Anne Tyler - Noah’s Compass
- Claire Sawers
- 10 August 2009
(Chatto & Windus)
Baltimore story-maker Anne Tyler delivers book number 18 here, about a retired teacher suffering from amnesia. Sixty-year-old Liam Pennywell likes keeping things simple. Jam sandwiches for lunch, generic French bistro posters decorating his bland, boxy bachelor pad and avoidance of any stress or arguments if possible. He mostly avoids people too, until a head injury causes a blackout that brings his three daughters, sensible ex-wife and no-nonsense sister back in to his life.
Tyler has the minutiae of suburban America nailed, and describes Liam’s cloyingly worthy born-again Christian daughter, or frumpy but still magnetic love interest Eunice with humour and wise attention to detail. Sometimes that detail can bog the story down, making the pace dawdle, but when it picks back up, it’s a sweet if slightly pedestrian study of a stubborn, grumpy old man falling in love, and a pensioner portrait of someone you end up really rooting for.