Ladder of Years

I’ve just finished reading Anne Tyler’s Ladder of Years, and I’m not sure I liked it. The ending was really weak, which might in a way cast a negative spell on what went on before it … I think I will put it like this: Ladder of Years is an interesting novel, even if it isn’t very well composed.

Ladder of Years is the story of 40-year-old Cordelia Grinstead, who walks away from her family during a vacation at the beech. She has had enough of her husband (to whom she has been married to for 20 years) and she seems to have had enough, as well, of her three complaining almost-grown children and her two squabbling sisters, not to mention the workmen forever traipsing through her house. So, Delia leaves. She runs away to a nearby small town and starts over as the unattached Miss Grinstead. In fairly short order, though, she finds she’s accumulated a web of connections in her new community, including her landlady, the couple who run the diner, and the boarder from across the hall. Then, when she takes a new job, caring for a young boy whose mother has left the family, she comes to realize that she may have fled the pull of one domestic spell only to fall into another one.

I am very interested in all this domestic ordinariness of everyday life, which I believe to be a central theme in all Tyler’s novels, and I think Tyler has a clever way of thinking and writing about it. But Delia’s story gets too unfocused in the end. And I wonder, did she gain any new insight through her “walking-away”, or is she in the end just back at the exact same spot she started from? & also: did I gain any new perspective on married life? Unfortunately I think my answer has to be – no, not this time.

9 Comments Add yours

  1. * says:

    yeah i read another one of tyler and was also not very satisfied with it… sort of “always when it starts to get interesting it turns out shallow…”

  2. AnneCamille says:

    I was just thinking today that maybe I needed to pick up another Anne Tyler novel. Perhaps I will skip this one for now.

    1. Sigrun says:

      I’m really interested in her themes, and I like the way she writes, so I would like to try another book of hers, do you have any suggestions?

  3. Caroline says:

    I have only read (and reviewed) one Anne Tyler novel so far, Back When We Were Grownups and found it extremely good. I have already a few others waiting for me. I didn’t know this one and am sorry to hear it wasn’t satisfying.
    I hear that Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant is one of the best.

    1. Sigrun says:

      Thank you Caroline, I will absolutely try some of her other books! I do still believe Tyler is a writer I would like to read, and “Ladder of Years” was worth reading, even if it ended a bit “sloppy”.

  4. LynS says:

    I read this novel some time ago and have forgotten the details. I remember being attracted by the detail of its domesticity. Your post reminded me of a much blacker account of a woman leaving the dailiness of her life – Doris Lessing’s 1973 novel ‘The Summer Before the Dark’ – and also of the delightful ‘Diary of Jane Somers’ written by Lessing under the pseudonym ‘Jane Somers’.

    1. Sigrun says:

      Thank you for bringing up Lessing!
      Have you read any other books by Tyler?

  5. litlove says:

    I read this one, although it was years ago (sixteen in fact) and I loved it. I don’t remember the ending at all, but it was the first Anne Tyler novel I read and I went on to read almost all of them. Now I’m intrigued as to why the ending struck you so badly but made no impression on me at all! I’ll have to get it off the shelf.

    1. Sigrun says:

      I will try to read more of her work – Is there any book in particular you would recommend?

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