Saturday, October 16, 2010

Review: Noah's Compass

Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler

Publication Date: January 2010
Publisher: Knopf/Doubleday
Format: Hardcover, 277 pp
Genre: Fiction
ISBN-13: 9780307272409
ISBN: 0307272400

(Received for review from the Knopf/Doubleday)

Synopsis (Courtesy of Barnes & Noble):

From the incomparable Anne Tyler, a wise, gently humorous, and deeply compassionate story about a schoolteacher, who has been forced to retire at sixty-one, coming to terms with the final phase of his life.

Liam Pennywell, who set out to be a philosopher and ended up teaching fifth grade, never much liked the job at that run-down private school, so early retirement doesn't bother him. But he is troubled by inability to remember anything about the first night that he moved into his new, spare, and efficient condominium on the outskirts of Baltimore. All he knows when he wakes up the next day in the hospital is that his head is sore and bandaged.

His efforts to recover the moments of his life that have been stolen from him leads him on an unexpected detour. What he needs is someone who can do the remembering for him. What he gets is - well, something quite different.

We all know a LIam, In fact, there may be a little Liam in all of us.


Anne Tyler's books generally have a common theme, Baltimore. They say to write what you know, so Tyler must really know Baltimore. The setting almost takes on the attitude of a character in itself. Her descriptions make the reader feel like they are walking down the street in Baltimore and seeing everything that anyone would see as they go along. Tyler's books are generally very character driven and this book is no different.

The story begins and ends with Liam Pennywell. Pennywell is a schoolteacher at a private school who is forced into early retirement at age sixty-one. The very night he moves into his new condo, he is robbed and beat over the head. After waking up in the hospital Liam discovers that he can't remember some moments in his life. It is the beginning of Liam's search, not only for the stolen moments, but for his dreams. I think we all have those times in our lives when we think, this isn't really where I thought I would be... things haven't gone quite the way I planned. Liam is just such a character. He's been married twice, wanted to be a philosopher in his youth and ended up a teacher. Now, he's alone and he begins to realize how much time he has wasted.

I had a little bit of a hard time getting into this book. Liam's character was very well written but I found myself questioning why he did the things he did and wondering how his life would have been different if he wasn't quite so cynical. But, then I realized that that's what this book is really about. It's about waking up and realizing how you differ from what you want to be. Liam woke up! The ending has a quite a twist that I wasn't expecting. Sometimes that is a good thing and you sit back and say to yourself... Wow! I never saw that coming and sometimes it's like... Huh? and you go back and read that part again... that's how this one ended for me.

I liked the book and would recommend it to Anne Tyler fans and those looking for books about quirky characters, but it wasn't exactly my cup of tea. It was well written and the descriptions of Baltimore were excellent. You have to remember though, Anne Tyler is a wonderful writer, so when a book from her isn't quite as good as her others, it is probably still way above the crowd.

Noah's Compass is available NOW from your favorite bookseller!

I'm going to give this 3 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anne Tyler has made a glorious career of telling the often less-than glorious stories of small-town people enduring life's ups and downs. Having come of age in rural Raleigh, North Carolina, the enigmatic Tyler draws upon her background to fashion tales of the South that are quirky, humorous and insightful.


Athira said...

I haven't read an Anne Tyler yet, but I have her Breathing Lessons sitting here. I am really looking forward to reading it and this one!

Svea Love said...

Thanks so much for the review! I have been wondering about this book for a while.