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Noah's Compass [Paperback]

Anne Tyler
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
Price: 5.59 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

19 Aug 2010

Liam Pennywell has spent most of his life dodging issues and skirting adventure when suddenly, in his sixty-first year, something happens that jolts him out of his certainty and leaves him with a frightening gap in his memory.

In trying to piece together what took place on his first night in a new apartment, Liam finds instead an unusual woman with secrets of her own, and a late-flowering love that brings its own set of thorny problems...

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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: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 134,867 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
78 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical 9 Aug 2009
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Another gem from Tyler 7 Sep 2009
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
5.0 out of 5 stars As expected, as close to perfection as ever 24 Aug 2009
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hmmm - not quite sure 22 Sep 2010
Thought this was going to be a great Anne Tyler novel but for me it didn't quite make the mark. Started off well but the twist (a gentle one I should have foreseen, but didn't!) dampened it down somewhat. Although I read it, every word, right to the end and did enjoy it, I was left feeling flat rather than uplifted as I am by most of her books. Good, but not brilliant.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars All great reads
Never read an Anne Tyler that I wouldn't recommend.
Published 27 days ago by Mr. B. R. Burge
5.0 out of 5 stars A delight
The protagonist of Tyler's 18th novel is Liam Pennywell, who at 60 years old had been made redundant and forced to move to a smaller apartment. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amanda Jenkinson
5.0 out of 5 stars funny, moving, thought-provoking and, as always, quite brilliant.
Noah’s Compass is the eighteenth adult novel by American author, Anne Tyler. When sixty-year-old Liam Pennywell is retrenched from his job as a fifth-grade teacher, he decides to... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Cloggie Downunder
5.0 out of 5 stars Cosy reading
Thought I'd read all of Anne Tyler's books until I came across this one. It doesn't disappoint-classic Tyler, you're immediately sucked into the character's world and way of... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Jean
2.0 out of 5 stars Not her best
I read somewhere that fiction needs to either be about ordinary people in exceptional circumstances, or exceptional people in ordinary circumstances. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Phil O'Sofa
5.0 out of 5 stars Anne Tyler.
Great read and buying a used book is a great way to safe. You won't be disappointed with this book.
Published 6 months ago by Tilly
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb characterisation in perfect prose
I read my first Anne Tyler novel in July 1988 on holiday. It was The Accidental Tourist and I was completely bowled over by Anne Tyler's ability to create fully-fleshed out... Read more
Published 8 months ago by hiljean
5.0 out of 5 stars Charming Story
I am a fan of Anne Tyler and thoroughly enjoyed this story. Her characters are always very sympathetic and believable.
Published 8 months ago by Jan Pollard
4.0 out of 5 stars Noah's Compass
so far so good. The book flows along nicely and storyline is interesting as not sure where it's going yet. Read more
Published 9 months ago by gingernut
5.0 out of 5 stars Sympathetic and insightful
Once again Anne Tyler gives us an absorbing story woven around everyday lives, old and young and the interplay between them, mis understandings and forgiveness, all told with wry... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Margaret M. Thom
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