Quintessential Tyler, yet full of surprises - a perfectly pitched, enchanting and affecting novel about a man adrift in his own life, Noah's Compass chimes gently, heartbreakingly with our times.
With the humour and poignancy of her classic The Accidental Tourist (though with a protagonist who doesn't venture far from home) Anne Tyler's new novel tells the story of a year in the life of Liam Pennywell, a man in his sixty-first year. A classical pedant, he's just been 'let go' from his schoolteaching job and downsizes to a tiny out-of-town apartment, where he goes to bed early and alone on his first night.
Widowed, re-married, divorced and the father of three daughters, Liam is a man who is proud of his recall but has learned to dodge issues and skirt adventure. An unpleasant event occurs, though, to jolt him out of his certainty. Obsessed with a frightening gap in his memory, he sets out to uncover what happened, and finds instead an unusual woman with secrets of her own, and a late-flowering love that brings its own thorny problems. His ex-wife (sensible Barbara) and daughters worry about him but Liam blunders on, His teenage daughter Kitty is sent to stay - though it's not clear who is minding whom. His middle daughter, Louise, is a born-again Christian with a son called Jonah, but her certainties leave Liam still more perplexed.
Noah's Compass is about memory and its loss, about incidents and relationships which open up sight lines into a painful past long dead for a man who becomes aware that merely trying to stay afloat may not be enough.
As exquisitely observed and quietly brilliant as the rest of Tyler's fiction
Anne Tyler draws a comedy that is not so much brilliant as luminous - its observant sharpness sweetened by a generous understanding of human fallibility
Noah's Compass is immensely readable. It displays many of Tyler's finest qualities: her sharp observation of humanity, her wry comedy; the luminous accuracy of her descriptions... a novel by Anne Tyler is cause for celebration
Anne Tyler is a novelist who has elevated pitch-perfect observation of everyday detail into an art form... a beautifully subtle book, an elegant contemplation of what it means to be happy and the consequences of a defensive withdrawal from other people
One of my favourite authors, one of the very few I rush out to buy in hardback.
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Anne Tyler is the favourite writer of everyone from Liane Moriarty to Hanya Yanagihara, and was nominated by Roddy Doyle and Nick Hornby as ‘the greatest novelist writing in English’. Here’s our guide to getting started.