12/09/2005

Ladder of Years

The more I read by Anne Tyler, the more I appreciate her. She usually writes about ordinary people in strange situations, often with just one main character whose life she observes and expresses with such fine observation that they seem sometimes more real than those around them.

This particular novel features Delia, a forty-year-old mother of three, who seems reasonably content in her conventional life, married to a doctor who's somewhat older than she is. Out of the blue - although we know this will happen, due to the prologue of the book - Delia walks away from the family on a beach holiday, and doesn't return. She gets a lift to another town, and begins a new life there.

The book gives us her situation shortly before she does her vanishing act, and then takes us through the next year where she becomes independent for the first time in her life. Of course the plot is outrageous - I can't imagine any family allowing this to happen (for of course they trace her), or any mother being able to distance herself so thoroughly from her offspring, the youngest of whom is only 15. Yet at the time, reading the book, it seems totally believable.

Nothing very exciting happens - it rarely does in Tyler's work - yet it was a thoroughly enjoyable book, one which I kept reading almost compulsively. I had no idea how it would end. Although I'd have liked a few more details tidied up in the conclusion - Tyler often leaves things hanging somewhat - I found the ending reasonably satisfying. Definitely one to re-read in a few years.

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