Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler

Title: The Accidental Tourist 
Author: Anne Tyler
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf  (1985)

All the news I'm reading makes me feel I should send some of NZ's wet, Fall weather to Michael over in California. I'd sure love to share. I'm not ready for rain and cold. However, I do hope the coming summer isn't too dry for folks on the West Coast. We had a very dry summer here and I know many of the farmers were not pleased. But, oh yeah, I'm supposed to be reviewing a book. Repeat visitors will recognize right off that the format of this review probably means this wasn't exactly my favorite read... however, let's just get on with it.

For those that are new to our monthly series, this is when Michael reviews a film adapted from a book which gets a review here. 

Click here for Michael's film review of The Accidental Tourist
at It Rains... You Get Wet

Being a not new book of some repute, this novel has many covers. I chose the one I like best even if it wasn't the one on the book I read (couldn't even find that one!). I think the above cover is ideal and the title has got to be one of the best, most apt I have come by in a while. Delightful.

What Works:
The writing style is efficient and observant with wonderful pacing. And what is unsaid is just as provocative as what is. The insular world built by Macon is an impressive black hole of world building by the author. By that I mean you will be sucked in completely with very little chance of not absolutely seeing what kind of life Macon has made for himself. One does not soon forget a character who builds his own sheet cocoons and washes clothes underfoot in the shower.

Julian and Macon’s relationship. Every time they were together I was laughing out loud. Julian was great and a perfect addition to the family dynamic.


...Julian said... "Want to know something? I've never even slept with her [Macon's sis]."
"Well, I don't care to hear about that," Macon said hastily.

What Doesn't: 
I had a classic sgwordy This is Spinal Tap experience with this book. The loveable, hapless protag surrounded by loveable, quirky secondary characters is a very well-worn path in the book world these days, and I may well be too late to Tyler’s party to really enjoy the set-up. Just when you need to be fixed* in life isn’t it grand that all these convenient weirdos show up to do it? For all I know Tyler blazed this path, but coming at it 30 years later left me impatient rather than intrigued.

*I'm actually not even going to touch this theme of "fixing" people which is heavily employed as regards Macon and Alexander. It's not very palatable to me as a reader and always feels unrealistic and trite.

Even more detrimental to the reading experience, though, is that I didn’t believe the main characters’ endings. For Macon, Sarah and Muriel the character establishment was quite good but not one of their respective endings worked for me. (Rose and Julian were great, though. Loved and, more importantly, believed their ending.)

Heh. Your mileage may vary. If this style of book is to your taste, you're going to love it. However, if you’re not enjoying it by page 75 you probably won’t at all. And look out for that ending!

Now about that movie... Don't forget to check out Michael's post. 

rating: 3 of 5 stars

Click here for an index of the joint post series

1 comment:

  1. As I mentioned over at my review, I had a feeling you weren't going to like this. Yeah, perhaps Tyler trail blazed the quirky, fixall storyline back then. For me, I did enjoy the novel. My first Anne Tyler that's for sure. I hadn't realized it till you mentioned it, but yeah, the author did do world-building for what Macon engineered for himself to survive the traumatic loss of his son. I'm a romantic at heart, as you know by now, so I bought into someone like Muriel finally wresting him out of its sphere (hint…hint to our next project ;-) ). Even if that meant she'd follow him to France after being dumped by the dope. At least she'd get a trip to Paris out of it. Enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Even though I'd only seen it once, the story somehow pulled me back all these years later. Thanks for giving it shot, Rachel. Cheers!