I put off reading My Name is Lucy Barton for months, I read the synopsis and just thought, “ugh” (you’ve read this before, I know, I judge a book by its synopsis). However, I recently won £50 worth of books and it seemed like the perfect time to indulge in a something different and challenge my pessimism.
Unsurprisingly (?) my prejudice was proven wrong, I loved the book, I even ordered Olive Kitteridge from Waterstones – I enjoyed it that much.
“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. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy’s childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lies the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy’s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters.” GoodReads.
Lucy Barton wakes one day in the hospital to find her mother sitting at the end of the bed, who she hasn’t seen since before her marriage. Lucy escaped a life of abject poverty (and unspoken abuse), a past she is unable to acknowledge outside her own writing. No matter how far she runs away from her past, through education or her affluent marriage, her past informs her present. As her mother’s five-day visitation progresses and in their own way they reminisce, Lucy’s inability to address her problems comes to the fore.
My Name is Lucy Barton is a beautiful, heartbreaking, but also a very real story of one woman accepting herself. I felt as though Lucy was chatting to me, she was a friend I wanted to console and advise.
I am struggling to describe why I liked this novel so much, it’s almost beyond words. I loved it as I loved First Love by Gwendoline Riley – they are both sparse stories, telling you more in the gaps in the protagonist narration than they do in the narration itself. It’s the same reason I love watching Gavin and Stacey, I feel as though I am experiencing a reflection of life, realism at its greatest.
This is a book worth reading and at less than 200 pages easily devoured within a day or afternoon.
Have you read anything by Elizabeth Strout?
What did you think?