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am 19. Mai 2000
Anne Tyler's book Breathing Lessons uses countless motifs to convey her message that no human being is perfect, nor is any relationship ideal. It tells the story of Maggie and Ira Moran, involved in a relationship that has gone stale after 28 years of marriage. Maggie, depicted with the repeated "frizz" motif, is characterized by her ditsy, scatterbrained personality. She tries in vain throughout the whole novel to selflessly mend everyone's problems, mainly in efforts to save her son's marriage. Ira, her pessimistic, chiding husband simply engrosses himself in negative views about the "wasteful" human race and avoids Maggie if possible, otherwise remains quietly tolerant of her extremely obnoxious chatter. Even Maggie describes him as "one of those people who are born competent" (Tyler, 234.) The basic plot includes the couple's trip to an old friend's funeral, their insignificant adventures along the way, and a flashback to earlier years during their marriage. Although the flashback section tends to get tedious and wordy, it includes some of life's most meaningful lessons. It depicts the Moran's son Jesse's devotion to his wife and child after living a contrasting rebellious teenage life (continually symbolized by a "black" motif). Mainly, the book is packed full of the contrasting views of Maggie, the idealist who sees everyone with good intentions and pure hearts, and Ira, the realist who sadly often sees things in the sad state they truly are in. The motifs "hot" and "sticky" are used to foreshadow arguments betweeen the two. Their optimistic/pessimistic views are the main spark for their arguments, though it is also what keeps their marriage alive. The book ends with the quote, "Then she slipped free and moved to her side of the bed, because tomorrow they had a long car trip to make and she knew she would need a good night's sleep before they started" (Tyler, 338). This statement symbolizes their journey in the future as a married couple, and leads the reader to believe that their marriage will survive. The book follows a loosely structured plot and focuses on comical situations between two fairly unhappily married people who succeed in the end. A reader who enjoys psychological, yet easy to read love stories about the flaws of human nature would definitely enjoy this book.
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am 20. Januar 2000
I've read Breathing Lessons twice, and even saw the Hallmark Hall of Fame Movie. I thought it was truly heartfelt and very real. In response to what the others had to say about it, it's simply the story of an aging woman. She's getting used to all the changes that were taking place in her life. Please remember that Maggie didn't grow up in a time when there was such a thing as a single mother. I think it's hard for Maggie to understand how Fiona's mind works. You have to understand that Maggie is just concerned about her son--remember her plan is to patch things up between Fiona and her son. The husband of Maggie's closest friend also passes away. It's startling for Maggie to go to that funeral and see how all the people she used to know have changed. I think the meandering plot line is symbolic of Maggie's personality. Not everyone is going to like it, but at least give it a chance. It's so funny! (Obviously this book wasn't written to impress teenagers! They need to stick to Sweet Valley High or Nancy Drew Mysteries)
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am 18. Juni 2000
When a friend of mine, a huge fan of the Danielle Steelesque, beach book type of novel, gave me a copy of Breathing Lessons, I was a bit skeptical of its merit. However, the fact that it was a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize compelled me to give it a try. As a psychology major, I am intrigued by in-depth character studies, and hoped this would satisfy my interest. As I labored through the novel, I kept wondering when it would magically transform itself from a glorified soap opera into a true work of literature. It never happened. The most annoying thing about this novel was the character of Maggie Moran. Rather than being an object of sympathy, someone I grew to understand as the book progressed, she got constantly more irritating. Her thought patterns and actions appeared to be those of a child, not an adult's. Ira, on the other hand, was a much more intriguing character. His past was developed in great detail, yet the reader was never given much of a glimpse into his thoughts. He was seen only through the obtuse eyes of his wife. With his interesting past, I would have enjoyed getting a better idea of his motivation and personality, but for some reason, I never did. In general, the late 80s must have been slow years in terms of fine literature. I cannot see why else this book would have been honored in such a way.
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am 8. Mai 1998
As I was reading others' reactions to this novel, I found that many complained about Maggie's annoying character and how her scatterbrainedness seemed to detract from the story. Although I have to agree that this character enraged me at points in the story, I would also like to inform these critics that IF AN AUTHOR CAN CHARACTERIZE A PERSON IN THE STORY SO WELL THAT A READER IS REPULSED BY HER, SHE CERTAINLY DESERVES RECOGNITION, and this is the conclusion I have come to in my process of assessing this novel for my English class. Yes, it went slow; yes, the characters were sometimes aggravating. But Tyler's books are some of the most skillfully written which I have ever had the experience of reading. She reinforces the sacred institution that marriage is, gives us a model in Ira's patience, and shows us how important a person at whom you can, as Serena told Maggie, steal a glance when others are bothering you and you can't complain out loud. Rather than complaining because this book isn't the shallow, exciting "story" that typical readers expect, let's praise Anne Tyler for her skill.
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am 2. Dezember 1999
Breathing Lessons, by Anne Tyler, was not a very interesting book. It had no focus or plot in my opinion. It had very little story line. It began with Maggie Moran and her husband, Ira, on a trip to her best-friend, Serena, deceased husband's funeral. It started that way then it left me with them helping an elderly black man. Then it switches in mid stream to a long flashback that gives the reader and idea on what's happening in the present. Not quick switches, just I couldn't find a point to the switches. The characters, I thought, were well developed and you could picture them, but it's like, they have no mission. You could find their flaws and how the views where so different but you knew who was wrong and who didn't look at the whole situation. I would recommend this book to people you like things simple. It doesn't take a lot of thought, because there's no mystery. I'd also like to recommend it to people who like ordinary life. The simpliest of life's mistakes are seen throughout this novel.
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am 24. November 1999
but otherwise this a plotless book that goes nowhere. I belong to a book discussion group that read this book for one of our selections. Some loved it, but some did not, we were split about 45% liked it and 55% did not. Although the charactors may be interesting they do not really change or develop in the day that the book covers. The humor in the book caused some to laugh loud and long while the rest of us thought it was almost contrived, feeling that all of this could not really happen to one person in this short of time. When you finally discover that Fiona could not have been the person who was on the radio talk show, Maggie becomes a very ignorant sitcom type charactor. Her constant imagining of how others are thinking or reacting to her and the situations they are in do nothing to improve her image. Her awareness of how her actions effect other people does not change from the beginning to the end. If you like to get to really know a charactor in a book, enjoy, otherwise don't bother.
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am 27. Juni 1999
Ms. Tyler is one of my favorite authors because of her accurate development of eccentric characters. Yes, Maggie is extremely annoying, and you want to tell her to stop trying to manipulate other people's lives, but she essentially has a good heart. The scenes of her telling the older gentleman that something was wrong with his tire because he was going too slow are hilarious. Haven't you ever wanted to do the same thing but never acted on it? Though Maggie does, she is immendiately sorry and goes about trying to correct her actions.
Ms. Tyler has the ability to "paint" such poignant scenes that will remain with you forever. I have read six of her books to date over the years and can remember characters and their actions in all of them. All are very quirky with a slightly lovable air around them, like many of the people in Baltimore itself. Though you may not want them as best friends, people like Maggie and other Tyler characters certainly do enrich our world.
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am 10. Juli 1998
Anne Tyler has been praised by writers of the caliber of John Updike for her unique talent to write wonderful "domestic" novels, and Breathing Lessons is an outstanding example. Rarely have I encountered a writer who manages to infuse such love, humor and observation into their work. In Breathing Lessons, Tyler fleshes out characters that will stay in your heart long after the last page has been turned. With their flaws and quirks, their strengths and weaknesses, one feels Tyler could be writing about our own lives. Maggie Moran, and the world she inhabits with her stalwart husband Ira, is another addition to the marvelous cast of characters that Tyler has given to us in her 14 novels. Read anything by Tyler, she is a consistently top-notch writer (Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, The Accidental Tourist), but use Breathing Lessons as your port of entry. You'll thank your luck for finding such a gem.
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am 29. Mai 1998
I enjoyed Breathing Leassons very much. It is a simple story about a day in the life of Maggie Moran. Being the kind of woman Maggie is, set that her picture of the world is the only way of looking at things, you know that this day is surely not that different from any other.
People may find Maggie an annoying character, but that is part of the charm of the book. That at the end of the day this woman who may not be the ideal still goes home to one man, and a family who may not agree with her, but love her just the same.
If you are expecting a high action book, or something that will change your life, you will be disapointed. But if you are interested in a book that just might give you an insite so someone you have in your life (I think we all know a person like Maggie) and remind you that what is important is who you love not who they are, then you will enjoy Breathing Lessons.
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am 12. Mai 1999
...but I just could not. The predictability of Maggie's inability to drive the car without running into a truck or a mailbox, her consistent misprepresentation of what other people had or had not done in order to get them back together --- these are just two of the things that made it difficult to care for or even about the protagonists. The book jacket talks about their making 'extraordinary discoveries' about themselves on the road to the funeral. I reached the opposite conclusion - they end up very much as they started, behaving at the end exactly as they did in the beginning. I have the feeling that, if this were made into a movie, and a great actress were cast in the part, it could make a big difference. My mental image of Maggie is that she is a meddlesome, tiresome klutz. I know that is not how other readers see her, but that is how she came across to me.
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