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The Maytrees

3.54  ·  Rating Details ·  4,456 Ratings  ·  959 Reviews
Toby Maytree first sees Lou Bigelow on her bicycle in postwar Provincetown, Massachusetts. Her laughter and loveliness catch his breath. Maytree is a Provincetown native, an educated poet of thirty. As he courts Lou, just out of college, her stillness draws him. Hands-off, he hides his serious wooing, and idly shows her his poems.

In spare, elegant prose, Dillard traces the
Published June 12th 2007 by HarperAudio
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Aug 18, 2007 Donald rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in love
I got myself in a snit over the review in the NY Times Book Review and sent the editor the following:

To the Editor:

Certainly Annie Dillard’s new novel, The Maytrees, deserved a more perceptive — indeed, a more proficient — reader than Ms. Reed (July 29). One wonders if she has ever considered the punning irony of her name, as she managed to stumble upon the key sentences of the novel under review, failed to recognize their import, and then admitted in print to being unable to parse them.

“Then t
Jul 07, 2011 Kendall rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's hard to know what to make of this book; you can let yourself to be taken in by its beautiful prose and wallow in its lyricism; or to delight in the precise, glowing descriptions of landscapes and seascapes and emotional states-of-mind. But if you're into creating writing, perhaps not as a course but you have internalized its rules from reading too much genre, you may be angry that Dillard breaks all the rules: she mostly tells rather than shows (never mind that the telling is luminous). And ...more
Jan 05, 2009 Zinta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was long ago that I bought the book, on a long, lone roadtrip southwest, in a favorite bookstore alongside the Rockies. I held it, carried it, kept it on my coffeetable, my nightstand, prolonging the sweet anticipation, knowing the coming reward. I have been (no hyperbole) in awe of Annie Dillard from the first encounter, decades ago, with Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (winning Dillard the Pulitzer Prize). Finally, oh finally, picking up what I expect may be her final novel (I heard her interview o ...more
Skylar Burris
Mar 13, 2015 Skylar Burris rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unfinished
"Why surprise?" "Is all fair?" "Is love blind?" "Why sadder but wiser?" "What else could wisdom be?" These are some of Annie Dillard's profound questions in Maytrees. Here are some of mine: What is pomposity? Why care? Are big words better than more appropriate small words? Whither quotation marks? Will you ever stop asking short, choppy questions and tell a readable story?

While I recognized a few short flashes of genius in the writing (some touches of real beauty, occasional moments of poetry,
Apr 13, 2008 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Annie Dillard is simply the best living creative non-fiction writer. She has the rare ability to put common experiences and abstract emotions into words, and the structure and beauty of her sentences are pretty well unrivaled. If you don’t believe me, pick up An American Childhood or Pilgrim at Tinker Creek – both books about everyday experiences that Dillard makes wondrous. Over the years, I think I’ve read every nonfiction book she’s written.

Still, can she write fiction? The Maytrees is her s
Feb 10, 2008 El rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In post-war Cape Cod Toby Maytree meets Lou Bigelow and falls in love. They create a life and family, surrounded by friends and adoration for one another. They are a well-educated, well-read, talented couple who do not live to make money but who want to know the full meaning of "love" in all aspects.

It almost sounds hokey.

But Toby ultimately finds what he is looking for outside of Lou and what they have created is torn apart. Their lives and their feelings for each other ebb like the flow of wat
Aug 12, 2008 Victoria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometime last fall, I read a review of this book in which the reviewer criticized Dillard's arcane and at times unintelligable syntax. I remember the reviewer essentially quoting an entire paragraph, then writing "What does this mean?" I began this book committed to proving the reviewer wrong. At first, I was worried. Too many passages were bewildering, vague, and opaque. But as I got going, I began to appreciate Dillard's willingness to leave things unexplained, to let some phrases and sentence ...more
Mar 31, 2008 Charis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Dillard lovers.
Good and strange. I felt a bit cheated by Annie. The book is strangely 'ungrounded' - snippets and particles of tangible story throughout, but somehow lacking any GLUE, anything to make my heart move. I can't critique the content or the language - as usual her language is almost separate FROM her writing - it is as though she uses words and language in and of themselves and doesn't always concern herself with where it leads or what they do.
The analogy that keeps coming to my mind is a brilliant
Mar 10, 2008 Lucy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those with a liberal view about marriage
For a book about love, it's kind of a downer. There are too many exquisite lines to put this into a "waste of time" category, but as a whole, I can't claim this to be a favorite.

What I enjoyed was Dillard's ability to put a unique feel to common experiences. For instance, when Maytree looked at his wife, she wrote, "After their first year or so, Lou's beauty no longer surprised him. He never stopped looking, because her face was his eyes' home."

"That he did not possess her childhood drove him
Ellen McGinnis
This book has gotten a lot of good reviews, but I was a little disappointed. I have not read any other books by Annie Dillard - her writing is poetic - maybe too poetic. Sometimes it was just confusing, a bit too "stream-of-consciousness". I became a bit detached - observing myself reading the book, instead of enjoying the book.

That said, it is a pretty good story, a quick read, and I liked it enough to recommend it as a beach read or something to take on a plane or train to pass 3-4 hours.
Jul 07, 2008 Cat rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really love Annie Dillard. I cannot express how "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" shook my world, only to say that I refuse to let anyone borrow my worn paperback copy not because I'm worried about not getting it back, but because I am so mortified by some of the 18-year-old thoughts I scribbled in the margins the first time read it. That's how bad it is.

So, it's hard to express my level of disappointment with "The Maytrees." It's a book that is far to contemplative to be fiction, let alone a story ab
“She could not sleep. Should she pretend to find it all difficult, and not so much a matter of course, to ease his chagrin, or at least to make it seem apt? She declined this ploy as tiresome. Or did he think so poorly of her, and so well of himself, that he fancied his chucking her and Pete for Deary had left her ruined and angry for twenty years? Surely he knew her better than that. Surely!—or else he really would insult her.”

Dillard’s novel attempts to address the questions of romantic, plato
Aug 06, 2007 Laura rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ugh...Dillard says she's not going to write another book as this is, in her opinion, the best work she's ever produced. She cut the manuscript back from 1000+ pages to its present form, which is way too choppy and terse for my liking. This could have been an interesting story about how love changes as people change but the writing made it hard to focus on the narrative and characters!
I can't say I loved or hated this book. It is painfully beautiful. The story is painful to read, and Dillard's exquisite writing makes it even more so. I read most of it on a train from Seattle to Portland in the March rain. It was visceral. I could not finish it on the train, and when I finally did complete it at home, I didn't know how I felt.

The writing is simply beyond praise. I was vaguely dissatisfied with the characters some aspects of the plot. Dillard uses her story to ask and dissect a
Sep 09, 2007 Alicia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Maytrees by Annie Dillard is a stunning work of fiction, following a couple through their life, both together and apart. I like these kind of novels, where quiet, profound moments lead toward something greater than it's parts.

The author's use of language takes your breath away. She is a truly gifted novel who packs a whole lot of impact into a tiny novel. The sheer depth of this novel is astounding. Absolutely lovely novel.

Lou Bigelow and Toby Maytree marry and create a life in Cape Code, be
Beth Bonini
Jul 01, 2016 Beth Bonini rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I hesitated to describe this novel as contemporary - because it feels historical, elegiac, although the time period it is set in is not that long ago. 1950s-1970s Provincetown, Cape Cod - but with such a rural, unmodern feel to it. Toby and Lou are the Maytrees of the title; but if the book is about their love affair and marriage, it must also be acknowledged that their marriage doesn't even last for half of the novel. There is very little plot to this novel; even the big event - when Toby runs ...more
Jan 06, 2009 Melinda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
John Hess says this is a once in 10 years book...and now that I've finished, I agree with him. It's hard to even start to describe my response to this book. Annie Dillard is a master of elegant, but simple phrasing and word choices, there is poetry in the total of her writing. Her characters become real, her landscape becomes your own. Her ability to weave in love, loss, forgiveness, hope - the human condition -that's what will stay with me.
Nathaniel Dean
Oct 02, 2007 Nathaniel Dean rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: philosophers, bookworms
I'm glad I wasn't the only one who bothered to look up pauciloquy on page 70, and was bothered to note that this $110.00 word meaning "brevity of speech" was not only archaic (as of 1913) and misspelled (Dillard spells it "pauciloquoy"), but also not as good a word choice as "terseness" IMHO. Not only does this word describe Lou's character to a T, but also describes the writing style in this book that pretends to be a poem, but happily is not.

So the book is a bit decadent in word choice and met
May 05, 2008 Shaindel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers, fans of Dillard, fans of love
I *just* finished reading this book, and I'm sure I've got to let it resonate a bit. First, let me say, this is an important book to read. Annie Dillard is doing something really interesting here, but I'm not sure quite what it is--which is part of the quiet and beauty of the novel.

There is one plot twist at the beginning (which I won't give away), but I think it was a brave direction for Dillard to take. At some times, I liked the "distance" from the characters. They live in their heads, and we
Apr 07, 2016 Alan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Dense, tricky, poetic, so far, and she quotes Robert Louis Stevenson: 'Marriage is "a sort of friendship recognised by the police" ’.

Well I can imagine readers not liking this, calling it pretentious/pompous, because it deals with the big questions, what is love, life, death? It uses sometimes obscure words (to me anyway, looked up a few, eg alewife, and after I did I realised how apt they were). The narrative flows but jumps years and years and leaves out important stages. It directly quotes ph
Oct 21, 2009 Poiema rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

Is Annie Dillard a philosopher? A poet? A naturalist? Or a storyteller?
It's difficult to determine by the reading of her most recently penned novel, The Maytrees. Of those four distinctions, Annie's storytelling seems to be the weakest, apparently used only as a vehicle by which she might display her other gifts.

The novel is billed as a love story, the romantic history of Lou and Toby Maytree. Dialogue is spare, almost non-existent. In its place we are invited to share the inner ruminatings of t
The Maytrees is a curious book.

The storyline is sparse, but it is only a gossamer vehicle for the prose, the grandiloquence of language. I was not bothered by the non-linearity of the narrative, but, I was, at times, annoyed by the inconsistencies of the timeline. Her sentences were staccato, ranging from the caliginous to the nacreous to the opaque. I was not bothered by the vocabulary, although vast, but I was by some of the unusual (?wrong) usage. She is, incontrovertibly, an unrequited and
Greg Morrison
Towards the conclusion of Annie Dillard's novel, The Maytrees, a character contemplates writing a book-length poem. He chooses "There Will Be a Sea Battle Tomorrow" for his title. Dillard points out that he's referencing Aristotle's problem - basically, how true are statements about the future? Is the battle fought tomorrow or not? Is either statement true, until the event actually occurs? Is Schrödinger's cat alive or dead? What's going on inside that black box?

The whole book goes on like this.
Patrick O'Connell
This is a book I will remember. That said, the first third of the book was a bit of slog, and I do have a few complaints. But all-in-all it's a beautiful story.

It's an introspective and consuming look into life, love and death.

It seems to me that we learn about the characters in a novel via three vehicles; what they do, what they say, and what they think. This book leans heavily on the latter. From what I know about Annie Dillard (an introspective recluse), this is not a surprise.

Despite my high
May 16, 2016 Robert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Maytrees, Annie Dillard's 2007 novel, is an almost flawless blend of extraordinary lyricism, story-telling, and character creation. Long stretches of prose read like poetry. Single sentences are jaw dropping. There's no point in quoting because there are so many passages that merit special attention--why not read the whole book?

As it opens, The Maytrees reads like a modern day fairy tale about an enchanting woman falling in love with a unique man at the tip of Cape Cod. Lou and Maytree (as h
Apr 22, 2016 sharon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked The Maytrees most in the moments where I could imagine it was written to critique a kind of fragile white masculinity that so dominated American fiction in the latter half of the twentieth century. (view spoiler) The viewpoint on him ...more
Liz Shine
Jul 05, 2016 Liz Shine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have never read a thing of Dillard's that didn't leave me drooling over the precision and concision of her sentences. This was my first work of her fiction. It did not disappoint on the sentence level. A couple of gems:

"Their summer friends, in particular, harvested facts row on row from newspapers like mice on corncobs."

"He hauled lines of poetry like buried barbed wire in his bare hands."

What I would give to listen to her talk about sentences while I copiously took notes! As for the story
Nov 22, 2015 Dave rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I should know to give her the benefit of the doubt. The opening section felt twee and precious and I thought, "Is this all there is?" I had no idea I was still in the "Preface." Part One starts on page 61, and from then on, it's as clear-eyed and hard-headed and discordant and melodic as her best nonfiction. I don't think she sees the other characters as clearly as she sees the character of Lou, but neither do I think she is unaware of their limitations, particularly in how THEY see Lou. Maybe n ...more
May 19, 2014 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I very much enjoyed this book. It does not compare with Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, but then not much does. I think that Dillard's best work is her non-fiction, but that almost poetic descriptive ability serves her well here. The story line is loose; this short novel follows Lou and Toby Maytree through the length of their lives in barely 200 pages. Theirs are not "important" lives, rather ordinary and mundane, and yet in Dillard's hands this encourages larger musings of what it's all about. Perhap ...more
Rose Heredia
A gorgeously told tale about this family, The Maytrees, and all that occurs to them in the span of their lifetime. A times it reads like a journal with rhetorical questions, poetry, and philosophizing everything. But at the core of it, it's a lovely tale about life. Very quiet. Even meditative. Why this review is making me write like the story. Short sentences. Lovely. I had to read for this class and am glad I did; I don't think I would have picked this up on my own. I was a kid who gnashed on ...more
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too pretentious for herself 20 119 Dec 17, 2015 11:18AM  
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Annie Dillard (born April 30, 1945) is an American author, best known for her narrative prose in both fiction and non-fiction. She has published works of poetry, essays, prose, and literary criticism, as well as two novels and one memoir. Her 1974 work Pilgrim at Tinker Creek won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction. Dillard taught for 21 years in the English department of Wesleyan Unive ...more
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“Love so sprang at her, she honestly thought no one had ever looked into it. Where was it in literature? Someone would have written something. She must not have recognized it. Time to read everything again.” 9 likes
“Under her high brows, she eyed him straight on and straight across. She had gone to girls' schools, he recalled later. Those girls looked straight at you.” 3 likes
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