The Amateur Marriage (2004): Anne Tyler


It’s December 1941 and the attack on Pearl Harbor has galvanised the USA into action. As excitement fizzes on St Cassian St, a Polish neighbourhood in Baltimore, the young shopkeeper Michael Anton unexpectedly meets Pauline Barclay. This vivacious young woman in a red coat captures his heart immediately. Her wide-eyed admiration convinces him to sign up, alongside the other neighbourhood boys, leaving behind his widowed mother and heading into the world. When he returns, he and Pauline marry, with all the impulsiveness that has characterised their fledgling relationship. Marriage is what you do, after all, as a young couple in times of war. This novel follows the consequences of their decision across fifty years of challenge and change, both at home and in wider society. The ramifications of their hasty, imperfect match ripple out not only through their own lives but into those of their children and friends. It’s a moving, completely convincing tale of everyday life, teasing out its little joys and sorrows, and showing that, even in the face of great events, it’s the small dramas which shape our lives most powerfully.

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Vinegar Girl (2016): Anne Tyler


The Taming of the Shrew Retold

I’ve been reading quite a lot of serious books recently and I wanted a bit of a break with something light and upbeat. This installment in the Hogarth Shakespeare series, in which contemporary writers reimagine the playwright’s storylines, was just the trick. Now, I’ll be honest, no modern reworking of the Shrew can match 10 Things I Hate About You in my estimation but, that caveat stated, I thought Tyler’s take on things was light and fun.

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