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The Beginner's Goodbye Hardcover – 5 Apr 2012


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus (5 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701187190
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701187194
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 2.2 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (188 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 151,729 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.

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Review

The work of an artist at the peak of her powers... a brilliantly observed and mercifully unsentimental examination of the emotional arc of grief (Sarah Vine The Times)

Tyler strips away layers of everyday life to reveal the abyss of pain underneath but does so with such skill and sparkling wit it makes this a real celebration of life (Vanessa Berridge Daily Express)

This is what Tyler does better than almost any contemporary writer. She peers at the forgotten areas of the everyday, the bits that are hard to pinpoint, yet make up the bulk of our relationships. And this, ultimately, is why she is such a satisfying writer: she looks at people - at life - from the inside out (Lucy Atkins Sunday Times)

A simple, subtle and really honest account of how one man, Aaron, deals with the darkly comic death of his dumpy, clever and brilliant wife Dorothy... I finished it in one sitting (Alix Walker Stylist)

A perfectly judged and brilliantly executed novel of loss and recovery (Woman & Home)

Book Description

An Anne Tyler gem: a story about love, about marriage, about two ordinary people so intertwined they cannot be separated - even by death ...

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

137 of 141 people found the following review helpful By Denise4891 TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 Mar 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I started reading Anne Tyler's books about 15 years ago when she was recommended by two of my favourite authors at the time, Nick Hornby and Roddy Doyle. I fell in love with her understated, engaging style and quickly worked my way through her entire back-catalogue. Regretfully her more recent releases have not been amongst my favourites and I've occasionally re-read a few of the old classics to remind myself how good she could be. Thankfully, her latest novel, The Beginner's Goodbye, (actually at 198 pages I`m not sure if it's more of novella?) has restored my faith and in my opinion it's definitely a case of `small but perfectly formed`.

When we meet our narrator Aaron Woolcott his wife Dorothy has recently died in a freak accident. I warmed to Aaron from the start and by the end of the book he was up there with my two favourite male Tyler characters - Macon from The Accidental Tourist and Barnaby Gaitlin from A Patchwork Planet. Always a bit of an outsider due to the deformed arm and leg he was left with after a childhood illness, Aaron has constantly had to battle against the patronage and condescension of others, as well as the mollycoddling inflicted by his over-protective mother and sister. When he meets Dorothy, a dour, practical woman who "never saw the point of socialising" something clicks between them and their marriage, if not exactly made in heaven, certainly seems to work for the two of them.

Dorothy's death when an oak tree falls on their sun porch leaves a gaping hole in Aaron's life (not to mention his roof), and when she starts appearing to him in random places it brings him a strange sort of comfort.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Katharine Kirby TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 26 Mar 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This delightful slim volume is the work of a just few hours to take in. Here quality truly wins over quantity. The cover is a gorgeous painting of wisteria blossoming in the warm sunshine.

Anne Tyler is a long time favourite of mine; she just goes on and on getting it right. `The Beginner's Goodbye' is excellence in action, a gem to treasure.

The only surprise is that the widower Aaron is just thirty-six. Dorothy, whose untimely death leaves him struggling manfully on, was eight years his senior. Aaron comes across as an older man by far, perhaps because of his disability, although he would never recognise that as a reason. Comfortably situated in his family firm which publishes `vanity' works; his firm's best line is the `Beginner's Guide' series, little books on wide ranging topics which just about cover every eventuality. Except for this one. Seeing Dorothy, conversing with her and learning more about their marriage - after she has died.

Actors say that one way to get into character is to wear the appropriate shoes. Here Dorothy stepped off the page, vividly alive for me when I read: "those orthopedic (sic)-type shoes she had favored: they had struck me at times, as self righteous, her high mindedness - a pointed reproach to the rest of us."

Both these guys are slightly odd. Almost autistic and "Mixed Company" as Aaron later comes to think of their marriage. Dorothy was not a `care-taker' despite being a doctor. So we relax into realism not fairy tale. And Aaron is such a downright genuine chap. The way he deals with grief is just, well, so utterly male. I recognised his stubborn way of thinking and coping - he is quite perfectly, reliably written.

Nandina, his sister, is a side dish to savour. She is the bee's knees of siblings.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. K. A. P. Wright TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 Mar 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Aaron Woolcott's wife, Dorothy, has been killed in a bizarre accident at their home. The story starts with him noting the strange reactions of other people when they see her with him some months after her death. Mostly they refuse to look at her and concentrate their attention on him. Aaron finds this odd but presumes that they are embarrassed or don't know how to behave. He wonders why Dorothy comes to visit him, but doesn't like to ask in case she stops coming.

The book takes us slowly through the aftermath of Dorothy's death giving us glimpses of their relationship in Aaron's flashbacks as he tries to cope with life. His family, neighbours and acquaintances all rally round to support him in his bereavement, but he is stoical and, while attempting not to hurt them, rebuffs their help. Gradually his view of the past unravels and a resolution is reached.

The widow/widower receiving comfort from their dead partner has been covered before in films such as Truly, Madly, Deeply, but the emotional element has been pared down to the minimum in Aarons's aloof and reticent narration. Yet, thanks to Tyler's expert handling, we learn a lot about Aaron, much more than he thinks he is telling us.

The crits on the cover of this book call it a comedy and in the purely academic meaning of the word - any story in which the main characters manage to avert an impending disaster and have a happy ending, in other words the opposite of tragedy - it is. It is also not without humour but, I think, it is a profoundly serious book dealing with a very difficult subject and it does that beautifully without sounding any false notes. Although the anguish, grief and disassociation from life that the death of a lover causes are accurately and painfully expressed, the book is upbeat and life affirming. So, not a laugh a minute, but a true comedy.
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