‘A Spool of Blue Thread’ by Anne Tyler – Book Review

Blurb from Goodreads

A freshly observed, joyful and wrenching, funny and true new novel from Anne Tyler


“It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon.”

This is how Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she fell in love with Red that day in July 1959. The Whitshanks are one of those families that radiate togetherness: an indefinable, enviable kind of specialness. But they are also like all families, in that the stories they tell themselves reveal only part of the picture. Abby and Red and their four grown children have accumulated not only tender moments, laughter, and celebrations, but also jealousies, disappointments, and carefully guarded secrets. 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, here are four generations of Whitshanks, their lives unfolding in and around the sprawling, lovingly worn Baltimore house that has always been their anchor.

Brimming with all the insight, humour, and generosity of spirit that are the hallmarks of Anne Tyler’s work, A Spool of Blue Thread tells a poignant yet unsentimental story in praise of family in all its emotional complexity. It is a novel to cherish.

My Review

When you finish a book in the early hours of the morning and suddenly start crying you know it’s a good one! This just touched my heart in so many ways.

“And time… Well you know about time. How slow it is when you’re little and how it speeds up faster and faster once you’re grown. Well now it’s just a blur. I can’t keep track of it anymore! But it’s like time is sort of balanced. We’re young for such a small fraction of our lives, and yet our youth seems to stretch on forever. Then we’re old for years and years, but time flies by fastest then. So it all comes out equal in the end don’t you see.”

A Spool of Blue Thread is a a richly woven tapestry of family life with the focus falling at different times on all the generations: grandparents, parents, children. But somehow the most important character in the book is the house in which they all live. The house that sees youth through to old age, that sees a family’s good days and their bad, their highs and their lows, and knows all their hidden secrets…
A house bursting at the seems with stories and memories.

This is a book that I think we can all identify with in some way. Most of us are lucky enough to have some form of family or support system in our life. And for the majority we have at least one of the following: parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles etc… These people that we spend our entire lives with. They are the the ones that are there for every occasion. They know us intimately and yet sometimes seem to not know or understand us at all. They can frustrate you the most, drive you absolutely scatty, and they are the ones that can hurt you more than anyone else ever could….yet they are the ones that we hold most dear. Without them life would be a pale imitation of itself. That’s why we call them our loved ones. This is a book about one such family called the Whitshanks who are each other’s loved ones. They’re just as normal as any one can be, but just as crazy too!

I found the story to be thoroughly engaging. I loved the layout; the way the story of the family moving backwards in time was slowly unfurled to the reader. I loved seeing the relationships of all the different people within the family; the ever changing yet strangely also somehow ever constant family dynamics! I definitely played a bit of ‘spot your own family member’ among all the characters.

Definitely a book that I would recommend if you want to escape from your own life and get lost in someone else’s family drama for a change! This was just a lovely and very satisfying read. A story that held my attention from start through to the finish and one that made me weep a little at the end because of the simple beauty of what family truly means.

four and a half stars

“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. ‘It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon’ she’d begin, and it would all come back to her – the newness of it, the whole world magically opening before her at the moment when she first realised that this person that she’d barely noticed all these years was, in fact, a treasure. He was perfect, was how she’d put it to herself. And then the clear-eyed, calm-faced boy would shine forth from Red’s sags and wrinkles, from his crumpled eyelids and hollowed cheeks and the two deep crevices bracketing his mouth and just his general obtuseness, his stubbornness, his infuriating belief that simple cold logic could solve all of life’s problems, and she would feel unspeakably lucky to have ended up with him.”

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