The Maytrees
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The Maytrees

3.51 of 5 stars 3.51  ·  rating details  ·  3,641 ratings  ·  835 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...more
Audio CD, 5 CDs, 5 pages
Published June 12th 2007 by HarperAudio (first published 2007)
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Aug 18, 2007 Donald rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
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
Skylar Burris
"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,...more
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
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...more
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 3 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
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...more
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.
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...more
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...more
Mar 10, 2008 Lucy rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Nathaniel Dean
Oct 02, 2007 Nathaniel Dean rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
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!
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...more
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...more
May 05, 2008 Shaindel rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
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...more
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.
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

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...more
This was one of the most complete stories of love that I've seen in a novel. The structure of the book was different. It followed the couple from when they first met, to their very end of life. The Prologue tells structure of the story, even the end. This caught me off guard and caused me to wonder about the purpose of the book. It never was about what happened in the end. You could read the last chapter if you wanted to, Dillard just puts right up front for you. It's about everything that happe...more
I have loved Dillard's nonfiction, so when I saw this little book of fiction, published in 2007, I snapped it up. It's a difficult book to describe. Elegant. Evocative. Quiet. Poetic. NOT a page turner. Sometimes, however, that is okay. This is definitely a book to read rather than listen to, as you have to go slowly to soak up all the beautiful imagery.

The plot involves a young couple, the eponymous Maytrees. Dillard follows their courtship and the early days of their marriage, which is shatte...more
I once read an Annie Dillard essay on sight that left me so disoriented, I had to put down the compilation book it was part of for a week. She so decompartmentalized the sight of birds flocking from a tree that I found myself testing my perception of sight. Because I perceive everything I see; I process it in the same way any other set human eyeballs does, but in the end, I still add color. Annie Dillard taught me that, and it's a lesson I keep coming back to in her work through the endless boun...more
I've been enamored of Annie Dillard since reading Pilgrim at Tinker's Creek. Her body of work is primarily non-fiction, so I grabbed this quickly to see how she would handle fiction.

On one level I was disappointed -- the characters are so eccentric and quirky, and the narrative so sparse and staccato, that I was put off.

Yet her language is so exquisite that I was captivated, and as I reflected back on the story, I found it more interesting.

Annie Dillard must collect words the way some people mig...more
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....more
It sort of killed me to rate this book so low, but there it is. I blame my lack of interest in this book mostly on the low-level of literature reading I've been doing lately and not on Dillard's writing. Had I read this book while in college, along side books that were giving me headaches like 'Paradise Lost', I'm sure that I would've been elated by a book that is so simple and elegant in so many ways.

Alas, I just didn't care. I've become far too much of a narrative junkie and the narrative here...more
Much as I liked Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and An American Childhood, this book left me kind of blah. Maybe that’s because the main character, Lou, is kind of blah herself. She’s more of an interesting idea than she is an interesting person, a nonconformist who makes me say so what. She seldom speaks, even to her husband, although Dillard keeps insisting theirs is an intimate union. She needs space to think. She wants nothing of the things of this world. She lives at a remove, in kind of an emotion...more
Aug 18, 2007 Karima rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ponderers/wordsmiths
that pauciloquy means "brevity of speech."

from James Davidson (read his full review at It's terrific.)

Annie does have a way with words. And maybe it's just me, but for some of the words--words like: halyard, pauciloquoys, culch, mesoglea, spicules, and littoral--I had to have the American Heritage Dictionary, fourth edition, faithfully by my side to refer to rather frequently. What good fortune for me then that Annie Dillard, so I noticed, also just happened to be on that dictionary'...more
Becky Weaver
Lyrical, moving, engaging, and short. Who could ask for anything more? When I finished this book, I strongly considered turning back to page one to read it all over again. This is a keeper.

A sample: "Maytree would resume his life in Maine, and she could pick up her subjects' edges anywhere - in other cultures, in any mind's track, in paleontology, old peckings and runes on stones, in Asian philosophy-...and poke up at the bottom of things with a stick, or however she used to work. She kept an e...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.” 8 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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