Together in Spirit

An online reading group ('TIS a reading group!) to bring together friends, and friends of friends, who aren't able to be in a conventional reading group due to constraints of time or geography.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Valerie's post on "Back when we were grownups"

A glut of nicknames

I enjoyed reading this book rather to my own surprise, as the opening
chapter made my heart sink, faced with so many characters with so many
nicknames. I found NoNo, Patch, MinFoo and Poppy, four too many and
rather precious, which is not to my taste. The story was of the
mumsy, middle-aged and menopausal variety that I would expect to have
little appeal to those not mumsy, middle-aged or menopausal. It
reminded me of Carol Shields and of Anita Brookner. The latter's
characters are usually unmarried, but having the same feeling that
life has passed them by. I have since finished a book by the
Tonbridge author, Penelope Morrish, on a similar theme. Perhaps I have
read too many on the same theme.

I enjoyed the book because of the writing. I think Anne Tyler is a
very skilled writer and conveys the thoughts and feelings of her
characters in a subtle and precise use of language and many well
observed insights. Rebecca, thrown into sudden maturity, looking
after three little girls and then her own, aged twenty, remains the
support for her daughters, who show little of her maturity and coping
ability and continually seek her support. Bereaved at twenty six, with
no opportunity to grieve, she has to maintain a party face for a
living, but also insists on frequent celebrations that require her to
be in a party mood. Although she is surrounded by people most of the
time, she misses the close relationship of her late husband.
Returning to Will is unsuccessful. She tried to bring him into her
world. She was not anticipating joining his world. (Or did I miss
something?) Would he be a support or a dependant? I did not find her
treatment of him very believable. Slamming down the phone did not
seem to be in character, for one so used to handling people. She
found Zeb most understanding and supportive but she was not attracted
to him. "looked quite ugly" "greasy hair."

At the end I think Rebecca knows where her heart is. At the centre of
her family, giving parties and nurturing children. After all, she has
Peter to encourage in his science.