I first read Anne Tyler last year; the Baileys Womens’ Prize for Fiction ran an online campaign called #ThisBook in which we asked our followers to nominate the book, written by a woman, which had had the biggest impact on their life. Anne Tyler’s novel, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant was nominated a number of times and so, rather intrigued, I bought it. Suffice to say I was soon able to see why it had generated such wide praise.
Thus I was only to happy to discover that A Spool of Blue Thread – Tyler’s 20th novel – was first long, and then shortlisted for this year’s Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.
The tale follows the lives of the Whitshanks; parents Red and Abby are approaching an age at which their grown-up children – Denny, Stem, Jeanie and Amanda – are considering the best way to look after them. Much of the tale is set in the lovingly worn Baltimore house in which Red and Abby Whitshank have spent most of their lives and offers a nostalgic and evocative backdrop to Tyler’s take on the intricacies of family life.
The bringing together of the four children isn’t a smooth one, and A Spool of Blue Thread perfectly captures the humanity of the characters and the complexities of their relationships. Tyler writes with such wonderfully poetic prose that as a reader you find yourself lingering over even the most ordinary of events, and the closing line is perhaps the closest thing to perfect I’ve read.