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Book Review: A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

spoolA great family story, this covers American life from the Depression to the present time. Red and Abby are the two main protagonists together with their children. Denny is perhaps the most interesting member of the family. Intensely private, guarded, sometimes he disappears from their lives, then reappears with a daughter, Susan. His wife doesn’t play much of a part in their lives, although they share her care with equanimity. The most interesting relationship is that of Abby and Denny – he is secretive, reserved and Abby often feels that he doesn’t feel part of the family. This is odd, considering that his step-brother is an orphan taken in by the family. Why is it that Douglas, the foundling, is the more secure child? We never really get to grips with this unusual situation. You often feel as if you are looking at the family through a window and not truly getting to grips with any of the fascinating characters.

It is, however, a very pleasurable read. Denny’s sisters marry happily, and a great deal of the book concerns the sedentary pleasures of an ordinary family. The action centres upon the beautiful house built by Junior, the children’s grandfather.

The Depression period of America’s history coincides with the story of Junior and his wife, Linnie Mae. She is only thirteen when they first meet, but after a period of separation they meet again, and all of the moves are made by Linnie. It sometimes seems that nothing much is happening, but there is plenty going on beneath the surface of these ordinary lives.

Emma Corfield-Walters

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