Tag Archives: anne tyler

Sad to say goodbye.

The Beginner’s Goodbye

by Anne Tyler

Chatto & Windus, 2012

Pulitzer Prize winning author Anne Tyler has returned to her characteristic writing best in The Beginner’s Goodbye. Admittedly I was a little underwhelmed with her last offering Noah’s Compass, but she has returned with trademark stylish simplicity in The Beginner’s Goodbye. Having just turned the last page, I am already mourning the end of a marvellous read.

Tyler’s talent is to take the everyday and write about it in the most beautiful and unordinary fashion. In The Beginner’s Goodbye she introduces us to thirty-something Aaron Woolcott whose wife Dorothy dies in unexpected circumstances. As we live through Aaron’s initial shock and mind-numbing grief, Tyler gifts the reader with descriptions of simple beauty and clarity which perfectly depict his situation. For instance, upon returning to his empty house which only that morning he had shared with his wife, Aaron goes into the kitchen and see a cup left it in the sink, reacting with a simple yet painfully poignant thought: “Sometimes the most recent moments can seem so long, long ago”. Later, as he deals with the cocoon of goodwill which threatens to suffocate him, he thinks: “That was one of the worst things about losing your wife, I found: your wife is the very person you want to discuss it all with”.

As Aaron wanders somewhat aimlessly through his grief, he begins to experience occasions where Dorothy returns to him; he sees her, can feel her presence and he can converse with her. This is the crux of the The Beginner’s Goodbye: whether a dead spouse can return to a grieving spouse’s consciousness. We are left to make up our own minds about whether Aaron imagines Dorothy’s return, or if it tangibly occurs, but Tyler leaves us in no doubt as to the purpose of her return.

This novel is beautifully written in Tyler’s inimitable style. Aaron is a somewhat prickly protagonist, however it is difficult not to sympathise with him. The cast of supporting characters are intelligently drawn and all have their part to play in Aaron’s grief and recovery.  The ending will no doubt be passionately debated by book clubs far and wide, but I adored it.


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Filed under General fiction, Reviews, Women

On my reading list

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day in my part of the world. In preparation for this, one of my children invited me to shop for my own gift – a truly wonderful invitation. Of course I headed straight for my local bookseller.

It didn’t take me long to choose. Firstly, I wanted a new release which has received some tantalising reviews:

The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler

Random House, 2012


Regular readers of bigbookcase will have noticed that I have long been a fan of Anne Tyler. She appears in my Top 10 favourite books of all time and my Top 10 book openings. What I most enjoy about Tyler’s writing is the way in which she manages to portray everyday life in the most sublime and beautiful language. In a Sydney Morning Herald review Kerryn Goldsworthy describes this as “Tyler’s trademark tenderness for her fellow human beings, a generosity unsullied by sentimentality”.

I should have been satisfied with my new Anne Tyler novel. However, my local  bookseller had a ‘three for the price of two’ sale on literary and modern classics. Clearly this was a not-to-be-missed offer, so I chose the following three titles:

  1. Atonement by Ian McEwan – because I’ve seen the movie but have not yet read the book.
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – because whilst I’ve read it a couple of times, I have never actually owned this novel and decided my book collection would not be complete without this classic. This means of course that I will be revisiting the world of Atticus, Jem and Scout in the near future.
  3. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. As a schoolgirl I devoured many classics, including this one. Some, like Austen, I have re-read many times over the years and I am always delighted to see how my interpretation changes according to my own life experience. As a woman who has faced all the joy and pain of life, the passion and the love, the grief and the sorrow, I am keen to measure my adult response to Anna Karenina compared to that of my teenage self.

Mother’s Day is about so much more than gift giving of course, but a little part of me is secretly delighted to be receiving four beautiful books as my Mother’s Day present. I’ll be back when I’m finished reading……









Filed under Reading matters, Reviews, Women

Top 10 book openings

Some time ago I wrote about the Top 10 book endings. Recently I’ve been thinking about the Top 10 book openings; a ‘top 10’ which I found particularly difficult. I used the following criteria: the top 10 lines would be those I easily recalled, (meaning they were especially memorable), or they would be the lines which had most made me want to keep reading.

After much thought, I eventually came up with the following list:

1. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens


2. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen


3. Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier


4. In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald


5. “Call me Ishmael”

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville


6. Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the riverbank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, ‘and what is the use of a book’, thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversation?’

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll


7. Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.

Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler (2001)


8. All children, except one, grow up

Peter Pan by J.M.Barrie


9. In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans


10. Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K.Rowling


Filed under Top 10 lists