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My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout - Review

Saturday, August 20, 2022

As I mentioned in my review of Oh William!, I hadn't read the first book about Lucy Barton, so I bought it for a few quid on eBay. It's a short little book so I read it one day in July. I didn't like it as much as I like Oh William, actually. I think that's because I liked William as a character and how insufferable he was - just the type of person you can like to dislike in a book. 

In this book Lucy is in her early thirties and has to spend several weeks in hospital. She has a routine operation but then gets an infection and ends up staying longer. Her girls are very little and rarely visit - they are looked after by the woman who ends up being William's second wife, who he was having an affair with. William also rarely visits, which Lucy explains away by saying he is very busy with work. Instead, he phones her mother, who is in Illinois and with whom Lucy has not had contact since she was a teenager and went to college. That's not strictly true - she visited a few times, including with William, but her family was abusive as Lucy was growing up and she doesn't miss her family at all. 

But Lucy's mother turns up at the hospital and stays for five days, not sleeping but catnapping in the chair next to Lucy's bed. She mentions something about never sleeping properly as a child because she 'wasn't safe' - something that Lucy can also say about her own childhood. Lucy's mothe begins to talk about neighbours and family members, spreading the gossip with Lucy in a way that does bond the two women together. 

But Lucy remembers the times she was locked into her father's truck and the time a snake was in there with her, which left her with a lifelong phobia. She also remembers one time when her brother did something and their father humiliated him in public. There's actually quite a lot about Lucy's brother - who is never named - in this book, which I'd really like more of.

Like Oh William this has a really irreverent style which almost makes the reader miss the depth of the actual words being written. I liked it and am giving it four out of five. 

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