I hadn’t read any Anne Tyler before, but was interested to read some of her work from the very positive review of her writing in the ‘Guardian Review’ a few weekends ago. Finding ‘The Amateur Marriage’ on the shelves at home (Joan read it some time ago), it seemed like a good place to start.
What a revelation. OK, I don’t normally have the luxury that my present ‘recovery mode’ allows, of reading a book from cover to cover, which gives a uniquely absorbing perspective. Even accepting that, I found this simple narrative compelling. Tyler traces the relationship of an American man and woman, from Pearl Harbour to 9/11. The chapters are like beads on a string, picking up the story every few years. The young couple of 1942, caught up in the war fever, enter marriage with the naive enthusiasm of youth, as so many did in those days, amateurs in relationships, amateurs in life. They have to face, individually, and together, the challenges of bringing up their children in 1960s America, as the facade of the american dream meets youthful rebellion. They are unprepared, and do not have a language with which to understand and communicate about, the choices individual prosperity had created, choices for which the dying traditional culture in which they had been brought up had few answers. She describes their different understandings, the tensions and distances of family living, through telling the story, with little paragraphs of unique insight making clear how people who are so close can see the world in such different ways. The writing is clean, pared down. I laughed, I felt sorry and sad and felt like crying, I understood the journey; it was a history in a story of two people.
What a writer. Next stop ‘The Accidental Tourist’.