Was Noah’s Compass Also Laura’s Compass?

No.  Not particularly.

Let me back up and start again with this one.  When I said I was going to be reflecting on books to help improve my writing, I said so having recently joined a book club.  I reckon it’s a better place to start, in a lot of ways, because it means I’m reading something I would normally never dream of picking up.  I personally need the book club because before I joined, although I was an avid reader as a child, I hadn’t finished a fiction book in ten years.  I know how terrible that sounds on paper, so now I am making up for it.

Noah’s Compass by Anne Tyler is the second book I have read on our reading list.  The book is about a 60-year-old man named Liam whose bout of memory loss causes him to question his current life and purpose in the world.

For the most part I enjoyed the book.  It was well-written and easy to become immersed in its universe.  At one point, as a sat down again and opened to the bookmarked page, I remember consciously feeling myself submerge back into this other universe.  It was genuinely very enjoyable.

Then something unfortunate happened.  Namely that I got to the final thirty pages and started to get a sneaking suspicion that the lead character was not going to have evolved as much as I hoped he would.  In fact, scratch “hoped”: I wanted to see Liam evolve because, after 250 pages with him, I felt I deserved to see him evolve more.  I do understand that the point of the book is to keep afloat in life rather than hunt for personal fulfilment or change, but the writing style flowed so well at times that honestly if there was a major eureka moment regarding this idea I must have glanced over it.  It’s all personal taste, but for my thick noggin it was a bit too subtle.

I can’t take much away from Noah’s Compass, not least because our genres are so different I don’t think there’s much comparison.  One thing it has got me thinking about, however, is that change needs to occur in proportion with the length and pace of a book.  As a reader I won’t be thrilled if I read through 450 pages just for the deadbeat dad to eventually have the sense to buy his infant son one ice cream.  The same is true in reverse: if, at the end of twenty pages of sitting on the couch, Ben the Capitalist suddenly flips his entire world view and makes the sickle and hammer his Facebook picture it won’t be very believable.

No-one is saying that all of a character’s problems should be magically resolved by the final chapter, but an audience generally wants to feel that something has been clearly achieved by the characters during the course of the plot – whether that something is external, internal or both.

To conclude, my writer’s resolution here is to make absolutely sure my lead character takes something away from her experiences in the novel and makes peace with some aspect of her identity.


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