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4.2 out of 5 stars
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4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 1 February 2005
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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on 20 June 2001
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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on 1 January 2001
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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on 18 June 2009
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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VINE VOICEon 2 September 2011
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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on 6 October 2014
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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on 12 March 2015
She's done it again! Wonderfully written. Cost me half a night's sleep - could not put it down. Quirky as all her novels. If you have not read her before, start with Accidental Tourist. Otherwise, dive in!!
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on 8 December 2014
I usually love Anne Tyler books but I found this one very slow and rather depressing. I never really 'got' the characters and I certainly did not care about them. There were a few sparks of her amazing insight but, generally, it was a chore to read.
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on 20 April 2014
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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on 8 December 2013
I'm a big Anne Tyler fan and own many of her books. I hadn't read this one before but reading it was like coming home and sleeping in the room I did as a child. Something maybe best kept in reserve for when life is feeling bleak.
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