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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars And Breathe...
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...
Published on 30 Jan 2009 by Simon Savidge Reads

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I actually prefer her other novels...
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...
Published on 21 Jan 2009 by Lukal8


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I actually prefer her other novels..., 21 Jan 2009
This review is from: Breathing Lessons (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 "Simon" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Breathing Lessons (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. I didn't like Ira, but then again I didnt like anyone in the book particularily, not even Maggie and I normally love that sort of character but playing with peoples lives to such an extent isnt that likeable. It doesn't paint a promising or fulfilling picture of married life as it goes on.

All in all I found this a great read, though not possibly one of Tyler's best I do think that it is a great read and one that everyone should give a try. I haven't been put off Tyler from this which reading many reviews people were, I wonder what they were expecting.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written but spoiled by an over-the-top character, 12 Jun 2010
This review is from: Breathing Lessons (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
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written, evocative and thought provoking, 25 Oct 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Breathing Lessons (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
This review is from: Breathing Lessons (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
By 
Emily - London (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Breathing Lessons (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. Ira's and Maggie's daughter is going to college the following day - even though their youngest child will still be there, the nest is almost empty. Maggie would like to fill the space with her ex daughter-in-law and their grand-daughter - but her attempts to bring back together the broken family are doomed to black comic failure, slammed doors and sudden departures.

The day is a vehicle not just for memories, but for exploring American life, so perhaps it is natural territory for the Pulitzer prize, after all. It is an excuse to describe in technicolour detail the contents of a bargain US supermarket; a drive side cafe; low key small town careers; families trying to stick together in the face of disability, ageing, illness and teenage pregnancy; failed ambition; anti-abortion campaigners; an elderly black man who is living in his car; and the inside of care homes. This isn't magic realism - it is intensely observed, shot-by-shot realism.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The EXTRA-Ordinary Maggie, 14 Nov 2002
By 
Eric Anderson (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Breathing Lessons (Paperback)
Let me tell you why I liked this book. It gave me a different perspective. Although many people (both readers and characters in the book) have criticised her for being one-dimensional I found her to be quite extraordinary. Her sensitivity and sense of place within her family is touching. The reason why her image radiates ordinariness is because everyone has labelled her that way. I found this to be true in the way that people often create labels for others and then the label is accepted as some kind of truth. Maggie may not be a likeable person or even a realistic person you can picture in your life, but certainly everyone can empathise with the tendency people have to suffocate other people with images they have created for them. I don't think Maggie is that simple. If she were than she could never imagine a life outside of her own. But, when she and Ira get in a fight in the car and she demands to be let out she imagines a completely different life for herself. This is the imaginary flight that is carried out in actuality in Ladder of Years. You could say that this is the off-handed daydream of a flat character because it is just as immediately forgotten as it is conjured. However, I think this suggests a more complex state of mind. One which can envision other states of being but consciously rejects them. Incidentally this is a very ordinary trait, one that I imagine many people can sympathise with. In some ways she is more ordinary than most people because she is always actively trying to normalise other people. She is not only suppressed by other people's images of her, but she is trying to mould everyone into the image she wants them to be. Her intentions are always positive. She wants them to be better people and fulfil their potential, but at the same time she is stifling their sense of individual identity by imaging them to inhabit an image that isn't realistic. This is a common difficulty with people who are "well-wishers". A major reason for why I appreciated this novel so much is because of its comic perspective. While dealing with the difficult relations between people, especially family, it is able to not take itself too seriously. There are incredibly comic moments such as the car accident and when Maggie and Ira are caught making out in the friend's bedroom. Anne Tyler is able to balance the serious and the comic while making shrewd observations about human nature. She shows us we all have the ability to be just like everyone else and wholly our own person at the same time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Should be called 'Observations on the Mundane', 18 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Breathing Lessons (Kindle Edition)
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. Just felt sorry for the little girl in it really. The observations on life were true and I could relate to some of them but most of it was boring and negative or sad (making me feel a bit sorry for myself when I recognized some of them were relevant to me!). Found it a bit depressing. 3/10.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Meandering, 17 Mar 2013
By 
This review is from: Breathing Lessons (Paperback)
Maggie and Ira's meandering journey to a funeral gives Maggie the opportunity to think about her past and the breakdown of her sons's marriage. As the day unfolds we learn about frustrated ambition and the impact of meddling in other people's lives. The story meanders, bogged down by lots of observed detail, and ultimately falls rather flat.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant, 7 Sep 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Breathing Lessons (Paperback)
This is the best of Anne Tyler's books. It is very funny and moving at the same time and all its characters are totally believable. I truly cared about them and felt sad when the book was over.
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Breathing Lessons
Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler (Paperback - 17 Sep 1992)
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