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An Evening with Alastair Sawday

20th October, 2021, Steyning Cricket Club

A Spool of Blue Thread

Spool of blue thread cover image

The Whitshanks like to think they are special, as families do. They take great pride in their handyman skills, their stories, imagine that others see a close knit clan and wish they were part of it. This may be true, but Anne Tyler’s portrait of a middle-class Baltimore family unerringly skewers its subjects with a cool, humorous yet ultimately sympathetic gaze. Abby and Red love their comfortable family home. Their children have all grown and left, but are still in regular and close contact, except Denny, the problem child, who remains unreliable and secretive. But Red is losing his hearing and Abby is starting to experience disturbing timeslips, and their children agree that they can’t continue to live alone. As family members return to the house and their stories loop back and forth through time, Tyler’s writing acutely and elegantly observes the muddle of family life, the sometimes hilarious tragedy of getting old, the misconceptions and misunderstandings that plague every family, the imitations of human consciousness.
This is Tyler’s 20th novel, and if anything, her writing is more humane, yet piercingly sharp than ever.