A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

This is a hard book to review. Essentially it is a long anecdotal story about an old couple and the lives of them and their extended families. We see people grow up and a few die along the way as we whizz through the years. There’s a bit of Cain and Abel that never develops, there’s a family secret, no one is really nasty although there are some spats, and the old folks eventually get unkindly treated as problems to be resolved.

The scale of the book is quite impressive but I thought the messing about with the chronology was a bit contrived and didn’t add much. The pace with which time passes sometimes mitigates against real exploration and some problems just seem to evaporate when you think they are going to be big plot changers. The passing references designed to anchor the novel at certain points are a bit contrived.

Characterisation is so so but then there are a lot of them although they sometimes seem to be labelled. Nora moves, swirls about while Red mends stuff and Denny sulks.

In the end if you like stories about people who are largely inconsequential but have lives then this might be for you. It is well, if sparsely, written. Some might notice that there aren’t many black faces – there’s more apple pie!


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