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Breathing Lessons [Hardcover]

3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: PENGUIN PUTNAM * TRADE
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670825387
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670825387
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)

More About the Author

Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Breathing Lessons and other bestselling novels, including The Accidental Tourist, Saint Maybe, Ladder of Years, A Patchwork Planet, Back When We Were Grownups, The Amateur Marriage and Digging to America. In 1994 she was nominated by Roddy Doyle and Nick Hornby as 'the greatest novelist writing in English'. Anne Tyler lives in Baltimore where her novels are set.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I actually prefer her other novels... 21 Jan 2009
By Lukal8
Format:Paperback
This was actually the first of many Anne Tyler books I read, and oddly did not live up to my mild expectations. Despite the acute realism and sense of sentimental familiarity that comes with all her books, I just didn't enjoy the storyline and didn't especially warm to the central characters as I do with characters in her other books. Perhaps three stars is rather harsh since it is beautifully written with excellent style, and very readable, nevertheless relative to her other works I have to rate this as average.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars And Breathe... 30 Jan 2009
By Simon Savidge Reads TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Anne Tyler won The Pulitzer Prize in 1989 and twenty years on you can still see why, her writing style is superb. She writes the whole novel in third person and yet through the characters thoughts you can hear their voices in first person and it's incredibly effective. Breathing Lessons tells a day in the life of Maggie Moran. A woman nearing fifty whose own daughter asks her `when did you become so ordinary?' As fifty nears she is looking at the lives of her children, husband and herself as she heads for the funeral of her best friends wedding.

Not the storyline for many laughs, though there is humour because it's Anne Tyler, but it isn't meant to be a happy book. It looks at how satisfied people are with their own lives and the lives of their family. Maggie feels her husband Ira thinks she is fat and worthless, clearly how she perceives herself, that her daughter Daisy can't wait to leave her `ordinary' mother and her son whose wife walked out on him with their daughter feels much the same. On the journey and on the way back Maggie's journey takes several surprising detours, mainly through Maggie's interfering. Through these detours Anne shows us Maggie's family past and why she is in the state she is in, you never hear about her childhood much, a mystery I thought might have solved many questions to her deeper personality.

With Maggie's endless interfering and severe swaying of the truth it did leave you feeling you were seeing life through slightly unreliable eyes. The dialogue both external and internal is fantastic. I found the writing sparse, I have to admit I was shocked Ira and Maggie were still married and the rare signs of closeness and emotional contact between the two of them somehow felt false.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
This is my first Anne Tyler book, it was recommended by a friend but I was disappointed overall.

I thought it was beautifully written, and for the most part an acute observation of real life relationships. Tyler seems to have a knack for simple details that help define a character, like Maggie looking for soap and a used towel so not to disturb the new soaps and clean guest towels in Serena's bathroom (I can see my mother doing that!). I agree with other reviewers who have noted that it was hard to warm to the main characters, but while they have unlikeable traits, they were still very real and you could understand where they were coming from. Other reviewers didn't like Ira - I personally thought he must have had the patience of a saint to put up with Maggie, in particular her habit of discussing intimate family matters with total strangers while using the opportunity to get a dig at him. In fact, I found their relationship a little unrealistic, I was surprised at how easily Ira overcame his frustrations with Maggie, given his apparent resentment of his father & sisters dependence.

However it was Maggie that spoiled the book for me. I found her incredibly annoying, so much so that had I almost gave up after 30 or 40 pages. I could identify with elements of her character and understood why she did many of the silly things she did, but overall I found her too over-the-top. Maybe Maggie was an attempt to inject humour, but if so it was lost on me as the rest of the book was so realistic and any other humour came from the acutely observed little things that you could identify with.

This has not put me off trying Anne Tyler again, as I enjoyed her writing style and her eye for realistic details. I will just have to choose the next book myself!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
As Tyler so often does, the ordinary lives of her characters become extraordinary, and the reader immerses him/herself in the storyline.
A wonderful read, pleasurable yet simple, you follow the characters through as if you were with them, experiencing their lives.
The beauty of this book is the fact that it is so completely believable. I felt like the characters were long lost friends that I could relate to.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful, wise, touching, funny novel 23 Oct 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This was the first Anne Tyler book I've read and I was exhilarated by it. It is a beautifully written book, full of insights into human relationships. Her witty writing and sharp observations make Tyler a dream to read. Top of my list of 'discovered authors' for '98. After you've read it, your only problem will be deciding which of your friends to pass it on to first!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars American life in a day 12 Nov 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
The Pulitzer prize is awarded for distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life. This novel won the prize in 1989. It may seem a surprise, since the plot is so slight, scarcely a panoramic view of modern culture - set alongside the definitive statements of other Pulitzer prize-winning novels such as The Colour Purple, or Toni Morrison's Beloved. But it encapsulates within a day the struggles of a family's whole life and of a long marriage.

Tyler begins by setting up a scenario - one that is bound to cause acute stress - and then piling on extra to take it to an extreme pitch. In doing so, it teeters between tragedy, futility and comedy.

It begins with collecting the car from the garage the day of a long drive to the funeral of her oldest friend's husband. It immediately adds an overheard radio talk in that `tells' Maggie that her estranged daughter in law is about to marry another man; followed in a few seconds by a prang with the car; followed by a stressful drive in which you wonder how her husband Ira copes with her; a row that almost busts a decades-long marriage (but they are always doing that); and a funeral as bad amateur dramatics and sing-along. The black observation is piled on - why stop? But perhaps the point is that Ira and Maggie are always living at this extreme of bickering followed by closeness, and maybe Maggie does shift from crisis to crisis as she tries to put the world right, and Ira bickers back and tries to be the sensible grounded one.

This is a turning point in their lives. It is not simply that the funeral at too young an age is a reminder of everyone's mortality and of the passing of youthful aspirations.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Mother's Day
brilliant story of a mother and her quest to see her son and daughter in law back together - the whole saga of family life described in minute detail detailing the tensions between... Read more
Published 1 month ago by PatriciaBookworm
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Delivered quickly - very readable
Published 1 month ago by Jo Cursley
3.0 out of 5 stars Reasonable copy
This book arrived promptly, but is a rather worn copy with discoloured pages. Perfectly readable, but it looks and smells old. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Jo Hatfield
2.0 out of 5 stars Should be called 'Observations on the Mundane'
No real story, no likeable characters, lots of annoying misunderstandings, although I will concede how these came about were sort of clever and obviously took some thought. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Amanda B
5.0 out of 5 stars Format issues
There are several pages with no punctuation. It's harder to read a book with no full-stops than you think. There are also several spelling mistakes which is irritating. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Caroline Drummond
1.0 out of 5 stars Not your usual Anne Tyler
I have read and loved so many Anne Tyler books, but I was so disappointed in this one. I didn't like the "heroine" at all. She really exasperated me. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Mrs B Bladen
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great read.
Buying used can save money and this is a great buy. Anyone who know Anne Tyler will know ALL of her books are a good read and buying used makes it worth the money too.,
Published 8 months ago by Tilly
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but not one of her best
Anne Tyler is an excellent author ho I would recommend. this is one of her earlier books. I really enjoyed it but it is not as good as some of the others. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Cathie
5.0 out of 5 stars Anne Tyler
I love all Anne Tyler's books - her characterss are interesting and real, and every sstory keeps me engrossed, without being anxious.
Published 14 months ago by Jo
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good writing
which sort of carries you along. Anne Tyler has a very deep understanding of human relationships which she can put into very good narrative. Will buy more of her books!
Published 16 months ago by Doris Day
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