I read A Spool of Blue Thread at someone else’s suggestion. I had no idea what the book was about. Moreover, as an inveterate reader of German literature, I’d never heard of the author, Anne Tyler. I picked up the book, thinking to myself this is so not the type of book I would read. Now that I’ve read it, all I can say is: yes it is.
If A Spool of Blue Thread is anything to go by, Anne Tyler is an unbelievably skilled writer. Like any good novelist worth their salt, you are immediately engrossed in the story and the characters which populate it. On the surface A Spool of Blue Thread would seem to be the everyday story of an average American family – the Whitshanks. However, as the story develops Anne Tyler skilfully reveals the secrets that lie within this family. In the process she deftly shows that – as in real life – assumptions and appearances can be misleading. Likewise just as in real life, she shows that we never truly know another human being, even our nearest and dearest. So much so that one person’s views of events can differ fundamentally from those of another’s even when it comes to those two people purportedly falling in love and building a life together.
Through the prism of Abby and Red Whitshank and their family, we are also faced with the uncomfortable truth of the onslaught of aging on both the body and relationships; and how all children forget the cardinal rule that their parents used to be young once and that one day – even if they refuse to believe it – they will be old themselves.
In a way as you read the novel it’s as if the author is peeling an onion, revealing yet one more layer to the story. Each layer giving you more insight into the characters and making you have to revaluate what has gone before. The end result? You just want to get to the end of the novel. What’s more, once you’ve got to the end – and the biggest compliment you can pay any writer I should think – you want to start reading A Spool of Blue Thread all over again.