Wednesday, May 26, 2010

'Noah's Compass' by Anne Tyler

26 May 2010

Anne Tyler is an author who produces hugely entertaining, readable novels which are all much more clever and profound than they appear – tackling difficult subjects without creating difficult prose – something also achieved by David Lodge but not many others in my opinion. ‘Noah’s Compass’ is Anne Tyler’s 18th novel and sees her returning to a familiar format after the more ambitious digressions of her previous two books, ‘The Amateur Marriage’ and ‘Digging to America’. Set, as always, in Baltimore ‘Noah’s Compass’ is a seemingly simple tale of family relationships, aging, loneliness and memory loss. It has much in common with one of Tyler’s most celebrated works, ‘The Accidental Tourist’ but shows, I think, a maturing confidence in her writing, relying much less on exaggerated comic characters and set-pieces. Like a stripped-down version of ‘The Accidental Tourist’ everyone is less extreme and more believable, less happens but the emotional interaction feels stronger. ‘Noah’s Compass’ is a short novel – the first book I’ve read at a single sitting for some time – but manages to be intriguing, funny and very moving. Less is more.



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