Review – A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler


I recently read Anne Tyler’s novel A Spool of Blue Thread, which was shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize and the 2015 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.

A Spool of Blue Thread
Image provided by Vintage¹

The Whitshank family has been living in the house on Bouton Road for generations, well maybe just two generations, as Red’s father Junior was the one who built the house, and Red’s four children have already moved out. So the only ones living there when things start to get a bit complicated are Red, his wife Abby and their dog.

Anne Tyler takes us on a trip through 20th-century Baltimore, from the 1920s up until the 21st century. We get to know each generation and therefore understand why the characters act the way they do.

Two prominent characters are Denny and Stem’s wife Nora. We don’t however get a very close look at them. They are both introvert characters and Tyler keeps them at distance by not telling the reader what goes on underneath their facade.

As the plot follows Junior and Linnie Whitshank from their hometown to Baltimore, we see them struggle and move into the house on Bouton Road. Their children Merrick and Red grow up there and get married one after the other, until it’s Red’s time to live in the house, accompanied by his wife Abby and their children Amanda, Jeannie, Denny and Stem. There is nothing special about the Whitshanks, they are a normal family and so is their life. And even though Tyler writes about everyday life A Spool of Blue Thread isn’t a boring novel. Sure, it might take about 100 pages to get into the book, but as soon as you’re fully acquainted with everyone reading is like meeting up with old friends.

A Spool of Blue Thread won’t hold your attention because of a gripping plot, it is a character-driven novel and Anne Tyler succeeded in creating realistic characters whose lives we follow like old biddies at the coffee table. So if you are generally interested in what your neighbors are up to, you might enjoy A Spool of Blue Thread.

4 Star Rating: Recommended


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