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Noah's Compass

Anne Tyler

Average Review Rating Average Rating 7/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Vintage

Published : 2010

Copyright : Anne Tyler 2009

ISBN-10 : PB 0-09-953958-6
ISBN-13 : PB 978-0-09-953958-2

Publisher's Write-Up

Liam Pennywell has spent most of his life dodging issues and skirting adventure when suddenly, in his sixty-first year, something happens that jolts him out of his certainty and leaves him with a frightening gap in his memory. In trying to piece together what has happened, Liam finds instead an unusual woman with secrets of her own, and a late-flowering love that brings its own thorny problems. A perfectly pitched, enchanting and affecting novel about a man adrift in his own life, Noah's Compass chimes gently, wonderfully with our times.

Widowed, re-married, divorced and the father of three daughters, Liam is a man who is proud of his recall but has learned to dodge issues and skirt adventure. Something occurs, though, to jolt him out of his certainty. Obsessed with a frightening gap in his memory, he sets out to uncover what happened, and finds instead an unusual woman with secrets of her own, and a late-flowering love that brings its own thorny problems.

His ex-wife (sensible Barbara) and daughters worry about him but Liam blunders on, His teenage daughter Kitty is sent to stay - though it's not clear who is minding whom. His middle daughter, Louise, is a born-again Christian with a son called Jonah, but her certainties leave Liam still more perplexed.

Noah's Compass is about memory and its loss, about incidents and relationships which open up sight lines into a painful past long dead for a man who becomes aware that merely trying to stay afloat may not be enough.

About the Author:
Born in Minneapolis in 1941, Anne Tyler lives in Baltimore where her novels are set. She is the Pulitzer-prize winning author of Breathing Lessons and other bestselling novels, including The Accidental Tourist, Saint Maybe, Back When We Were Grownups, The Amateur Marriage and most recently Digging to America.

'Anne Tyler has elevated the observation of everyday detail into an art form.'


'There is nothing extraneous and nothing overly dramatic here, and in that lies her very considerable strength as a writer.'


'Reading Tyler's novels often feels like slipping into favourite pyjamas...her simple, nuanced prose reveals some lovely twists.'

Daily Mail
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Reader Reviews

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Review by Ben Macnair (300412) Rating (7/10)

Review by Ben Macnair
Rating 7/10
Anne Tyler's novel Noah's Compass is about Liam Pennywell, a former teacher, who at 61 finds himself on the scrap heap. He has moved into a new apartment, and on his first night there is attacked, and loses memory of the event. In looking for the answers, he uncovers elements that add to his life.

His life is dominated by his daughters, the youngest Kitty, who stays with her father when he first leaves the hospital, because she is having problems with her mother, Barbara, who is Liam's second wife. Then there is Louise, who is highly religious in a way that Liam cannot understand.

He is having problems with his amnesia about the attack, and visits his Doctor who tells him just to leave it be, and maybe the memories will return, but Liam really needs to know the truth. He feels he has no control over his life until he knows the truth, but then he sees the rich industrialist Ishmael Cope, who at 82 has an assistant, a hired rememberer of sorts.

Into this comes Eunice, the rememberer, and they fall in love.

This is the real crux of the story, looking at an adult relationship as it develops, where each member is looking for something different.
Noah's Compass is a fine novel, full of good description, flawed but well drawn characterisations, and a love affair that is both warm and realistic.

The book does not have the much feared Hollywood ending, Tyler is too intelligent writer for that. Eunice and Liam have been keeping secrets, and none of his family really take to his new love interest. Life continues as it is always does for Liam. His relationships with his daughters are stronger, they seem more forgiving of each other, whilst he has learnt to remember to forget about the things in his life over which he has no control.
Ben Macnair (30th April 2012)

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