Archives for American writers

#BookReview ‘Clock Dance’ by Anne Tyler #literary #family

Every novel by Anne Tyler is a treat, I save them up, anticipate them. For me as a reader, she tells stories that seem ordinary but have exceptional depth, gentle stories which make me want to continue reading on into the night. For me as a writer, it is her I aim to emulate; her economy of word and scene, achieving depth without unnecessary diversion. So, to Clock Dance. Told in three parts – 1967, 1977 and 2017 – this is the story of an ordinary woman, Willa Drake, to whom things outside normal life don’t happen. The three key events in her life – the disappearance of her mother, a marriage proposal, being widowed at 41 – are passive acts. Willa is not a proactive person. We meet her first as an eleven year-old, at home with her family; her emotionally-erratic mother, her passive, lovely father, her awkward younger sister Elaine. Willa takes on the motherly role, making a chocolate pudding, observing the ups and downs of her parents’ relationship with acute asides. At college, her boyfriend proposes to her and expects her to give up college and move across the country. In 2017, a confused phone call from
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Time Will Darken It’ by William Maxwell #literary

Two families, the one from the South visits the one in the North. America before the Great War, class divides, manners, family duty, the race question and, beneath the politeness, love is turbulent. This is the world of Time Will Darken It. I don’t know why I have never discovered William Maxwell before now, but I will certainly seek out his others. Draperville, Illinois, is the setting for this observation of manners which at times reminded me of Austen. Draperville is based on Maxwell’s own hometown of Lincoln, Illinois. In 1912, the Potter family from Mississippi visit the family of their foster son. Austin King, lawyer in Draperville, struggles to live up to the reputation of his father Judge King. The interaction and resulting effects of the King and Potter families over four weeks and three days, is detailed in a way reminiscent of Austen. And the detail is fascinating. The interaction between the generations, the expectations of the men and women, norms of behaviour and what happens when those norms are broken. This pre-war period teeters on the verge of war, and all the changes that will soon be brought about. This is a wise book about relationships and
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Purity

I admit to feeling disappointed by Purity by Jonathan Franzen. The root of this disaffection is partly my expectations, having loved The Corrections and Freedom, and partly the subject matter. Unlike his previous two novels, which focussed on an extended family, the central narrative of Purity is a young woman’s search for her father, a search which brings her into contact with some seriously dodgy people. A large chunk of the novel is about Andreas Wolfe whose Sunlight Project brings light to the world by leaking secrets. His backstory as a young man in East Germany as the Wall crumbles is historically interesting but I found his character unpleasant. On his first foray into West Berlin, Wolfe meets a young American journalist, Tom Aberant, who becomes another constant throughout the book. Great chunks of the book are dedicated to Wolfe and Aberant’s relationships with, respectively Annagret and Annabel, who confusingly merged together in my mind. So what kept me reading? Pip, the Purity of the title, a young woman burdened by student debt and a curiosity about the identity of her father, is lured to Bolivia to work for the Sunlight Project, in the belief that she will find out the name
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Housekeeping

This book by Marilynne Robinson had been on my shelf for a while, bought because of reputation, and anticipated. Perhaps I expected too much of a first novel because, though it has amazing reviews, I struggled to connect with the story. The writing, however, is beautiful, poetic, elegiac. It is the story of Ruth and Lucille, orphans, who grow up beside a haunting lake in the vast open countryside of mid-America. The lake dominates the life of everyone who lives around it, it floods every year, and floods the house where the two girls live, first with their grandmother and then with their Aunt Sylvie. We see Sylvie’s attempts at housekeeping dwindle as the house floods each winter, as her care for the house fails, so the two girls are uncared for. Not abused, but not clean, not sent to school, not disciplined. It is a novel about the failure of housekeeping in this house, and in the family, and it is the two who girls who suffer. The sad story moves at a slow pace, and until halfway through I had no clear picture of how the two girls were different. It is Ruth who narrates, much of which
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: A Spool of Blue Thread

What do you think of when you think of novelist Anne Tyler? For me, it is The Accidental Tourist, Breathing Lessons, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant. It is quite a list. So I enjoyed the anticipation of reading her latest, A Spool of Blue Thread. What do I expect? Family, no-one writes about family like she does. I became wrapped in the story of Abby and Red Whitshank and their four children Denny, Stem, Jeanie and Amanda. Abby was the character that fascinated me, we see her first as a mother in 1994 when Red takes a strange phone call from Denny who is living who knows where. They don’t know whether to believe Denny, whether to worry about him, Abby tries to empathize, Red says there is such a thing as being ‘too understanding’. And so the Whitshank story slowly unfolds like a dropped spool of blue thread running across the floor. We hear the story of Red’s father, Junior, a carpenter, who built the house Abby and Red now live in, we hear about Linnie Mae, Red’s mother and her love affair with Junie. The history of this family is in their bones, and in the bones of
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Categories: Book Love.

Great opening paragraph 21 ‘Freedom’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“The news about Walter Berglund wasn’t picked up locally – he and Patty had moved away to Washington two years earlier and meant nothing to St Paul now – but the urban gentry of Ramsey Hill were not so loyal to their city as not to read The New York Times. According to a long and very unflattering story in the Times, Walter had made quite a mess of his professional life out there in the nation’s capital. His old neighbours had some difficulty reconciling the quotes about him in the Times [“arrogant,” “high-handed,” “ethically compromised”] with the generous, smiling, red-faced 3M employee they remembered pedalling his commuter bicycle up Summit Avenue in February snow; it seemed strange that Walter, who was greener than Greenpeace and whose own roots were rural, should be in trouble now for conniving with the coal industry and mistreating country people. Then again, there had always been something not quite right about the Berglunds.” ‘Freedom’ by Jonathan Franzen Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Dance Dance Dance’ by Haruki Murakami ‘A Bouquet of Barbed Wire’ by Andrea Newman ‘After You’d Gone’ by Maggie O’Farrell And if you’d like to tweet
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Great opening paragraph 3… ‘Herzog’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“If I am out of my mind, it’s all right with me, thought Moses Herzog.” ‘Herzog’ by Saul Bellow Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Enduring Love’ by Ian McKewan ‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ by Rachel Joyce And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: HERZOG by Saul Bellow http://wp.me/p5gEM4-4G via @SandraDanby #books
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.