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Man Booker Longlist 2015: A Spool of Blue Thread Anne Tyler


Next up in on our long list reads is Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread. Find out what I thought about it and where it ranks.

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
Published in: 2015
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Find it/buy it here: A Spool of Blue Thread

Synopsis (from Amazon): “It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon. . .” This is how Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she fell in love with Red that day in July 1959. The Whitshanks are one of those families that radiate togetherness: an indefinable, enviable kind of specialness. But they are also like all families, in that the stories they tell themselves reveal only part of the picture. Abby and Red and their four grown children have accumulated not only tender moments, laughter, and celebrations, but also jealousies, disappointments, and carefully guarded secrets. From Red’s father and mother, newly arrived in Baltimore in the 1920s, to Abby and Red’s grandchildren carrying the family legacy boisterously into the twenty-first century, here are four generations of Whitshanks, their lives unfolding in and around the sprawling, lovingly worn Baltimore house that has always been their anchor.

My Review: What makes this book unique is the fact that it is a family saga told in reverse. It starts in the present day, largely featuring adult children and how they relate to their parents, before moving back in time to tell their parents’ story and then their grandparents’ story.

At the center of the book, and almost a character in its own right, is the house built by Junior Whitshank, the first known Whitshank ancestor. The story of the house is the story of the family. It is only during the final section, where events are shown from Junior’s point of view that certain other things make sense.

Overall, I enjoyed the story. In terms of character complexity, I found certain characters to be well defined whereas others were more stereotypical, lacking complexity. I liked the way the narrative worked in reverse, but there was only one section I found to contain a story beyond the normal family saga which is why I only gave it an average rating for originality.

This is a solid well-written book but it lacked the poetry or flashes of inspiration I have found in other 2015 longlist books.

Currently this would make my shortlist but that could change. Here are my ratings:

Available in English 1/1
Published in the UK 1/1
Originality 4/8
Character Complexity 4/5
Writing Quality 4 /5
Total 14/20

Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here: A Spool of Blue Thread

Have you read this book? What did you think? If not, do you want to read it?

Here are our rankings of longlist books to date:

  1. A Little Life: 18/20 (based on Jen’s rating)
  2. Lila: 15/20 (based on book worm’s rating)
  3. A Spool of Blue Thread: 14/20 (based on book worm’s rating)
  4. The Green Road (joint rating) & Satin Island (book worm’s rating): 13/20

Coming up next week… Jen’s review of The Fishermen.

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