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About the book
  • Published: 1 September 2015
  • ISBN: 9780099598480
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 480
  • RRP: $26.00

A Spool of Blue Thread

'A new novel from Tyler is always a treat and this is her best in years' Mail on Sunday



‘It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon…’

This is the way Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she and Red fell in love that summer’s day in 1959. The whole family on the porch, half-listening as their mother tells the same tale they have heard so many times before.

From that porch we spool back through the generations, witnessing the events, secrets and unguarded moments that have come to define the family. From Red’s father and mother, newly arrived in Baltimore in the 1920s, to Abby and Red’s grandchildren carrying the family legacy boisterously into the twenty-first century – four generations of Whitshanks, their lives unfolding in and around the sprawling, lovingly worn Baltimore house that has always been their home…

‘One of my favourite authors ’ Liane Moriarty

‘She spins gold' Elizabeth Buchan

‘Anne Tyler has no peer’ Anita Shreve

‘A masterly author’ Sebastian Faulks

  • Pub date: 1 September 2015
  • ISBN: 9780099598480
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 480
  • RRP: $26.00

About the Author

Anne Tyler

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.

Also by Anne Tyler

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Praise for A Spool of Blue Thread

“Tyler's twentieth novel finds fresh fictional riches in imaginative territory she has been exploring for half a century... Atmospherically rendered, the passage of time has both entertaining and heart-rending results. She has never written with more finesse, vitality and acuteness”

Sunday Times, book of the year

“I love Tyler's writing... She writes so beautifully and with such insight. Read her books and she can actually change your view, change how you see the world”

Judy Finnigan, Mail on Sunday


The Times

“Tyler's sentences are wholly hers, instantly recognisable and impossible to duplicate”

Hanya Yanigihara, Observer, Books That Made Our Year 2015

“The extraordinary thing about her writing is the extent to which she makes one believe every word, deed and breath”

Kate Kellaway, Guardian

“Tyler writes with an apparent effortlessness which conceals great art. The Whitshank family is tragic, comic, absurd, absorbing -- and lives on its illusions, as every family must. You'll shiver with recognition”

Helen Dunmore, Stylist

“May be her best yet, though, to be honest, this is what I always tend to say after reading the latest Anne Tyler. I’ve now read it twice, and I may well read it again”

Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

“Anne Tyler takes the ordinary, the small, and makes them sing”

Rachel Joyce, Observer, Books That Made Our Year 2015

“The combination of direct appeal, subtle perception and unshowy artistry in Tyler's fiction has been admired by authors ranging from Joyce Carol Oates and Carol Shields to Jonathan Franzen and Sebastian Faulks... Her extraordinary gift for producing what seems less like fiction than actuality works wonders again... magnificent”

Peter Kemp, Sunday Times

“Every sentence is perfect in this witty story of family life”


“A must-read”

Good Housekeeping

“What a wonderful, natural writer she is... she knows all the secrets of the human heart”

Monica Ali

“A glorious, unsentimental treat”

Janette Currie, Independent

“It was a joy to read such an amazing book - so simply written”

Victoria Hislop

“A new novel from Tyler is always a treat and this is her best in years”

Amy E Williams, Mail on Sunday (You)

“One of her very best”

Sunday Times

“Tyler tenderly unwinds the skein of three generations... deeply beguiling”

Oprah Magazine

“A beautiful book”

Adele Parks

“I’m sure I won’t be the only one torn between savouring it and racing to the end”

Amy Adams, 4 stars, Stylist

“The writing is beautiful, unshowy, spare yet bountiful, the distilled style of a long lifetime of creating great novels”

Susan Hill, Spectator

“Anne Tyler writes so gracefully, you almost don’t realise she is writing at all”

Claire Allfree, Metro

“The story is so absorbing, and characters so real that while you race to finish it, you also really don't want it to end”

Deirdre O’Brien, Sunday Mirror

“So subtle, so amusing and real, it's like watching their lives happen in front of you”

Sainsbury's Magazine

“A master of conversation [Anne Tyler] depicts the intimacies and irritations of family life, the exchanged, complicit lances and misunderstandings. Read this”

Vanessa Berridge, 4 stars, Daily Express

“One of the finest novelists of modern times”




“A new Anne Tyler novel is always a cause for celebration... effortlessly enthralling”

Charlotte Heathcote, Sunday Express

“One of America's literary giants”

Graeme Thomson, Daily Mail

“A quiet sense of emotional tragedy, sharp observational humour and writing so economically precise you long to read every sentence twice”

Huffington Post

“Anne Tyler’s twentieth novel has all the hallmarks of the well-loved author’s best work – wonderful observation, intricate detail, nuanced humour and, of course, a family whose shared stories and secrets define them”

Antonia Charlesworth, Big Issue

“Love may be many splendoured but, in this novel, we also see its smothering, suffocating side, as well as its tyrannous sway – and only a writer of Tyler’s skill could transform that into such an undiluted delight”

Stephanie Cross, Daily Mail

“The worlds she creates are so absorbing and believable; she taps into our innate curiosity about people just like ourselves”

Sophie White, Sunday Independent

“What she does, in the course of this novel, is show that the simplest family stories often have complex roots and unlikely outcomes. This is a book full of surprises, and Tyler is adept at the great revelation that both startles and throws what has come before into a whole new light”

Erica Wagner, Financial Times

“A stunning novel about family life which just rings so true – it depicts the bonds and the tensions, the love and the exasperation beautifully”


“A warm, wise and funny book”


“A believable and wise read”

Joanne Finney, Good Housekeeping

“The texture of everyday experience transmuted into art”

Kirkus Review

“[A] wonderful book”

Elspeth Barker, Literary Review

“There is no limit to the superlatives that Tyler inspires”

Eileen Battersby, Irish Times

“With A Spool of Blue Thread, the Pulitzer Prize winning novelist is on typically fine form”

Jennifer Lipman, Optima Magazine

“‘[Tyler’s] latest book…is as effortlessly enthralling on the familial front as her previous 19”

Eithne Farry, 4 stars, Scottish Daily Express

“Sincerely and carefully told”

Angus Sutherland, 5 stars, Skinny

“This is a book that explores moral and psychological ambiguities with extraordinary subtlety”

Caroline Moore, Oldie

“A Spool of Blue Thread does an exquisite job”

Leo Robson, New Statesman

“The real triumph here is [Tyler’s] portrayal of old age – droll, and desperately sad.”

Maggie Fergusson, Intelligent Life

“This novel…has lavish strengths”

James Walton, 4 stars, Sunday Telegraph

“Love…is relayed with extraordinary skill by Tyler”

Sarah Gilmartin, Irish Times

“It’s Tyler at her witty, truthful best”

Kate Saunders, Saga Magazine

“Tyler takes the minute details of everyday life…and makes them remarkable”


“This is a novel to cherish”


“Wonderful new novel”

5 stars, Western Mail

“I loved this book and knew I would as soon as I saw the author’s name… I shall read this book many times”

Tina Foster, Mature Times

“Tyler…writes movingly of the early stages of dementia and its fierce denial”

Catherine Taylor, i (The paper for today)

“A truly delightful read”

Rachael Roberts, Big Issue

“[Anne Tyler’s] usual pithy observations on life and strong storytelling combine beautifully”


“You close the book feeling you’ve been privy to a family that is quite extraordinary”

Emma Herdman, 5 stars, UK Press Syndication

“Ms. Tyler has a knack for turning sitcom situations into something far deeper and more moving”

Rebecca Pepper Sinkler, International New York Times

“It takes organized wit to write about human muddle as Tyler does, without once losing our attention or the narrative’s spool of blue thread”

Kate Kellaway, Observer

“A moving, well-crafted reflection on life and death and the relationships that sustain us through both”

Sarah Gilmartin, Sunday Business Post

“How can it be so wonderful!... Tyler remains among the best chroniclers of family life”

Washington Post

“Astonishingly adept”

Leo Robson, New Statesman

“Tyler describes so accurately the frailties, turmoil and love of family life”

Big Issue

“No one does family sagas quite like Anne Tyler”

Matilda Bathurst, Country Life

“Mundane yet magical, thus pure Tyler”

Markie Robson-Scott, Tablet

“Anne Tyler paints a large-scale portrait on a small-scale canvas and does it beautifully”

Good Book Guide

“In many ways this novel is a culmination of all those that have gone before it; it combines a multitude of themes and never fails to exact humour alongside the more sombre task of delving into topical issues such as sexuality, relationships and ageing”

Francesa Wilson, Gryphon

“Absolutely wonderful, a work of genius”

Gill Hornby, Lady

“Absolutely wonderful, a work of genius”

Gill Hornby, Lady

“It's so rich in detail and reality, so simple, but so compelling. I wept”

Victoria Hislop, Waitrose Weekend

“Engaging, compassionate, insightful… Tyler's strengths here are on the detail and the mundane. She gently weaves a rich tapestry of family life with a generosity of spirit that never a spills into sentimentality’”

Hayley Atwell, Female First

“Tyler’s skill lies in making the utterly everyday something special”

Emma Herdman, 4 stars, Northern Echo

“This novel was an absolute joy as a personal read and whilst there are surely many spools of thread (sorry!) to unpick in reading group discussion, I can’t help but feel that readers will find the greatest enjoyment with this book in the quiet, personal introspection of their own experience of it”

Jade Craddock, Nudge

“Is as good as anything she has ever written”

Razia Iqbal, Independent

“Another insightful study of family life. It may be familiar territory for the writer, but she commands it absolutely”

Neville Hawcock, Financial Times

“One to read on a family holiday”

Fiona Wilson, The Times

“Tyler at her best… Like all Tyler’s work, this book is hard to put down, often laugh out loud funny and every word rings true: reading it requires no effort at all and yet the rewards are endless”

A Little Bird (Blog)

“Tyler’s ability to combine carefully chosen characters, an open writing style and universally relatable themes makes her work so popular and…timeless. No wonder everyone is celebrating her 50-year career, to which I can only add my wholehearted recommendation of this novel with a full five stars out of five”

Davida Chazan, Nudge

“She gives us a better sense than anyone else of what it’s like to be part of a family”

James Walton, Sunday Telegraph

“Her gift for producing what seems less like fiction than actuality works wonders”

Peter Kemp, Sunday Times Ireland


Four stars, Love it!

“beautifully written… a really good family saga”

William Leith, Evening Standard

“Anne Tyler has the power to make the most ordinary observations enthralling ·”

My Weekly

“Highly reccommended”

Fiona Atley, Nudge

“Her extraordinary gift for producing what seems less like fiction than actuality works wonders again… magnificent.”

Peter Kemp, Sunday Times

“May be her best yet, though, to be honest, this is what I always tend to say after reading the latest Anne Tyler.”

Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

“Superbly accomplished, perceptive and funny, tugged forward by suspended revelations to its hurricane climax”

Robert McCrum, Observer

“Tyler has captured the characters of an “ordinary” family brilliantly”

Kathryn Copnell, Methodist Recorder

“[Tyler] writes so sparingly and yet her books are dense with the complexities of human emotions”

Natasha Harding, Jessica Fellowes, The Sun

“Pure pleasure”

Mark Amory, Spectator

“[Tyler] has the rapier wit of a true satirist”

Molly Guiness, Spectator

“Tyler’s gift for producing what seems less like fiction than absorbing actuality is everywhere in evidence as characters all but elbow their way off the page with lifelikeness. Beneath the surface darker depths are discernible, and awareness of human transience generates comedy and melancholy. Atmospherically rendered, the passage of time has both entertaining and heart-rendering results. She has never written with more finesse, vitality and acuteness”

Peter Kemp, Sunday Times

“Somehow what’s familiar seems transcended in this wonderful novel, infused with freshness and surprise”

Ron Charles, Washington Post Sunday

“Anyone after a good novel will find themselves endlessly delighted by Anne Tyler’s miraculously deft and touching family saga”

Craig Brown, Daily Mail

“Anyone after a good novel will find themselves endlessly delighted by Anne Tyler’s miraculously deft and touching family saga”

Craig Brown, Daily Mail

“Reminded us that Anne Tyler… can write a barbed family saga that puts younger imitators to shame”

Tim Martin, Daily Telegraph

“Funny and brutally frank in its portrayal in an averagely messy family and the degree to which accident contributed to the formation of its history…Tyler…Is a master technician”

Patrick Gale, Irish Times

“Anne Tyler is a magician: what she does seems so simple and et it weaves a compelling spell”

D O'D, RTE Guide

“Utterly absorbing, heartbreaking and endearing”


“Tyler explores the simmering resentment that often underpins familial relationships, as well as the elusive nature of the American Dream”

Paul Nolan, Hot Press

“The characters in Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread are s fully formed I felt I was reading a family album. There is poetry in the way Tyler writes about mundane family life. When the book ended, I felt alone”

Kimberly Shields, Guardian

“A book that is shot through with random misfortune, but which takes infinite pleasure in the detail of everyday family life.”

Daisy Goodwin, Daily Mail

“Rivalries flare between siblings and secrets unravel, as Tyler shines a brilliant light on our fundamental relationships and the span of life.”

Sainsbury’s Magazine

“Since the characters are actual, flawed human beings, it makes the story unbelievably relatable.”

Emmy Griffiths, So Feminine

“One of the greatest storytellers alive, whose characters arrive on the page like human beings, things happen to them, they react to these things, and then life continues”

John Boyne, Irish Times

“A Spool of Blue Thread…adroitly shines a light on sibling rivalry, family secrets and the wounding power of grief… [and] demonstrates again her gift for comic detail”

Martin Chilton, Olivia Petter and Ceri Radford, Independent, *Books of the Decade*

“A stunning novel about three generations of a family that perfectly captures the fights, petty irritations and deep connections between them”

Good Housekeeping

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