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The Maytrees

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  5,593 ratings  ·  1,111 reviews
In spare, elegant prose, Dillard traces the lives of Toby and Lou Maytree. She presents willed bonds of loyalty, friendship, and abiding love. Warm and hopeful, The Maytrees is the surprising capstone of Annie Dillard's original body of work.

Toby Maytree first sees Lou Bigelow on her bicycle in postwar Provincetown, Massachusetts. Her laughter and loveliness catch his brea
Hardcover, 216 pages
Published June 12th 2007 by Harper
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Average rating 3.58  · 
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Aug 18, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing
The beauty of this story lies in Annie Dillard's prose and in her ability to capture the love between Lou and Toby Maytree and the friendship between them and their friends. They and their friends are artists and writers. The book is quiet and it is beautiful. The setting is Cape Cod, out in the dunes with the shifting sands, the salty brine and star-lit nights. The war is at times referred to, and by that is meant the Second World War. It is over and done with--except in fleeting memories that ...more
Oct 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 02, 2008 rated it did not like it
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 rated it liked it
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
Aug 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was a book so fine I started it several times and found I couldn't write at all when I was reading it, its beauty and mastery absolutely paralyzed me. I had to wait until my work was done and I had time (and self-isolation) to hear its quiet, reasonable voice. The story of a marriage between two quiet people over forty years by the great writer's writer, Annie Dillard (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, The Writers Life, Living by Fiction).

Set on the windswept dunes of Cape Cod, Maytree, a rawboned
Feb 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: finished-in-2017
I'm a big fan of Annie Dillard's, and I saw this book recommended first in a book by Joe Queenan (One for the Books) and then on a Boston Globe summer reading list. Jumping genres is a tricky business, though, and the non-fiction champ Dillard doesn't cross over seamlessly to the novel, I don't think.

First of all, the book covers its main characters' entire lifetimes yet weighs in at a mere 216 pp (paperback). This means Dillard is more in "telling" mode than she is "showing" mode. It also means
Feb 07, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Nov 04, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Ellen McGinnis
Jun 21, 2007 rated it liked it
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.
Aug 06, 2007 rated it it was ok
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!
Jan 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
“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
Jul 07, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Sep 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Nov 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
Toby and Lou Maytree, meet, fall in love and marry, in post-war Cape Cod. The second half of the novel, shows them drifting apart. Much of Dillard's prose is lovely but the tone of the book feels cool and aloof. The characters are kept at a distance. Silhouettes. I wanted more depth and feeling. This may work better in poetry but I don't think it fits here, although other readers have praised this novel highly.
I loved Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, so I wonder if she writes better nonfiction. I did no
Oct 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Doug H - On Hiatus
Oct 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Somewhat disappointing. Hard to believe this came from the same author as Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.
Barbara H
Jun 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, abondoned
I could not fault Dillard for her writing, but this book failed to capture me. Perhaps I should have continued further, but I am now abandoning it.
Greg Morrison
Feb 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
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.
Oct 21, 2009 rated it it was ok

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
Nathaniel Dean
Oct 02, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Oct 09, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Beth Bonini
Jul 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
A read for the month of May? May be.

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filty lucre (lack of)
post wwII

This has been given the sickly Woman's Hour treatment - all background soft piano and slowly read by an empathy oozing soft male voice. Honey with that sugar, dearie!?
Dec 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Time to read everything again." (Maytrees, 121)...which is to say...reread everything I loved at 25, and love it even more.
For the first half? third? of the book, I considered setting it aside. The style seemed awkward and the prose over-written. Peopled by characters I don't recognize and framed around ideas not plot. But then, phrases started hitting close to home.

On modern life
p 130: She took pains to keep outside the world's acceleration.

On material goods
p 130: In the past few years she had let go her ties to people she did not like, to ironing, to dining out in town, and to buying things not necessary and that
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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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