Book Review: The Clock Winder by Anne Tyler

The Clock Winder…

About the Book:

Having sacked her handyman, newly-widowed Mrs Emerson finds a replacement in Elizabeth, a lanky, awkward girl. The Emersons – there are seven grown-up children – have a reputation for craziness and Elizabeth finds herself drawn into their disorderly lives against her will. But in the end it is hard to tell whether she is a victim of the needy Emersons, or the de facto ruler of the family.

My Thoughts:

I’m a late comer to Anne Tyler, my love for her writing starting with her latest release, Red Head by the Side of the Road, earlier this year. I was so taken with the beauty, wit, and insight of her writing, that I’ve made a personal commitment to read as much of her backlist as possible – which will hopefully be all. So, from her most recent release, I’ve now stretched right back to one from 1972, The Clock Winder. From the very first page of this novel I felt this wrap of comfort slipping around me and this never left me for the duration. I just feel like Anne Tyler might be the very best author l have ever had the pleasure of reading, making me all the more satisfied that I have already begun purchasing her backlist and have several ready to go whenever the whim or need for a bit of Anne comes upon me.

The Clock Winder spans a decade with the large and rather hectic Emerson family. It begins with Mrs Emerson, recently widowed, rattling around her big house, sacking her outdoors handyman for peeing on the roses. By some twist of fate, Elizabeth happens by the house whilst headed on her way to enquire about a job as a housekeeper within the neighbourhood, and sees Mrs Emerson struggling to put her outdoor furniture from the veranda to the garage, offers assistance, and ends up staying on as the new handyman. And from this point on, the lives of Elizabeth, Mrs Emerson, and all seven of her adult children, are changed, in both good ways and bad.

Heartbreak and humour is delivered in equal measure, sometimes even in the same breathtaking passage. Everyone is a little bit crazy, a little bit out of the ordinary, a little bit too much or too little – kind of like real people, existing in a real family where the patterns and codes are really only understood by the inner circle. The conversations are sublime, absolutely priceless, and I am beginning to see that this is where Anne’s magic stems from, the intimacy that she is able to inject into any conversation or scene, bringing it to life as though you are right there with the characters, living alongside them. It’s incomparable. This novel, in a nutshell, is about a family. But it’s also about being in, and fitting into, a family, finding your place within that dynamic and the way in which this shapes who we are within the context of our other family members. We can all relate to being one person within our family and a whole other person in a different setting with other people, and this novel shows this with blistering clarity. It’s also about unconditional love, and the way in which we accept the quirks and faults of those we are related to, for better or worse, and often work around it. This is the type of fiction I crave, the very definition of a ‘comfort read’ for me.

Utterly brilliant. Just pass me the next Anne Tyler please.


About the Author:

Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her bestselling novels include Breathing Lessons, The Accidental Tourist, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, Ladder of Years, Back When We Were Grownups, A Patchwork Planet, The Amateur Marriage, Digging to America, A Spool of Blue Thread and Vinegar Girl.
In 1989 she won the Pulitzer Prize for Breathing Lessons; in 1994 she was nominated by Roddy Doyle and Nick Hornby as ‘the greatest novelist writing in English’; in 2012 she received the Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence; and in 2015 A Spool of Blue Thread was a Sunday Times bestseller and was shortlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Man Booker Prize.

The Clock Winder
This Edition Published by Penguin Random House Australia – Vintage
First Released 1972

13 thoughts on “Book Review: The Clock Winder by Anne Tyler

  1. I am so glad you posted this, because I too was an Anne Tyler newbie until REDHEAD – which I just loved, and devoured I think in a sitting – and I’ve been looking over her rather extensive backlist wondering where to begin! So, I should have done what you’ve done and just started at the beginning. It very much feels like a time for comfort reading, and this sounds perfect. Thank you! xo

    Liked by 1 person

    • You can follow me down my Anne Tyler garden path!
      I feel like I’m at the right age, stage in my life, and mood all round for this sort of comfort reading. I’m not sure I would have appreciated her as much 10 years ago, only because I might have been seeking different things from my reading.

      Liked by 1 person

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