Veronica's Reviews > Breathing Lessons

Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler
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Jan 29, 11

bookshelves: mooched, fiction
Read from January 26 to 29, 2011

This made me think irresistibly of Emma. Just like Emma, Maggie cannot resist trying to "improve" other people's lives to fit the image she has of them - which, unfortunately has little relation to reality. I found Emma both aggravating and endearing -- she basically wants her friends to be happy and is just remarkably clumsy about it, but at least she has grown and developed by the end of the book. Maggie is just annoying, and has apparently been annoying all her life, seeming to learn little from her mistakes. Everything was in her own head -- she never took a moment to reflect on what she was doing, or tried to understand what it was like to be the people whose lives she was trying to arrange. The episode with Mr Otis was funny and deftly written, but also cringingly embarrassing -- I really felt for Ira having had to put up with this stuff for 28 years, with no end in sight.

But Anne Tyler's skill is such that she kept me reading, and involved with the characters and all their flaws. Finally, the last paragraph completely won me over. So beautifully done. Ira is playing patience, his way of escaping from the craziness that is Maggie:
He had arrived at the interesting part of the game by now, she saw. He had passed that early, superficial stage when any number of moves seemed possible, and now his choices were narrower and he had to show real skill and judgment.

Unfortunately he has to go on another drive with Maggie tomorrow. Poor guy :)
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Reading Progress

01/29/2011 page 216
66.0% "hmm, Maggie reminds me of Jane Austen's Emma, except much less charming :( Such an irritating character!"

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