Book review – Back When We Were Grownups, by Anne Tyler

Book review – Back When We Were Grownups, by Anne Tyler

Title – Back When We Were Grownups

Genre – Literary Fiction

Author – Anne Tyler

First published – 2001

Edition reviewed – 2002 (Vintage)

Enjoyment rating – 8/10

There are no spoilers in this review

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Review

The novel starts with the sentence, “Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.”

The woman is fifty-three-year-old Rebecca Davitch, and the whole novel is constructed around this opening sentence. Rebecca wants – needs, even – to know whether the insight is true, and, if it is, what she can do about it.

She seems to be a joyous and extroverted person. Her late husband, Joe Davitch, had owned a large and rather distinguished house that he used as the basis of a business hosting parties; all sorts of parties, from children’s birthday parties to wedding anniversary parties.

“I was very different as a young woman,” thinks Rebecca. “I was quiet and serious. That was the real me.” How had she become such an outgoing person?

Everything had changed when she jilted her studious fiancé in favour of a whirlwind romance leading to marriage to Joe. The novel’s plot is based on Rebecca’s efforts to understand this event. This is worked through carefully and with insight.

There aren’t any sub-plots as such, but Rebecca’s daily life constantly intrudes on her search for understanding and fulfilment. Such is the quality of the writing that every scene from Rebecca’s life tells us more about her character, and more about her true nature.

The novel concludes with a ‘set piece’ of writing, which is an absolute tour de force. It’s an inspired way of finishing the story of Rebecca’s quest. It takes place in the midst of a party (where else?) and it sets the emotional tone perfectly. It’s satisfying, it’s beautiful, and it’s moving. It’s marvellously crafted, and I admire the hell out of it!

Friday Fictioneers – Who am I?

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

PHOTO PROMPT © SARAH POTTER

Who am I?

Who am I?

I ask my parents. They are cagey, but I pester them. As I suspected, I am adopted. Mum hugs me, lets me weep on her shoulder. Gives me an address.

“That’s where she used to live,” she says, doubt in her voice.

A bus ride, two train journeys and a walk. It takes me until late afternoon. It’s a big house, casting a long shadow.

I fidget. Walk up and down. Knock at the front door.

She is grey-haired, rather sad. When she sees me, her eyes widen.

“Sally! Would you like to come in?” she says.

Inlinkz – click here to join in the fun!

Friday Fictioneers – ‘Me’ Time

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz (the blue frog) on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

 FF - 'Me' time - 170906

Photoprompt (c) Danny Bowman

Jane treasured this time away from her daily routine.

She climbed the path briskly, skidding on pebbles left by the rain running through the scrub. The wind, and the bleakness, and the loneliness, scoured away the mask she’d worn during the day. Her face relaxed into a half-smile. She thought with tenderness of her children, without the distraction of needing to deal immediately with their problems.

It was her ‘me’ time. She could be herself.

She reached the craggy summit, glanced at her watch and sighed. It was time to go home.

Time to go back to being ‘George’ and ‘Daddy’.

In the moment – Growing Older

In the moment – Growing Older

When I was young – and even when I was mature – I had quite the wrong idea about what it was like to be old. I thought it was just slower, everything a little less acute. Perhaps, too, I felt that grey hair was an indication of a greyer, less vivid experience of life.

Now I know that I move slowly because I have less energy; that hearing less well makes it harder to have a conversation in a roomful of chattering people; that my sense of smell has deteriorated.

And yet, I’m more joyful now than I’ve ever been.

Largely that’s because I know and accept who I am. It’s also because I have learned, at least to some extent, to live ‘in the moment’ – savouring the experience of life, whatever it is, moment by moment.

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There are also blessings that are reserved for older people; grandchildren, plenty of time to reflect, leisure to spend with those you love.

So, although it’s been years since I could run upstairs, I can walk up them and read a bedtime story to my grandchildren.

Although I can’t smell the coffee in the morning, I don’t have to rush off to work. I sit with my wife over breakfast and enjoy her company.

I’m no longer the fastest to solve problems and learn new skills, but I can quarry my experience for memories and images, wisdom that I can share with others.

I no longer have the responsibility and status of working as a manager, but I have time for the privilege and joy of sharing love with my friends.

And as for ‘a less vivid experience of life’ – nothing of the sort! Life is great!