THE MAJOR NEW NOVEL FROM ONE OF THE GREATEST STORYTELLERS OF OUR TIME
A brilliantly perceptive, painfully true and funny journey deep into one family's foibles, from the 1950s right up to the changed world of today
When the kids are grown and Mercy Garrett gradually moves herself out of the family home, everyone is determined not to notice.
Over at her studio, she wants space and silence. She won't allow any family clutter. Not even their cat, Desmond.
Yet it is a clutter of untidy moments that forms the Garretts' family life over the decades, whether that's a painstaking Easter lunch or giving a child a ride, a fateful train journey or an unexpected homecoming.
And it all begins in 1959, with a family holiday to a cabin by a lake. It's the only one the Garretts will ever take, but its effects will ripple through the generations.
'Gorgeous, charming, profound, and written with such lightness of touch' MARIAN KEYES
'A perfect work of fiction' MEG MASON
'French Braid is Anne Tyler at her surgical, spare best' NIGELLA LAWSON
'Exquisitely crafted, tender, hilarious, devastatingly precise, I loved this powerful meditation on the small and often unvoiced moments that can make up a life' RACHEL JOYCE
'Such joyous immersion, I lost myself, and loved this superbly imperfect family' TESSA HADLEY
'A faultless novel, effortlessly profound. I read it in two sittings, totally immersed' VICTORIA HISLOP
'If Anne Tyler isn't the best writer in the world, who is?' BBC RADIO 4 WOMAN'S HOUR
** A 2022 Book to Look Forward To in The Times, Daily Mail, Financial Times, i, Irish Times, Scotsman, Good Housekeeping **
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Like her contemporaries Elizabeth Strout and Ann Patchett, Anne Tyler excels in exploring the microscopic details of everyday life—specifically around close relationships and family dynamics—to reveal their profound impact on us and our deepest desires. And in French Braid, the follow-up to 2020’s Booker-nominated Redhead by the Side of the Road, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author delivers another masterstroke. This short novel zones in on the Garretts, a Baltimore family whose ups and downs we follow from the 1950s—when they take their first and only holiday together—right up to the pandemic-rocked present day. The Garretts aren’t particularly remarkable, but that’s what makes Tyler’s writing so special. This is a family that could be your own, its dynamics recognisable to so many of us as they weather births, marriages, separations, loss and more. Warm, funny and always illuminating, French Braid is further proof that few write about family life better than Anne Tyler.
Tyler (Redhead by the Side of the Road) returns with a dry and well-crafted look at a family that inexplicably comes apart over several decades. Serena Drew, a 20-something Baltimore grad student traveling with her boyfriend, James, thinks she recognizes her cousin, Nicholas Garrett, in the crowd at a Philadelphia train station in 2010, but she can't say for sure because she hasn't seen him for years. "You guys give a whole new meaning to the phrase once removed,' " James says, and wonders if "some deep dark secret" might explain why Serena rarely sees her aunt Alice or her uncle David, Nicholas's father. But the explanation, as it happens, is not so simple. This also turns out not to be Serena's story, as Tyler leaves the young couple for late 1950s Baltimore, where Alice; Serena's mother, Lily; and David are raised by their mismatched parents, a socially awkward plumber named Robin and begrudging housewife Mercy, who wants to be an artist. Once the parents become empty nesters, Mercy spends most of her days and nights in her neighboring studio. There are no big reveals, but Tyler's focus on character development proves fruitful; a reunion organized by the wistful Robin in the '90s is particularly affecting, as is a coda with David during the Covid-19 pandemic. As always, Tyler offers both comfort and surprise.
Just lovely, warm and cosy…
A perfect read about families, the kindness, the inbuilt love, the dysfunctionality and just the strength of genes… all about belonging even when we don’t want to. Loved it! Anne Tyler at her best!