5. ‘Ladder of Years’ by Anne Tyler

Another lovely, post-modern easy reading Anne Tyler. Our heroine, Delia, almost by accident walks away from her family and her life, and starts over in a small town. It resonated particularly for me in that I did something similar in 2012, (although I hasten to add, my family knew exactly where I was going and what I was doing). In my case, I found myself sitting on my balcony after a long day at work, just having turned fifty, single, and thinking “Well, is this it?”. Emailed my (adult) children – ‘I’m thinking of selling/getting rid of everything and heading off round the world’ – and with their full support, that’s exactly what I did. The down side? I have missed my family although we have managed some extraordinary times together in various places. But overall…it’s been marvellous. I have lived in places I never even thought I’d visit, travelled to some amazing places, met some brilliant people. I recommend it, but perhaps not quite in the way it happens in this book. And I don’t think the heroine and I have a great deal in common…

Forty year old meek and mild Delia Grinstead, after decades stagnating in her family home with her distant husband, forceful sisters and surly teenaged children, has a flirtation with a stranger, a disagreement with said husband during the annual family holiday, and walks off down the beach, eventually hitching a ride to anywhere. At the beginning of the book, we read a newspaper article about her disappearance in which her family appear to be unsure of the colour of her hair and eyes, let alone what she is wearing – a swimsuit and a beach robe – which sets the tone for the novel. She reinvents herself as Miss instead of Mrs Grinstead, and builds a new life in a small town while apparently confronting the insecurities which have made her so dependent and in the shadows.

As always, Ms Tyler’s observational skills are on display, and she also manages to pull off an almost completely unexpected ending…which I have to say however was, for me, somewhat inconclusive. It’s a lovely gentle read though.

I don’t think I’m going to read any more of the Anne Tyler’s for a while. Although I enjoyed Ladder of Years, it did lack some substance – an ideal holiday read would be my suggestion. There are too many loose ends for me, although perhaps that is what she was aiming for, as Delia’s whole life appears to consist of loose threads and unanswered questions.  Sending this one to my dear sister in Spain to add to her collection!