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45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing is finer than Tyler at her best
This is an author who could wring magic from a mud puddle. Her material is ordinary human relationships in all their ordinary dysfunctional tangle. This one has Elizabeth as the most reluctant of heroines, drawn into a family that is waging pointless war on itself. She is hailed by them as their only hope to bring order to chaos, and is somehow unable to escape their...
Published on 1 Feb. 2005 by Dee-Dee

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not one of her best novels
An early novel of Anne Tyler (1972) and not, to my mind, in the same league as the more recent Digging to America, Back When We Were Grownups or The Accidental Tourist.

Anne Tyler write the kind of novel that could have come from the 19th century, the equivalent of a few families in a country village with essentially everyday happenings and a style of writing...
Published on 18 Jun. 2009 by William Jordan


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45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing is finer than Tyler at her best, 1 Feb. 2005
By 
Dee-Dee (Ely, Cambridgeshire) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Clock Winder (Paperback)
This is an author who could wring magic from a mud puddle. Her material is ordinary human relationships in all their ordinary dysfunctional tangle. This one has Elizabeth as the most reluctant of heroines, drawn into a family that is waging pointless war on itself. She is hailed by them as their only hope to bring order to chaos, and is somehow unable to escape their clutches. Elizabeth says to one of the sons of the house "You all present me with your problems and lay them at my feet in heaps!" They do. But those heaped problems are not the real drama of the book, it is the quieter emotions that matter. And it is Anne Tyler's genius that she can portray them with such precision that their softly insistent voices are heard above the clamour. A superb book.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Driving Miss Daisy - with Charlie Dimmock at the wheel!, 20 Jun. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Clock Winder (Paperback)
One of Anne Tyler's best novels, the story tells of an every-changing relationship between recently widowed Mrs Emerson (who spends her days winding the clocks) and her newly acquired gardener/handywoman, Elizabeth. Mrs Emerson's friendship with and dependency on Elizabeth is reminiscent of "Driving Miss Daisy", and from Ms Tyler's description of Elizabeth I couldn't help picturing her as Charlie Dimmock!
Mrs Emerson's family enter, leave, and inevitably change the relationship between employer and employee, bringing with them humour, sorrow and tragedy as their story unfolds.
As with all Ms Tyler's novels, do not expect a fairytale happy ending, but be assured the story leaves its characters with a genuine contentment; despite sacrifices and compromises made they show us a real-life happiness is attainable.
This version is all the easier to read if, like me, as you get older you find publishers are using smaller and smaller print!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not one of her best novels, 18 Jun. 2009
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This review is from: The Clock Winder (Paperback)
An early novel of Anne Tyler (1972) and not, to my mind, in the same league as the more recent Digging to America, Back When We Were Grownups or The Accidental Tourist.

Anne Tyler write the kind of novel that could have come from the 19th century, the equivalent of a few families in a country village with essentially everyday happenings and a style of writing that is elegant but far from flamboyant.

The success of a novel of this kind depends on getting the plotting, the mis-en-scene and the characterisation right. Often she succeeds - I'd recommend strongly any of the novels I've mentioned above. This time out, I'd say her success was mixed - do the characters really add up, does the plotting make sense - it does have some unexpected turns - and somehow I think she should stick to Baltimore.

This is highly readable and enjoyable. But not one of her best novels.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An early work that does not disappoint, 2 Sept. 2011
By 
hiljean (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Clock Winder (Paperback)
I have read all but two of Anne Tyler's novels, from which you will deduce I am a big fan of hers. I started with the books she had written half-way through her career - The Accidental Tourist, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, etc - and fell in love with this writer who has a gift for bringing her characters vividly to life, of using dialogue that sounds totally real and natural, and of recreating day-to-day situations that we all recognise with an unnerving eye for detail. She is, in my view, an exceptional writer.

However as with all writers, some novels are better than others and I have been disappointed in some of her early ones such as The Tin Can Tree and Searching for Caleb. This, however, is beautifully written, well plotted and well structured. I picked it up at a time when I knew I needed a book I could rely on to provide a satisfying and enjoyable read and it did not disappoint.

It is, perhaps, not quite up there with A Patchwork Planet, Saint Maybe, or Breathing Lessons, which I believe to be her best works, which is why it only gets four stars, but it is a delight nevertheless.

One very minor quibble, why do so many writers include characters whose names all begin with the same letter? In this book Mrs Emerson's children are called Mary, Melissa, Margaret and Matthew, and Timothy too with it's middle M. I find this confusing but not uncommon.

On my shelf I have the remaining two novels of hers that I haven't yet read . . . which I am keeping for the next time I need a really well-written and satisfying novel.
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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elizabeth is captivating., 1 Jan. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Clock Winder (Paperback)
Possibly my favourite Tyler. Elizabeth is infuriating and wonderful. The family of the "clock" is reminiscent of any family - everyone has their own quirks and foibles. The novel has a great twist and has moments of high drama. Romantic, humourous and vivid.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Differant, 24 Nov. 2013
This review is from: The Clock Winder (Kindle Edition)
I am an avid fan of Anne Tyler but have not read a few of her earlier novels. This is a good read but dosent flow in the usual way if you are a fan give it a go.
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3.0 out of 5 stars The Clock Winder is not up there with the best, in my opinion, 6 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: The Clock Winder (Kindle Edition)
I've read most of Anne Tyler's novels over the years. The Clock Winder is not up there with the best, in my opinion, The Amateur Marriage, Breathing Lessons. However, it does highlight that most families are not the 'fairy tale' ones, but all have quirks, disagreements, bad decisions and strange outcomes. Elizabeth doesn't fit in with her own family, but has a better (if not perfect) fit with the Emerson's. One strange point I found I could not work out was who Elizabeth ended up marrying out of the brothers - Matthew or Andrew?
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful read., 10 April 2009
By 
A. Harwood - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Clock Winder (Paperback)
All her books are excellent and this is one of her best. You will see why many people consider her the best writer in the 20th century in the English language.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Hooks you in but leaves you wishing, 20 April 2014
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This review is from: The Clock Winder (Kindle Edition)
I was quite frustrated with this book midpoint, as it didn't seem to be going anywhere and the characters are not easy to empathise with. As ever, however Anne Tyler hooks you in so by the ending you are absolutely present in their lives and feeling first hand the suffocation of their relationships. Not a particularly satisfying read but the effortless style draws you in.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Aside from the slightly confusing ending, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, 14 Feb. 2014
By 
Amazon Customer (Edinburgh, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Clock Winder (Paperback)
The quote on the front cover of my copy of this book sums this story up perfectly:

"Her brilliance in capturing the ripples on the surface of family life gives her a claim to be the Jane Austen of our age." --Allison Pearson, Daily Mail

Anne Tyler is fantastic at giving glimpses into ordinary family life. The quirks and contradictions and dysfunction that exist in every family despite how hard we try to find them. A large part of the novel is shown from the perspective of Elizabeth, an outsider who is hired to be the family's handyman, but as she slowly becomes part of the family we begin to see the perspectives of other family members who are never entirely sure where they fit into the relationship between Elizabeth, the family matriarch. Timothy, the failing Medical student who both loves and hates the quirks that make Elizabeth who she is; Matthew, the quiet brother who is madly in love with Elizabeth and doesn't expect anything of her; Margaret, the one person who stays in touch with Elizabeth, in spite of her nervous breakdown; and in the end, it is Peter who concludes the story.

Of all the siblings (and there are seven of them) to conclude the story, I wasn't sure why the author initially chose Peter. But considering how little Peter had featured in the book prior to that point, it made sense that someone who was pretty much an outsider should show us our final glimpse of the Emerson family. I did feel a little confused at the end, mainly because the final scenes went by so quickly and I wasn't entirely sure what had happened in the years that had passed since the last chapter. For example, I couldn't figure out who Elizabeth had married, since she obviously had children. Andrew was holding her baby, but she still seemed close to Matthew. The lack of explanation irritated me a little.

It's been a few years since I've read one of Anne Tyler's novels, but I always thoroughly enjoy her depictions of everyday family life. I particularly enjoyed experiencing all the nuances of life in the 60s--a time period that doesn't exactly feel historical just yet, but some of its quirks felt entirely alien to me.

Aside from the slightly confusing ending, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I'll definitely be making more of an effort to read more Anne Tyler. I think The Clock Winder is up there along with Ladder of Years and Digging to America.
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The Clock Winder
The Clock Winder by Anne Tyler (Paperback - 1 Nov. 1991)
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