28/09/2007

The Tin-Can Tree (by Anne Tyler)

I find Anne Tyler's novels intriguingly different from most others. She uses rather bizarre characters, on the whole, and very little plot. Her situations are caricatured, and also very American. Yet her writing is extremely good, her observational skills excellent, and I keep finding myself coming back for more.

Having said that, 'The Tin Can Tree' was not one of my favourites. It opens as a funeral ends: it's the funeral of six-year-old Jenny-May. Her mother is griefstruck, and the novel really revolves around Simon, Jenny's ten-year-old brother, who begins to feel unloved and unimportant.

Simon and his parents live in a close community of three joined houses. One is owned by two elderly spinsters; one by two young men: the likeable James and his hypochondriac brother Ansel. Simon's family have his grown-up cousin Joan living with them for a while, and she spends a lot of time with him. She tries to hold the family together as they grieve, and also wonders where her long-standing relationship with James is going - if anywhere.

It's nice writing, as always with this author, and some issues do get resolved by the end of the book, though not all. It's probably a good pen-portrait of working people in that part of the USA in the 1960s, so useful from the social history point of view. But it didn't really move me much. I felt that there was a bit too much minute detail for my tastes, and it was rather slow-moving.

Still, pleasant enough as a light read for odd moments.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Its not Jenny May...
Its Janie Rose.