t cross my path until 1995 when Ladder of Years peaked my interest. The novel has a simple plot. Cordelia Grinstead is a woman on a family holiday and on a warm summer’s day at the beach, dressed only in her swimsuit and robe, walks away from her husband, Sam, and three children. In a nearby town she reinvents herself as an independent woman with no ties.
Nothing spectacular, no fireworks I hear you thinking! Anne is clever that way. Her writing makes it spectacular. Her creativeness brings the characters to life in a way that you feel close to them and empathize with what they are going through.
Later I went back to read Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant. Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and her best (according to Anne!) tells of three children who gather at the bedside of their dying mother where the past is revealed and all it’s secrets. I then went on to read The Accidental Tourist, which reveals a bit of Anne’s humour as she describes a man addicted to routine, who’s life seems to unravel before our eyes, when his attempts at ordinary life are comically undone! No wonder it was made into a movie with Kathleen Turner and William Hurt! Anne would then go on to write Breathing Lessons that would win her the Pulitzer Prize in 1989.
Later she would write Digging to America, a story of what it is to be American. Two families meet at Baltimore airport – the Donaldsons, a very american couple, and the Yazdans, an Iranian/American family, both are awaiting the arrival of an adopted infant daughter from Korea. Bitsy Donaldson invites the Yazdans to celebrate the arrivals, an event that will repeat every year and reveals the lives of both families.
Her latest novel, Vinegar Girl, is based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, set in modern times, it asks whether the thoroughly modern, independent woman like Kate Battista would ever sacrifice herself for a man!
Zoe our Library Assistant reviewed a copy of Vinegar Girl.
The ‘vinegar girl’ herself is feisty straight talking Kate a 29 year old single woman who works reluctantly in a children’s kindergarten. Kate is also unpaid housekeeper for her father, a selfish workaholic scientist, and main carer for her petulant sister Bunny. Life plods on until her father suddenly begins to treat her differently….
The reason for her father’s interest becomes apparent when his research reaches a breakthrough and his assistant Pyotr is coming to the end of his three year work visa. Her father contrives to bring them both together and confesses he would like them to marry so Pyotr can get his green card!
Kate is understandably not happy but gradually the calm and diffident Pyotr grows on her and he, also, begins to find her amusing and is unfazed by her acerbic tongue! Kate agrees to marry him but on her own terms, but on the day of the wedding the groom doesn’t arrive.
A dishevelled Pyotr finally arrives and chaos then ensues. Does the patient and gentle Pyotr finally marry and tame his Kate? Why not read and enjoy yourself? Having never read Anne Tyler before i really enjoyed reading this novel, her writing brought out the characters and her wit and humour came across but without making it comedy. She is a talented writer and I will certainly be putting more of her novels on my reading list.
You can reserve and enjoy any of Anne Tyler’s books at your library – with or without vinegar!
With her next novel, Tyler truly arrived as a recognized artist in the literary world. Tyler’s ninth novel, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, which she considers her best work, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, PEN/Faulkner Award, and the American Book Award for Fiction in 1983. In his review in The New Yorker, John Updike wrote, “Her art needed only the darkening that would give her beautifully shaped sketches solidity…In her ninth novel, she has arrived at a new level of power.” Her tenth novel, The Accidental Tourist, was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction in 1985, the Ambassador Book Award for Fiction in 1986, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1986. It was also made into a 1988 movie starring William Hurt and Geena Davis. The popularity of this well-received film further increased the growing public awareness of her work. Her 11th novel, Breathing Lessons, received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1989 and was Time magazine’s “Book of the Year”. It was adapted into a 1994 TV movie, as eventually were four other of her novels.