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. A pivotal scene in this book took place in Eddie's, an upscale grocery store that I often visit on N. Charles Street....in fact, Charles Street is often mentioned.
Here are three quotes I wrote down while reading...just so well-said by Tyler, with such economy. Other writers would/could have taken pages to say essentially the same thing:
<<<Damian had the posture of a consumptive - a narrow curved back and buckling knees. He resembled a walking comma.>>>
<<<She collected and polished resentments as if it were some sort of hobby.>>>
<<<All along, it seemed, he had experienced only the most glancing relationship with his own life. He had dodged the tough issues, avoided the conflicts, and gracefully skirted adventure. "I just don't seem to have the hang of things, somehow. It's as if I've never been entirely present in my own life.">>>