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am 27. Februar 2004
This comparison might be a bit overused, but the main character Barnaby in "A patchwork planet" *really* reminds me of Holden Caulfield out of "The catcher in the Rye"- turned thirty. I think it is mainly the dry wit of his narrative voice.
And in my opinion Barnaby has a similar personality, somehow torn between extreme sympathy for and arrogance towards people. He views them like a child would, always with anstonishment and wonder. He can`t connect to their values and goals, even finds them funny, while they in turn criticize his lack of ambition, and, in their view, refusal to "grow up".
It's not often characters in books seem to me as believeable and true to life as they are here. The descriptions of Barnaby's family, friends, lover, daughter and especially the old people he deals with in his job are hilariously funny, but never overdone.
I also like the fact that any obvious moral at the end is missing. I keeps you wondering how things will turn out for everyone involved.
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am 16. Juni 2011
Es fällt mir schwer, meine Begeisterung für diese Geschichte in Worte zu fassen ohne mich dabei einfach nur in Superlativen zu verlieren.
Barnaby, die Hauptperson und gleichzeitig derjenige, der die Geschichte aus seiner Sicht erzählt, ist ein liebenswerter (fast) geläuterter Tunichtgut auf dem Weg zu einem besseren Leben.
In gewohnter Tyler-Manier ist alltägliches Treiben in seiner fast akribisch präzisen Beschreibung keinem Krimi spannungsmässig unterlegen. Ich weiss nicht, wie es diese Autorin schafft scheinbar Unbedeutendes so zu erzählen, dass der Leser gefesselt Seite um Seite verschlingt. Vielleicht liegt das Geheimnis ein bisschen auch darin, dass es eben genau die Details sind, die unser Leben ausmachen, dass es nichts Unbedeutendes gibt, sondern es an uns liegt, ob etwas wert ist betrachtet und berichtet zu werden. Andererseits versteht die Autorin auch perfekt die Kunst, den Leser eine Wendung in der Geschichte erahnen zu lassen, ohne dass dies explizit formuliert wird. Dies alles geschieht mit feinstem Humor, mit Sensibilität und einer Lebensklugheit, die niemals moralisierend daherkommt.
Man möchte noch viel Länger bei den Menschen dieser Geschichte bleiben dürfen, bei Barnaby und Sophia, seiner Tochter Opal, seinen Eltern und Grosseltern, bei den alten Leuten, die er bei Rent-a-back betreut, bei Martine und wie sie alle heissen. Und doch ist das Wann, Wo und Wie des Endes der Erzählung so brillant, dass das Weglegen des Buches ein wenig leichter fällt.
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am 12. Mai 2000
What is it about this book? It does not transport me to fascinating corners of the world, plumbing the depths of the jungle darkness, surveying the peaks of ice-capped mountains. Tyler carries me down to earth on a stream of pellucid descriptions of ordinary life. Barnaby Gaitlin, his ex-wife, his daughter, his parents, grandparents, co-workers, and the older folks for whom he works, sit uncomfortably close to our hearth and home. Barnaby comes from a wealthy home, though you'd never guess it by his bare basement home, his ragged jacket and the old car that's always in the garage. Like us, he's still waiting for life to begin, waiting for his regrets to fade from memory, waiting for his parents to turn into, well, another set of parents. He waits, he struggles, he ignores phone calls, he doesn't let his daughter's little rejections defeat him. And in the midst of this gray chaos, Barnaby is looking for his personal angel to appear and make it all better. Tyler touches her characters with the breath of life, replete with all the uncomfortable foibles and habits that we all have.
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am 23. Februar 2000
I turned the first pages of Anne Tyler's much lauded A Patchwork Planet with high expectations. On the back cover Nick Hornby had referred to her as America's greatest living writer and various glowing tributes came from other reliable sources. After a few chapters I became convinced that, like John Fowles' The Collector, the first person narrative was a stylistic red herrring designed to draw us into the mediocre mind of the protagonist. However, it soon became clear that this was not the case. Conclusion: Anne Tyler is a mediocre novelist who shines by default, due to the lack of major novelists working in America today. And it is not just America who suffers this fate. I can only think of a handful of contemporary novelists who even come close to measuring up to the great Victorian novelists. Where are the Tolstoys, the Dickens, the Eliots of today? Maybe the novel is really dead, as avante-garde critics are so fond of telling us.
I can think of few novels written in the last twenty years that have struck me as profound, insightful or beautifully written. Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth, Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey and Under the Frog by Tibor Fischer are the ones that push themselves forward. In terms of America, I found my stab at Paul Auster immensely disappointing, while Brett Easton Ellis is, shall we say, not to everyone's taste. Only two novelists still living strike me as comparable with the greats of yesteryear - John Fowles and Milan Kundera.
This may seem unfair on Anne Tyler - after all, I'm sure she never claimed to be her country's foremost novel writer. However, for those who consider her a major talent, I must question their taste and their judgement. She is a writer of entertaining, if mundane, vignettes about normal people and everyday problems, who is good enough to earn an honest buck, but no more. Genuine literary ambition seems altogether out of Tyler's reach.
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am 6. Januar 1999
You either like Anne Tyler or you don't. I find her writing to be very detailed and witty. The dialogue is incredible; I can picture these characters speaking and see images of the scenes in my mind. The characters reflect life as we know it; with bumps and smooth patches. Barnaby struggles with life as many people do; yet makes time for all the elderly people who need him. The book focuses on aging and what it must feel like to grow old and alone. This novel fits in well for those of us baby boomers with aging parents. There is a little bit of Barnaby in all of us; we will run from responsibility if it becomes overwhelming; we try to better ourselves and are not always successful. We experience family discord no matter how hard we try. Marriages fail; subsequent relationships become complex, and we all become old; there is no way to stop the process. Barnaby is a likeable character who struggles to measure up. He is always analyzing and is deep in thought. He tries to make up for his misdeeds, but can't pull it off to satisfy the important people in his life. His elderly clients love him and we have a small window into the lives of the elderly with Tyler's descriptions of the clients Barnaby assists. She mentions how the elderly have " old, ancient pets; a half bald cat and an arthritic dog..." She mentions the shopping cart with old people food;"one skinny quart of non fat milk; bran cereal; and a solitary grapefruit." This saddens Barnaby and seems to contrast with his own grandparents; Pop-Pop and his wife. They seems more vibrant in comparison to Barnaby's clients. Barnaby's girlfriend starts out rather promising, but by the end of the story, one shares Barnaby's annoyance with Sophia's predictability. I was glad that the novel implied Barnaby would end up with Martine.
All in all, another excellent novel by Anne Tyler. I wonder how she thinks up these fabulous characters?
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am 6. August 1998
"The lonely one," wrote Friedrich Nietszche, always the expert of human experience, "offers his hand to quickly to whomever he encounters."
While it's unlikely Nietszche was recalling the romantic ramblings of American author Anne Tyler, his words certainly sum up the sentiment of her latest novel. A Patchwork Planet intimately understands the pain and frustration of an empty life, full of illconnected parts, and the misguided notion that to appreciate ourselves, and pull those parts together, someone else must do it too.
Barnaby Gaitlin is Patchwork Planet's almost anti-hero, and tries his hardest to be everything he doesn't really want to be. He's in his late twenties, has an ex-wife, a record, and spends his life as a "rent-a-back" - cleaning, cooking and constructing Christmas trees for lonely old clients. His mother doesn't trust him, and he likes that; his clients leave him their house key when they're away on holiday, and he f! eels slightly insulted. "She takes it for granted that I'm a good person," he says of one. "Come to think of it, I am the one who doesn't".
Then Barnaby spots Sophia. He sees her on a train trip to Pennsylvania, and is immediately impressed when, asked to pass an envelope on to someone at the end of the line, she does so without even attempting to look inside. When Barnaby was young and wild, and would break into homes, he pored over family photos - anything at all personal - but Sophia, somehow, has a complete lack of curiosity. Either she doesn't care, or is so intrinsically good that question never crosses her mind. "What makes people more virtuous than others?" Barnaby wonders. "Don't they ever feel that zingy, thrilling urge to smash the world to bits?"
But while Barnaby is drawn to Sophia because of her trust in him - and, in fact, demands she trust him - her faith makes him nervous. He doesn't trust himself, and knows ! that anyone who does, must be lying to themselves. And tha! t's worse. Alleviating all flaws, after all, is impossible; accepting others' failings without question means you will never know your own. But at the same time, sending someone away, just because they believe in you, makes just as little sense. In A Patchwork Planet, Anne Tyler offers some of her most intricate observations yet. Simple situations, and simple people, become more involved than we thought they could. Characters we don't really know; characters we don't really want to know, and characters that never know each other, all contribute to a frustrating, yet reflective, read. It's hard to feel part of Patchwork Planet - like the two main characters, you sense there's something you can't quite trust - but in the end, its coldness, and its distance, are what keep you from putting it down.
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am 15. Juni 1998
What a pleasure it is when one discovers that Anne Tyler has published a new novel. the ancipation of reading it is a joy in itself but a short-lived one for anyone, like myself, who is a keen admirer of all Tyler's work, as one rushes to the phone or onto the Internet (or even out to the bookshop!) to purchase what you've been waiting for since 1995 (Ladder of Years). There's no respite until you've reached the last page and any other more mundane obligations will just have to wait. There's no stopping half way through, the narrative just drives you on, page after page until the final words reveal the structural symmetry of this beautiful novel and leave you emotionally exhausted. But, of course, if you have already enjoyedTyler's other novels, all this must seem obvious to you. If you haven't yet read the opening words of A Patchwork Planet, rest assured, the miracle is about to recommence, perhaps more poignant than ever. The passing of time, old age, death, how to avoid getting trapped in an identity imposed on one from outside, these are themes developed in A Patchwork Planet through the story of 30-year-old Barnaby, perhaps one of Tyler's most lucid heroes, viewing with clarity and compassion the sad but brave old people for whom he works as a Rent-A-Back employee. Lucid, yes, concerning everything end everyone except himself: he just can't see himself as his elderly clients see him "a man to be trusted." It will take a woman - but which one? - to help him regain confidence in himself and discover he, like all of us, should not accept the labels other people want to put on him but just be himself. (I'd be pleased to correspond with any other Tyler readers to discuss her work.)
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am 23. Dezember 1999
If you scan through the customer reviews for this book, you will find that a lot of people LOVED this book, and a handful of people REALLY didn't like it. Interesting. These customer reviews always floor me. Perhaps someone should review the entire concept of customer reviews. As strange as they sometimes are, I always find myself reading them. I suppose it is ridiculous to feel as if you should SLAM the people who could ever possibly SLAM a writer as brilliantly gifted as Anne Tyler, but when you check out some of these one-star reviews, you feel compelled to do just that. Ms. Tyler, incidentally can write circles around Wally Lamb with one half of her brain tied behind her back. Oh, the book. I enjoyed it, but I felt throughout that I was reading a written work. I was never really carried away into the story like I have been with some of Ms. Tyler's previous books. She has the amazing ability to transpose the reader into the character's world, to make you KNOW the characters and really care for them. While she pushed my buttons on numerous occasions with the Barnaby character, I never really felt the kind of heart-felt symbiosis which existed with so many of her previous creations. Perhaps it was the fact that she was attempting to give voice to a 30 year old man, in the first person, no less, and that Barnaby's voice never really rang true to me. She did make me cry while reading a book, however, which is a rare thing, and I thank her for that.
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am 30. Juni 1998
Anne Tyler is a novelist of, I think, remarkable consistency who goes from strength to strength. A PATCHWORK PLANET continues her series of explorations into the psyche of "ordinary" people, entrapped by family expectations and traditions. When I saw that the book was a first person narrative, I was slightly nervous that I would miss Tyler's own voice. But she has done a masterful job. Her narrator, Barnaby, like Tyler, notices all the little quirks and ideosyncracies that make up humanity. Tyler has a genius for making dislikable people human. She has an ability to transmit the "still sad music of humanity," as Wordsworth said, which humanizes the reader as we identify with characters who may not be our age, our gender, our class, but whose foibles, illuminated by Tyler, can come close to our own.
I think Tyler has what John Keats called "negative capability", which is high praise. It means that she does not need to write about herself, she can create a diversity, a planet, of characters and can limn them with just a sentence or two. Her offhand writing style belies the careful craftsmanship and the penetrating intelligence that lies behind all of her writing. Tyler may not be a poet, but her gift for characterization rivals Shakespeare's, I believe.
Don't be misled by the readability of her works; profundity need not be difficult.
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am 18. August 1999
Despite the fact that Anne Tyler has been around for some time, I have only discovered her recently. I was reading books by such genius authors as: Anna Quindlen, Connie May Fowler, Pearl Cleage, Alice Hoffman, Wally Lamb, and to some extent, Kaye Gibbons. Anne Tyler is linked as one of those writers who has a way with words and is a good storyteller.
I don't see evidence of such descpritions in The Patchwork Planet. This is a book that I only got to Chapter 7 before I gave up. The book is not only missing interesting characters, but a moving and captivating storyline. There is no plot in the book. Granted, I didn't get through the whole book, and there is a slight chance it DID get better, but I don't think so. I glanced through, and it seemed to me the story plodded on in the same dreary manner.
The characters didn't stand out, and even the main character of the story -- Barnaby -- wasn't enchanting enough to cause me to stay.
I have Saint Maybe in my possesion that I am borrowing, which is suppose to be one of Anne Tyler's best. If that doesn't enthrall me, then I give up on Anne Tyler. My only saving grace was that The Patchwork Planet was only a borrowed book, and not one I put my money out for.
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