A Patchwork Planet (by Anne Tyler)

I first started reading Anne Tyler's novels, recommended by a friend in the USA, about 15 years ago. I had mixed reactions to start with, but over the years they have definitely grown on me.

So I was delighted to be given 'A Patchwork Planet' for my recent birthday. I finally picked it up to read a few days ago, and found it very readable. It's full of beautiful observations, gentle, wry humour, and some pathos too. Typical for this author, and very enjoyable.

It's told from the first person perspective of Barnaby Gaitlin. He's a young man who has grown out of his wild teenage years, helped by the trust of his grandfather. He now works for a company that does odd jobs for the elderly. His wife has left him, and he finds his family rather stressful. But he's reasonably contented with his small apartment, his monthly visits to his daughter, and the occasional family get-together.

Then he meets the organised, trustworthy and attractive Sophia. He feels drawn to her, feeling at first as if she is some kind of angel (his family specialise in angelic visits). He wonders if she has been sent to turn him into a worthy human being who will fit in better with other people. So he's slightly surprised when he realises that Sophia is actually rather keen on him. And naturally, he is flattered...

There's not much more plot than that to 'A Patchwork Planet'. The enjoyment of the book is in Barnaby's observations and musings, not just about his family and friends, but about the various people he works for, and the jobs they ask him to do.

I did find the ending slightly inconclusive, as I often do with Anne Tyler's novel. I also found some of the reflections on the inevitability of old age to be rather depressing.

But overall, I thought it a very good book. Recommended.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 7th June 2009

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