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Noah's Compass Paperback – 19 Aug 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (19 Aug. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099539586
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099539582
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 108,762 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Product Description


"As exquisitely observed and quietly brilliant as the rest of Tyler's fiction" (Joanna Briscoe Guardian)

"Anne Tyler draws a comedy that is not so much brilliant as luminous - its observant sharpness sweetened by a generous understanding of human fallibility" (Jane Shilling Daily Telegraph)

"Noah's Compass is immensely readable. It displays many of Tyler's finest qualities: her sharp observation of humanity, her wry comedy; the luminous accuracy of her descriptions... a novel by Anne Tyler is cause for celebration" (Caroline Moore Sunday Telegraph)

"Anne Tyler is a novelist who has elevated pitch-perfect observation of everyday detail into an art form... a beautifully subtle book, an elegant contemplation of what it means to be happy and the consequences of a defensive withdrawal from other people" (Elizabeth Day Observer)

"One of my favourite authors, one of the very few I rush out to buy in hardback." (Craig Brown Mail on Sunday)


‘her novels have a grace and an emotional depth that few romances can match’ - Sunday Times, Nick Rennison

‘Compassionate and funny dissection of the workings of the human heart’ - Woman & Home, Fanny Blake --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

78 of 78 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 9 Aug. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Have spent my weekend reading this, Anne Tyler's 18th novel and can say without doubt that it is one of the most beautiful, gentle novels I have ever read. A long time fan of Tyler's work, my expectations were high and were definitely met. The main character, Liam, is a gentle, bewildered man who invites great sympathy from the reader. At the beginning of the story, he is going through a time of great uncertainty in his life, having lost his job and downsized to a rather seedy apartment. His circumstances worsen when he is attacked by an intruder the very first night he spends in his new home. I won't take time retelling the story, but in short, he is more traumatised by the fact that he cannot recall the incident than by the physical attack, and sets about finding a rather novel solution to his memory problems... In the course of his search he meets Eunice, a delightfully eccentric woman, whom he is immediately drawn to. What follows is a lovely, meandering tale, which is both entertaining and also touching. Liam is constantly brow beaten by his (mainly dreadful) female relatives - his daughters, ex wife and sister and is generally treated with contempt by all except his teenaged daughter who stays with him during a difficult time. The conclusion to the novel is, although, not entirely satisfying, quite fitting. I was so sorry to reach the end, and Liam will stay with me for quite some time. Another magical tale from Anne Tyler, master storyteller and observer of human nature.
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By BeachReader on 7 Sept. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Like most of Anne Tyler's books, Noah's Compass was gently written and uncomplicated. No postmodern literary gimmicks for her, thank goodness. Just a straightforward story with a few surprises, and with eccentric characters who probably live down the street.

I love the way Tyler takes everyday happenings and makes the reader realize that nothing is really insignificant, that everything has meaning or value.While reading the book, you hardly realize the layers of character development that she has woven into the story. Her observations of the human condition are always so on-target, but she never makes judgments about what she sees.

The story is a year in the life of Liam Pennywell, sixty years old, who has just lost his teaching job. Liam has been widowed and divorced and has three daughters, so he lives in a world of women, most of whom he cannot comprehend! He is a drifter in the sense that he just lets life happen to him without doing much about anything. Not that he is incompetent, but he just prefers to "go along". Until his first night in his new and smaller apartment when something happens to upset his equilibrium. Tyler works her magic and Liam, while not transformed, at least broadens his approach to life.

While this will not rank up there with A Patchwork Planet, my very very favorite of Tyler's, it certainly was well worth reading and provides lots of food for thought. I am always astounded that her sweet and gentle books keep me thinking about them for so long afterwards.

I am in the U.S. and I have no sense of deferred gratification when it comes to this author's books, so I bought it last month from the UK.

Being familiar with the area of Baltimore where Tyler's books are all set makes her books even more enjoyable.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Cunliffe TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 24 Aug. 2009
Format: Hardcover
The fact that I have read 11 of Anne Tyler's 18 novels suggests that I think highly of this fine author. She is one of the few writers whose books I pre-order and then devour, putting everything else aside for a few days, and then finding that for the next two weeks or so her characters keep coming back to me.

Noah's Compass was no disappointment, being up there with the best of Tyler's work. The book focuses on another troubled man, recently retired Liam Pennywell, a teacher of classics who has been recently let-go in a down-sizing exercise. He feels the need to simplify and down-size his life and moves into a small apartment where on his first night disaster happens and Liam ends up in hospital with gaps in his memory.

On his release, his family are remarkably unsympathetic to his quest to remember what happened. They all have their own concerns and "do their duty" in visiting and phoning, but simply don't have the time or inclination to help Liam work through his worries. And then he meets Eunice, a much younger woman who works as a "rememberer" for an elderly businessman who is losing his own memory (and every Tyler book features at least one career you've never heard of before!). Through chance meetings, Liam strikes up a relationship with Eunice and for a while they both help each other unpack the difficulties of their lives.

At the end of her book, Tyler leaves us with unresolved questions, but also with a sense of hope. Life never comes in neat packages, and yet the solutions to one stage, often lead to a more creative approach to the problems of the next.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By elkiedee VINE VOICE on 3 Feb. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Liam Pennywell has been made redundant from his teaching job at the age of 60. He needs to economise so he moves to a smaller apartment further out of town. He wonders if losing his job is a sign that it's time to move on to "the final stage, the summing-up stage".

This is the opening of Anne Tyler's 18th novel. Like all her others, it is set in Baltimore. Although Liam has lived alone for some years following the end of his second marriage, this novel is about his past and present relationships with other people, his family and others. This is familiar territory for those like me who have read a lot of Anne Tyler's other work.

As in her other novels, the story of Noah's Compass is gradually built up, it is a quiet, reflective novel about thoughts and feelings rather than a fast paced action-packed novel. Liam deals with what is happening to him by trying to focus on the positive side of it - paring down his possessions to prepare for the move is a chance to simplify his life.

Liam is proud of his memory but just after the move he wakes up in a hospital bed with no recollection of the knock on the head which caused him to be there. This does worry him and he sets out to find out. The loss of his job, the move and the gap in his memory force him to realise he is lonely, and he begins, very hesitantly, to re-establish relationships with his daughters, two adults and a 17 year old. His conversations with his family are often quite amusing and rather sad at the same time, as it becomes very clear that it is not just being hit on the head that is his problem, perhaps there is rather a lot he doesn't know.

He is attracted to a younger woman because she seems to be someone who could help look after him, and a friendship, then a relationship slowly develops.
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