In Review

Book review: French Braid by Anne Tyler

This is Anne Tyler ‘at her most Tyler-ish’ – pleasant and inoffensive, yet surprisingly deep and moving

Anne Tyler virtually created the “family novel” genre, but has “strayed into more diverse territory recently”, said Melissa Katsoulis in The Times. Fans will be delighted by the 80-year-old’s 24th novel, which marks a return to type. Set, almost inevitably, in Baltimore, it’s a multi-generational saga spanning six decades, about a “comfortingly average” family. Mercy and Robin Garrett “enjoy a smoothly conventional life” running a hardware store and raising their three children. But theirs is a family in which “certain things must never be said”, and as the decades pass, this creates division. French Braid is “Tyler at her most Tyler-ish: pleasant and inoffensive, yet surprisingly deep and moving”.

Near its end, the novel does take an unexpected turn, said Anthony Cummins in The Observer. Its final chapters are set during Covid – a topic Tyler suggested she’d never write about. Typically, however, she emphasises not the pandemic’s harrowing side, but its “potential to occasion reunion and reconnection”. This book may fall short of her best work – but “at this point any Tyler book is a gift”.

Chatto & Windus 256pp £16.99; The Week Bookshop £13.99

French Braid by Anne Tyler
The Week Bookshop

To order this title or any other book in print, visit theweekbookshop.co.uk, or speak to a bookseller on 020-3176 3835. Opening times: Monday to Saturday 9am-5.30pm and Sunday 10am-4pm.

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