23 February 2007

Book Review: The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler

New Year’s Reading Resolution #2

The Accidental Tourist Macon Leary is a travel writer who hates to travel; his guidebooks are written specifically for business travellers who prefer to pretend they haven’t left home, and put together with the absolute minimum of whirlwind research. After his wife leaves him, struggles to return his life to an ordered state, a process not helped by the misbehaviour of his dog Edward. Unable to part with a pet that had belonged to his murdered son, Macon is obliged to enlist the help of an obedience trainer. That trainer is the chaotic Muriel Pritchett, who wears gaudy thrift shop clothes and chatters non-stop about anything and everything. Macon gravitates to Muriel in spite of himself, much to the disapproval of his brothers. Charles and Porter, after being left by their wives, were content to move back home to be looked after by their sister Rose. Rose is so used to doing this that even after she marries Macon’s editor Julian, she goes back to ‘look after the boys’.

But Macon’s relationship with Muriel falls apart when Sarah returns. Suddenly Macon is back to furniture shopping with his wife. It will take a holiday in Paris for Macon to decide which direction he wants his life to take.

It took me a while to get into this book, I think because Macon’s initial insular ways reminded me a little too much of myself. It soon got easier and I found myself enjoying reading about the characters - actually more than I liked the characters themselves. Rose was my favourite of the lot, and while I did care enough to hope for some happy endings, I never really got attached. But Macon’s journey from the pedantic world of the Learys to a messier and more colourful one - one in which travel could actually be enjoyed - made it all worthwhile.

Rating: B

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Header image shows detail of A Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, c. 1776