Friday, 9 October 2015

A Spool of Blue Thread

When I love a book, I gulp it down like a mug of my favourite Assam tea.  I run with the emotional impact of the writing, the impression it makes on my heart.  It's like falling in love for a while.  To appreciate the detail, I have to put the kettle on again, go back to the beginning of the book and read in a 'cooler' frame of mind. That first blind adoration is always the best read though.

I've read 'A Spool of Blue Thread' once only so this is 'head over heels' stuff not a 'proper' review.   You've guessed: I loved it!  Could anyone else on the Man Booker Prize shortlist win?  We'll find out next Tuesday, not time enough for me to read all the others as I've fallen in love with my next book already: Elif Shafak's 'The Forty Rules of Love', which will come as no surprise if you read me on Tuesday.

Back to 'A Spool of Blue Thread'.  For me it's a masterclass in character.  In telling the story of a family and how they live, love, dream, work and get through hard times, Anne Tyler reveals what it is to be human.  She has a knack of showing people from every angle - Junior, Linnie Mae, Abby, Red, Denny ... they're not just characters in a book; they're simply too real.  She shows them in their glory and in their weakness too and then twists it around in a no yin without yang kind of way.  Just as I started to judge someone in a certain way, up popped a beautifully crafted contradiction, a redeeming feature or the revelation of an emotional scar which made me look again. The seemingly weak revealed hidden reserves of willpower, the strong had fault lines.  Always they emerged from a place of compassion: Anne Tyler's love for them all.  

I can hardly believe this is the first of her twenty novels I've read.  Perhaps it's because she's billed as charting everyday family life, not my instinctive reading territory.  It's her love and deft crafting of those family members that makes all the difference.  As an aspiring writer, she has so much to teach me about breathing life into the flesh and bones of characters.  She is quoted as saying (Wikipedia): 'Aren't human being intriguing?  I could go on writing about them forever.'*  That's how she can make a man's character stand out simply by describing his shirts which are 'white, always, and unfashionably high in the collar.'

She likes a twist of fate and serendipity too. 'I love to think about chance, about how one little overheard word, one pebble in a shoe, can change the universe'*.

That's where the blue thread comes in, teal blue, and with it unspools a little universe changing magic.

*Thank you Wikipedia 

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