At times it feels as though the personal, gritty stories of our parents’, grandparents’ and great grandparents’ generations are swept aside to make way for our own. We hear about the best bits, sure – the selected stories that represent our ancestors from bygone eras in the softest light – while the true, character-shaping tales slip away.
Anne Taylor’s A Spool of Blue Thread observes three generations of a family’s life – a family thought to have few mildly interesting stories to tell – and she does so with captivating finesse. This character-driven (Man Booker Prize for Fiction short-listed novel) delves into the lives of the Whitshank family, who, at the surface, appear rather humdrum. Yet, throughout this book, we readers learn that Anne Tyler is not afraid to shy away from discomfort, awkwardness and a little heartbreak in her depiction of this all-American household.
Family, in the narrative, can be a tricky ol’ thing to portray in a real, plausible way. Anne Tyler does this in a fashion that is simultaneously thoughtful and effortless.
[Vintage, Penguin Random House UK, 2015]