Anne Tyler takes a slice of life and with the bare minimum of prose captures all its underlying tensions. Her stories are detailed glimpses of relationships and responsibilities.
Noah’s Compass, published in 2009, is her eighteenth novel. Liam, the protagonist, is a high school history teacher who has just been made redundant. He lives alone and decides to downsize his life so he moves into a small apartment with the minimum of belongings. On his first night he goes to sleep and wakes up some time later in hospital having been attacked but not able to remember what happened.
The story follows Liam and the people around him as he explores the value of the past and his memories.
What I thought
As with all of Tyler’s books, I was quite happy to let this work be a subtle character based progression rather than a plot led adventure. The pace is slow, the main character’s traits are revealed more and more through interactions with his family and friends until where you end up is not where you thought you would be.
The novel was short and gently interesting. The characters were not all meant to be likable but no one was particularly unpleasant either. This wasn’t one of her most in depth works and I’m not sure I understood the point entirely but it was softly spoken and slow to progress at just the right time for me.
Noah’s Compass refers to the lack of direction that Noah – of ‘Arc’ fame – was probably happy with because there was nowhere to go. All you need to worry about is staying afloat when everything is covered with water and you don’t need any direction.
Score: 7 / 10Tweet