Friday, June 11, 2010

Book Review: 'Patchwork Planet' by Anne Tyler

I've read Anne Tyler's Pulitzer Prize winner "Breathing Lessons" and loved it. I read "The Amateur Marriage" and appreciated it, but "Patchwork Planet" is the most endearing of her books (that I've read) so far. It's a book that's so well written, easy to read and interesting, I wouldn't mind reading it again. I can say that of very few books.

Patchwork Planet is about a chap called Barnaby (What a name! But I can only think of it with affection now) who works at Rent-a-Back, a little agency that hires out help to old people who can't manage their muscle-demanding jobs--well, even mild muscle work such as shifting a lamp from one room to another. It's a great idea, by the way; I wish someone would start something like this.

Barnaby has gone to a kind of reform school after being caught in a little burglary, which he committed when he was high on pot. He belongs to a wealthy family but he's the black sheep, or so his parents feel. He is careful not to pocket things from any old person's home where he's hired out, but that's not to say he doesn't get the sudden deep urges to do or say something outright weird and laugh-out-loud funny.

Tyler is an amazing writer. She writes this from the point of view of Barnaby, a slightly unreliable narrator, and slips into his skin so beautifully that we understand his hard-to-understand character well enough to love him. Every major character is believable. Along with several observations that left me marvelling at the author's ability to notice these oh-so-true instances and put them across in appropriate places, there are portraits of old age in its many colours, and--many, many laughs that had me in splits. The humour is intelligent and it works really well because it is based on a close observation of exactly how people are.

I wish I could learn from her, how to write so beautifully.


Roopa Banerjee said...

Enjoyed reading the review.Concise and elucidating the reasons this book connected. Made me want to read 'A Patchwork Planet' again.

Damyanti said...

I've read this one, and completely agree with your review. Like Roopa before me, it made me think of digging out my copy.

I remember reading the book and loving it.

I loved Morgan's Passing as well.