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The Ladder of Years

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I picked this on out of the tbr pile on a whim and started reading with only sleep stopping me from finishing it.

 

Delia Grinstead is seemingly happily married when one day she just gets up for walk and carries on going, leaving her family on the beach. From this moment on, coincidences carry her away until she creates a whole new life for herself. But Delia never entirely breaks off the ties with her family so her new life becomes complicated.

 

Anne Tyler always creates believable, well-rounded characters and this book was no exception. I felt I grew to love all of them and understood them and all their little foibles. The only thing I had a problem with was the amount of coincidences it took to set up the situation when Delia seemed to have no real desire to take it as far as she did at the time. However, once it had happened, I was drawn into the lives of the people and felt for them.

 

I could see the influence of a lot of other Anne Tyler books in this one - particularly The Accidental Tourist.

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This was the first Anne Tyler book I read and totally fell in love with her style. I don't know what it is about her but she draws you in within a paragraph into the lives of these ordinary people in extraordinary situations. I still think this is my favourite of her books. Maybe I'm a bit odd, but I've always been fascinated by the idea of just making a complete break with the old life without really knowing why. From what I remember, it's never really clear why Delia felt she had to do what she did - it was just a whim, a "moment of madness", a fork in the road where she took the unexpected route. Really need to go and read this again!

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This was the first Anne Tyler book I read and totally fell in love with her style. I don't know what it is about her but she draws you in within a paragraph into the lives of these ordinary people in extraordinary situations. I still think this is my favourite of her books. Maybe I'm a bit odd, but I've always been fascinated by the idea of just making a complete break with the old life without really knowing why. From what I remember, it's never really clear why Delia felt she had to do what she did - it was just a whim, a "moment of madness", a fork in the road where she took the unexpected route. Really need to go and read this again!

 

Yes, it did seem just a whim and that events just carried her along, but at each point she could have turned around. I know it could have happened and there is the bit at the start with Adrian Bly-Brice that sort of sets up that she will go along with things and is a bit dissatisfied with her life, but I hate plots that rely on coincidences and this one just seemed a stretch too far.

 

I wish I knew what it was about her style that I like as well. All her characters seem so real. I don't think was my favourite though. I think I prefer her quirkier characters like those in Searching For Caleb, The Accidental Tourist and Patchwork Planet. PP was the first one I read and I'll always have a soft spot for it.

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I was reading the thread about Anne Tyler's new book and remembered something about this book that I wanted to share. A friend and I both reacted strongly to the description that the family puts into the paper when Delia disappears:

 

"It hurt to read her physical description: fair or light-brown hair....eyes are blue or gray or perhaps green... For heaven's sake, hadn't anyone in her family ever looked at her?"

 

To us, that sentence alone explains why she walked away from her life. She was never anyone the other members of the family considered important enough to notice. For some reason, we were discussing the book well after each of us had read it and she asked me if I remembered the line and I had. We laughed ourselves silly about what that said about the degree to which her family was completely clueless. But she and I both agreed that at the time that we read it, it had been shocking to us that she was so unimportant as a person to her family. I remember thinking that walking out on them was probably the best thing she'd ever done.

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I bought Ladder of Years a couple of weeks ago, and have yet to read it - but I did read the 'news report' of her disappearance, which precedes chapter one.

 

I too was shocked by the hazy description given of her. Clearly none of her family ever really looked at her, and I think that would be reason enough just to disappear.

 

I look forward to reading this, but I like to space my Anne Tylers out, and have just finished another one ;)

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I have coincidences like that happen all the time and I have decided that I just have a heightened reaction to the name and that's why I notice it. The alternative is to think that coincidences mean something and I'd rather not think that way if I can avoid it at all. Too spooky.

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I bought this book 8 or 9 years ago, but didn't start it because I'd just finished another of Anne Tyler's books and I liked to space them out. I didn't mean it to be quite so long - but I have finally read it!

Quote

One warm summer’s day at the beach, forty-year-old Cordelia Grinstead, dressed only in a swimsuit and beach robe, walks away from her family and just keeps on going. 

After hitching a ride with a stranger to a new town where she knows no one, she reinvents herself as a single woman with no ties and begins living a new life altogether. But how long can she keep this up before her real life finds her?
 

 

I had read the "Missing Person" report that acts as a prologue to the story before I put it away. The descriptions of Delia are vague and confused -  it is clear that none of her family ever actually looked at her. At that time I was pretty sure that my family would be similarly pushed to describe me, so that may be why it stayed at the bottom of the TBR pile for so long.

 

Anne Tyler has been one of my  favourite authors for years, but I did find it a bit hard to re-connect with her way of writing about family relationships. I was a bit worried that I had 'gone off' her. But no! Once Delia makes her unintentional break for freedom I quickly became fully engaged. 

 

For someone of her background, married young to her doctor father's partner, never leaving the family home and only ever working as her father, and then her husband's clerical assistant she shows remarkable initiative and fortitude in finding herself accommodation, a job, a new wardrobe and a completely different way of relating to the world.

The characters she meets and connects with are very typical of Tyler, and give a warm friendly picture of very small-town America in the '90s.

 A couple of family members trace her, but she feels no desire to return to Baltimore, and so more than a year passes. She changes her job, and becomes housekeeper and childminder to a man separated from his wife  and becomes involved with their wider family.

 

Then she gets an invitation to her daughter's wedding. She tells her employer that she will be away for a day or two, but the wedding doesn't exactly go according to plan, and she is drawn back into being the mother who fixes everything. In the meantime she is getting phone calls from her employer and his son asking when she is going 'home' to them...

 

So, after a bit of a rocky start with this book, Anne Tyler is back as one of my favourite authors 

 

 

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