Barbara's Reviews > Noah's Compass

Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler
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Apr 22, 11

Read in December, 2010

As I read this book, I was often reminded of the television show, Seinfeld , which was purportedly about nothing, but beneath the surface there was usually more. I have read and enjoyed many of Anne Tyler's novels. They all seem to share the trend of family disharmony and often are similar in style, if not content.

Noah's Compass is a low-key, meandering story. While sleeping, Liam Pennywell sustained a head injury as a result of an attack by an assailant who broke into his room. This concussion caused him to have amnesia surrounding the event. He feels great anxiety about this lapse. In fact, it appears that this entire novel is devoted to forgetfulness and remembering. He is a 60 year old philosopher, who seems to have lived his life in a state of oblivion. It is surprising that he had never utilized his chosen profession, nor did his character, for the most part, seem to apply his knowledge in his actions. His relationship with others lacks many social graces- he is "clueless". In fact, he is devoid of deep friendships and firm family ties. As the story progresses he views his life.

"All along, it seemed, he had experienced only the most glancing relationship with his own life. He had dodged the tough issues, avoided the conflicts, gracefully skirted adventure." (p.241)

"I haven't exactly covered myself in glory. I just...don't seem to have the hang of things, somehow. It's as if I've never been entirely present in my own life. (p.263)

Tyler's style is pleasant, clear and illustrative, but lacks elements of tension. She does lend touches of whimsy and humor in many unexpected areas. Her characters,while clearly etched, are predominantly self-centered, rather unlikable and unattractive. Despite Liam's deficits, one can easily feel compassion for his state. His life is not completely devoid of human contact. An unexpected delight is his teen-age daughter, Kitty. While she is typical of most adolescents,she is the hopeful endearing figure in this story.

Although I have shown some lack of enthusiasm for this novel, I can state that it was an enjoyable, pleasant interlude for me.

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Comments (showing 1-14 of 14) (14 new)

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Teresa I ended up really liking this book. I thought the characters were very 'real,' and I loved the ending.


message 2: by K.D. (new)

K.D. Absolutely Nice review, B.
I still have to try Anne Tyler. I have her "Breathing Lesson". Is it the good book to start?


Barbara Teresa, I thought that these selfish individuals were real too, but quite unlikable.

KD, that's a good place to start.


message 4: by Teresa (last edited Dec 29, 2010 09:22AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Teresa Barbara wrote: "Teresa, I thought that these selfish individuals were real too, but quite unlikable.

KD, that's a good place to start."


As I've said before, 'unlikable' means nothing to me when I'm reading. :)

KD, her Breathing Lessons is good, but I prefer Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant. Of course, since you already have BL, I agree that it is a good place to start to see if you like her style.


message 5: by K.D. (new)

K.D. Absolutely Thanks, T and B.
Happy New Year!


Teresa K.D. wrote: "Thanks, T and B.
Happy New Year!"


Happy New Year!


Cynthia I couldn't help laughing at the contrast between this and your current read by Chaon. Can't wait to hear your take on that.


Barbara Thanks, C. I'll keep you posted!


message 9: by Maria (last edited Jan 04, 2011 11:52AM) (new)

Maria What a nice review this is. I don't know what it is, but I have difficulty being interested in this author's novels, despite her clear competence & whimsy & eccentric characters & dysfunction. I've read only 1 (& 1/2!) of her books, however.


Teresa Maria wrote: "I don't know what it is, but I have difficulty being interested in this author's novels, despite her clear competence & whimsy & eccentric characters & dysfunction. I'..."

We can't all like everything, or even the same things, and thank goodness for that!


message 11: by Maria (new)

Maria I'd had such high hopes -- I feel forlorn to be in the minority (but always onward to the next author)!


Barbara Maria, you are not a minority! You are a Special Individual !
Teresa is right, we have differing tastes.


Jules I really appreciate your review and the likening to Seinfeld is really rather interesting. I think a lot of us live out in this kind of muffled space - or is this just me, ha! x


Barbara Thanks, Jules! I agree...


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