Books and Gardening: What More Can you Want?

Since the Contented Crafter suggested we create a world-wide book club, I’ve been thinking about what I could review. She took on The Luminaries and got lots of reinforcement of her opinion that it was a slog. Jenny of Characters from the Kitchen leaped in next and gave us more than one review, one of which, Ishmael’s Oranges by Claire Hajaj, I intend to download or purchase at the bookstore (yes, some of us still go to those; the conjunction of electronic downloads, internet purchases, the library, and bookstores has been for me a bit like a ready supply of illegal drugs would be for an addict. Library doesn’t have it? Not in stock in the bookstore? Download). Derrick has also reviewed two books recently, so I thought it was high time I got down to business.

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I bought A Spool of Blue Thread last spring. Since I bought it with a whole bunch of other books, it took me a while to get to it.Β I’ve been reading Anne Tyler for more than 30 years. Thank goodness she’s still writing. Her early books reflected her study of Russian literature, with intense, quirky, frenetic characters (see Morgan’s Passing, The Clock Winder, Searching for Caleb, Celestial Navigation). As the years went by, she developed a particular, lovely writing style, rooted in family experience and beautifully executed.

We put the large garden to bed for winter today, leaving the zinnias and numerous larkspur and poppy seedlings for next year's border.

We put the large garden to bed for winter today, leaving the zinnias and numerous larkspur and poppy seedlings for next year’s border.

Most of her novels take place in Baltimore and all of them deal with family dynamics. Whether illuminating a complex family history, grief, secrets, or the way we all simply rub together and get along, her novels provide snapshots of people, a time and a place.

We harvested the remaining baby vegetables.

We harvested the remaining baby vegetables.

A Spool of Blue Thread begins in the present with Abby and Red Whitshank receiving a call from their prodigal son Denny. The next few pages tell you very clearly who these people are, their personalities and how they respond to the world.

Some beets we had planted earlier in the fall had matured.

Some beets we had planted earlier in the fall had matured.

The rest of the book rolls those personalities out, gives you a feel for the consequences of their world views, and shows you the seeds of secrets and resentments among family. Β The house the family lives in is also a character, built by Red’s father and coveted until it was sold to him by the family he’d built it for.

Boy did we have peppers.  We got those, too.

Boy did we have peppers. We got those, too.

The book takes the reader into Abby and Red’s old age, then takes a plunge into the past, to Red’s father and his wife. I had some trouble with this as I didn’t want to change gears, but as ever with Tyler, the writing is lovely, so I finished it and was glad I did. It illuminated Denny, the focus of so much of his mother’s energy, explained him, and placed him among his siblings in a way I would not have seen if I had stopped at part one.

I brought home a bouquet of fall flowers.

I brought home a bouquet of fall flowers.

It’s a good read if you can shift gears. It sat on my nightstand for weeks because I didn’t want to know about the grandparents and Red and Abby’s teenage years. One night I picked it up and started reading and thought, “This is good. You need to finish this.” And I did. And you may want to as well.

And left some roses in bloom...

And left some roses in bloom…

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37 Responses to Books and Gardening: What More Can you Want?

  1. starkwe says:

    I can’t believe an Anne Tyler book has been out for months and I didn’t even realize it! Hopefully my mother will have bought it or borrowed it and I can read it over Thanksgiving.
    Also, how can I get in on your book club?

    Like

  2. Mary Tang says:

    Nothing. I just came in from the garden and now I think I’ll pick up a book, except my eyelids are too heavy! Maybe after a nap πŸ™‚ I like Anne Tyler too though I have not read her for a while.

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  3. The way you have interlaced the garden shots and comments with your book review is very pleasant….like a leisurely cadence— a little physical work, then a little mental work, then a little physical….then mental, and so on in alternation. That’s how my own best days go; a bit of everything in moderation.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I last read Anne Tyler many years ago – ‘Breathing Lessons’. Probably when it first came out. I have no memory of the story, but I think I enjoyed it. It’s probably time to revisit her πŸ™‚

    Your garden is cleared away! The soil looks in great condition for the end of a season of hard work though. We are still teetering between hot days and cold days – it is exhausting! But I got a post up about the teeny tiny courtyard ………. [I’m obviously still off your reader, or you are very busy] I’m hoping to get lots of outdoor reading time this summer! πŸ™‚

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  5. A well illustrated book page. Nice idea.

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  6. Boomdeeadda says:

    Hi Ho Lisa, look at you gardening in November. I’m amazed. The roses still look so pretty. My yards been put to rest for over a month now. We’ve had scriffs of snow here and there but nothing major in Edmonton yet. Calgary’s been nailed with a few storms though. Today is forecast at 4 C. That’s about 40 F and considered a very mild November day.
    I like the image on the cover of your book. The sparseness of the image is rather contemporary even though a wooden spool of thread is something from the past. I wonder why Anne settled on that image? Does a spool of threat work with the story somehow? Alys gave me a book on my visit to San Jose. I’ve yet to find any time to start it. Gah! x K

    Liked by 1 person

    • arlingwoman says:

      It’s pretty cool here today. There’s a kind of dampness and it may just be scratching 50 F. The spool of thread (blue) does figure in the book, bouncing off a closet shelf when needed. It illustrates a character, but is only a small moment.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. jennypellett says:

    Hi Lisa. Anne Tyler is a good recommendation – another friend suggested this one so I’m definitely putting on my list. Thanks for the link, I’m going to enjoy this virtual book group.
    Your garden is looking great too. I so admire all you folk who manage to grow beautiful veg!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I too like the flow of the review with your garden photos and captions. I’ve not read Anne Tyler. I don’t know how she’s escaped my radar. I’m glad you picked up the second half of the book and that it redeemed itself. Those literary devices can be jarring.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. And I hit enter before adding that you’re garden looks nice put to bed with the remaining flower borders. Great photos, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Robin says:

    Beautiful series of photos to go with your review. I have this book on my reading list. Might be time to bump it up. I have only downloaded one book (a Thomas Hardy book to read when I’m traveling in the car), but I haven’t had a tablet long. I imagine I will eventually start getting my fix there, too. I do love bookstores, though, particularly a good independent bookstore, and I can’t get that feel from a tablet.

    We have lots of peppers too. I diced them up a lot of them today and put them in the freezer.

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    • arlingwoman says:

      I hope you enjoy the Tyler. Hardy, yeow, can be so utterly grim. First book I ever threw at the wall was Jude the Obscure. Hope it’s one of his more cheerful efforts. Jealous of your peppers. I ate all mine earlier in the year, though it was a good crop. Have lots of parsley and greens, though! Thanks for coming by!!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Eliza Waters says:

    Your review has peaked my interest. I’ll have to see what the library has…
    Your garden is done for the year – what will you do now? πŸ˜‰ It certainly yielded great abundance for you. I miss picking bouquets of flowers (sigh).

    Like

  12. KerryCan says:

    So, your garden is finally done, huh? It lasted a long time and gave you so much. Now you can start

    Like

  13. KerryCan says:

    Oh, hell–I need a new computer . . . What I was going to say is now you can start perusing seed catalogs and dreaming of next year!

    Like

  14. :ovely gardening and a good book + a great post! thank yuo for the review! xo Johanna

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  15. *sorry, I meant lovely

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