Wednesday, 25 January 2017

A Spool Of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
First published by Alfred A Knopf in America in 2015.

Where to buy this book:
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How I got this book:
Received a review copy from its publishers via NetGalley.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon...' This is the way Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she and Red fell in love that summer's day in 1959. The whole family on the porch, half-listening as their mother tells the same tale they have heard so many times before. From that porch we spool back through the generations, witnessing the events, secrets and unguarded moments that have come to define the family. 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 - four generations of Whitshanks, their lives unfolding in and around the sprawling, lovingly worn Baltimore house that has always been their home.

A Spool Of Blue Thread was much hyped last year as a result of its shortlisting for the Booker prize so I put off reading it in an attempt not to be swayed by the extensive publicity. It is very typical Anne Tyler fare - family centred, in Baltimore, strong on characterisation and buried secrets - but I thought there was little in the way of an overarching narrative to hold it all together. Instead this is a meandering work that wanders off to different people and eras, always returning to the main thread but without any sense of a plan. It's more of a Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant and certainly not a Ladder Of Years.

Perhaps I am being harsh? A Spool Of Blue Thread is still a very good book by general mainstream fiction standards, but I did often find it rather dull and had expected more from Tyler. There are interesting interludes and the discovery of the Linnie Mae and Junior relationship especially is cleverly done. If you enjoy big family sagas where everything gets resolved around the dining table then you might enjoy the book more than I did. I just thought it all felt too formulaic.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Anne Tyler / Women's fiction / Books from America


  1. Vinegar Girl was my foray into Anne Tyler's work and that didn't work out as well as I'd hoped. I'm not opposed to trying another one, though. Got any good recommendations?

    1. I haven't tried Vinegar Girl yet. Might give it a miss!
      My absolute favourite Anne Tyler is Ladder Of Years - - and I really liked An Amateur Marriage too -