If you want a comforting family saga, it’s hard to go past Anne Tyler. Having recently read and enjoyed A Spool of Blue Thread by Tyler, I thought I’d give her latest a go.
It could be a criticism to say that the two were very similar in their stories about family relationships, an ageing matriarch and her diverse progeny, but seeing it was a relaxing read I was after, French Braid hit the spot.
Set in Baltimore, the story begins with a trip by Mercy and Robin’s granddaughter, who is meeting her boyfriend’s family. Small tensions arise before the book rewinds to the ‘50s, when Mercy and Robin are bringing up two daughters and a younger son.
The years pass with small, intimate changes, which Tyler marks with her appealingly conversational style of writing.
Not far into the book, I am quite attached to little David and his older sister Alice, while frustrated by the flighty Lily.
In particular, I enjoyed reading about the family’s first ever holiday to a lake where their individual personalities became starkly revealed.
It is a small pleasure to read the lives of these children as they grow up, experience their own adult difficulties, and become parents themselves.
Tyler has great skill in revealing personality, and writing in a way that makes you want to know more.
While nothing extraordinary happens to any of them, perhaps that is the point – that in every small life and for each individual, the ordinary is extraordinary.