Book review: My Name is Lucy Barton

Elizabeth StroutThis is a gem of a little novel by Elizabeth Strout. I read it in one sitting on a winter’s afternoon, drawn into the life of Lucy Barton. Lucy looks back, ostensibly telling the story of her nine-week stay in hospital and an unexpected visit by her mother, when in fact she tells the story of her life. Mothers and daughters, no two relationships are alike and no woman can make assumptions about another’s experience as either mother or daughter. Stranded in her hospital bed, Lucy remembers her childhood and tries to make sense of it.

Economically [208 pages] and beautifully written, this is the first of Elizabeth Strout’s novels I have read. I have of course heard of Olive Kitteridge but did not realize it is a Pulitzer winner, and so have the treat awaiting me. Strout writes about the everday, the ordinary, the normal [and not-so-normal] and sees the truth behind what is and isn’t said.

Lucy is a kind of everywoman. Through her Strout examines the mother-daughter relationship with an acute eye which will make you examine your own relationships. Lucy tells the story of her hospital visit and her mother’s appearance with the benefit of hindsight, looking back at her childhood, her daughters and female friendships. Sometimes she is baffled, other times she joins the dots and makes acute observations while her mother remembers their life in extreme poverty. There are hints to things in the past which are never confirmed, this is a book as much about what is not said as about what is. In revisiting her childhood, trying, and mostly failing, to get her mother to talk about it, Lucy learns that although your upbringing shapes who you are, that shaping continues throughout your life.

I thought about this book for days afterwards.

Click here for Elizabeth Strout’s website.

If you like ‘My Name is Lucy Barton’, try these other short novels:-
‘Ethan Frome’ by Edith Wharton
‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell
‘The Great Gatsby’ by F Scott Fitzgerald

‘My Name is Lucy Barton’ by Elizabeth Strout [UK: Viking] Buy now

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON by @LizStrout #bookreview via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1SL