12/12/2002

The Accidental Tourist (by Anne Tyler)

Years ago a friend recommended Anne Tyler to me, as a brilliant example of a modern American novelist. At the time, I was keener on a little more plot than is usual in Tyler's novels, and found them rather tame.

But over the years, I've read a few more, and now find them intriguing. Her characters are always slightly eccentric in some way, yet she paints an incredible picture of social history in particular cultures, mostly small-town America in the middle of last century.

'The Accidental Tourist' features Macon, who is the writer of a travel series for businessmen. He likes writing, but he doesn't like travelling. As the story opens, we learn that he is recovering slowly from the death of his son. And then his wife leaves him.

He's an introvert, so he doesn't mind the idea of living alone. He decides to be more efficient, expending minimal effort, and at first it seems to work, at least somewhat.

Then he breaks his leg, and can't cope on his own so he goes to stay with his sister and brothers. He meets a dog-trainer who is completely different from anyone he has ever come across before, and who finds him attractive.

So then poor, quiet Macon who simply wants to get on with his life and routine, finds himself caught between his wife and his new friend...

I liked this book. The characters were all slightly caricatured, as seems to be typical with Anne Tyler, but having accepted that they became believable as I read. There was, as ever, a lot of clever observation and irony, and some gentle humour too, mixed in with bittersweet emotions.

All in all, a pleasant read. Recommended.

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