What’s it all about?:
LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2016 AND THE BAILEYS WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2016
THE NEW YORK TIMES NUMBER ONE BESTSELLER
An exquisite story of mothers and daughters from the Pulitzer prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge
Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Her unexpected visit forces Lucy to confront the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of her life: her impoverished childhood in Amgash, Illinois, her escape to New York and her desire to become a writer, her faltering marriage, her love for her two daughters.
Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable. In My Name Is Lucy Barton, one of America’s finest writers shows how a simple hospital visit illuminates the most tender relationship of all-the one between mother and daughter.
What did I think?:
This novel was EVERYWHERE a little while ago due to being long-listed for both the Women’s Prize For Fiction and The Man Booker Prize. With books like these, I always seem to be among one of the last to read them (or it feels that way anyway!). I’m not sure why, the hype monster always worries me slightly, especially if everyone is singing a novel’s praises to the sky…..what if I don’t feel the same? Luckily, the lovely people at Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights finally convinced me to pick this book up sooner than I might have done otherwise and whilst it may not have been a five star read for me, I can completely understand why other people treasure it and why it has received all the critical acclaim and fantastic reviews.
Elizabeth Strout, author of My Name Is Lucy Barton.
As the title may suggest, this is the story of a woman called Lucy Barton whom when we meet her is recovering in hospital after complications from a routine surgery. Her husband isn’t a big fan of hospitals so she has been unable to see either him or her two daughters and is feeling generally miserable and fed up until one day she gets an unexpected visitor – her mother, whom she hasn’t seen for many years. Lucy has quite a strained, uneasy relationship with her entire family we soon come to learn which all harks back to her childhood, a poverty-stricken, isolating and lonely time. We also find out that the arrival of Lucy’s mother is quite a big deal, considering she rarely makes trips outside in big cities and although she is unwilling to discuss anything too emotional or triggering with her daughter, she entertains her with gossip and memories regarding people from their local town. This is the story of fraught family relationships, desolate feelings, art and writing and how a passion for the latter can fuel the desire to be happy again. We also discover how marriage, motherhood and the kindness of strangers can have a huge impact on an individual without them even being aware of the effects.
Illinois, USA where our female lead spends her difficult childhood.
As a piece of literary fiction, I was always prepared for this book to have beautiful, lyrical writing but I wasn’t prepared for the emotions that it would precipitate in such a short amount of pages. This book is probably best read in as few sittings as possible, even one if you can manage it as once you begin, I feel you get the true measure of the journey our narrator has been through in her life if you can swallow it all in one gulp. Generally, we see Lucy mostly in the present time, in the hospital room with her mother but throughout the narrative, we get various flashbacks from her childhood, moments in her marriage, moments with friends and her children that give us a fuller idea of who Lucy is as a person, giving the reader a fascinating insight into her character, thoughts and feelings.
Some parts of this story feel very much like streams of consciousness and other, perhaps more darker parts of the novel are merely hinted at implicitly but I quite enjoyed trying to figure out Lucy as a person from the very early pages when she is quite the closed book to the end of the novel where I really started to look on her as a dear friend. Lucy starts to realise she has much more in common with her mother than she would have ever thought and ruminates on her own experience as a mother and how this has been different or similar to what she personally experienced growing up. Not everything is resolved between the two as you might expect but I didn’t mind this at all. It felt much more authentic and reflective of real life and real relationships that there were awkward moments of communication between mother and daughter and obvious tensions bubbling below the surface. However, by the end you are filled with genuine hope for a deeper connection in the future and potential closure on many issues for our female lead.
As an author of literary fiction, Elizabeth Strout is a wonder with words and a genius at recounting a heart-felt story in such a relatively short space of time. I will definitely be picking up more books by her in the future!
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout was the forty-seventh book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!