Wednesday, September 07, 2016

First Wednesday Book Review" MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON, Elizabeth Strout

Lucy Barton, a young mother,  is in the hospital after an appendectomy that left her with a stubborn infection. From her bed, she examines her past, present and future. Her childhood was an abusive one-although she doesn't despise her mother, who shows up after a many years' estrangement for a five-day visit. For much of the book, I thought her mother was some sort of apparition and I am not sure it wouldn't have worked better had she been. Like OLIVE KITTERIDGE,(Strout's earlier book)  Lucy and her mother are not always easy to understand. Lines like this one, threw me:
    "Otherwise on occasion, and without warning, my mother, and usually in the presence of our father, struck us impulsively and vigorously."
     An impoverished childhood leads Lucy to a life that looks successful on paper: a writer with a husband and two children. Yet this hospital stay allows another woman to steal that away from her.  Yet a passivity on Lucy's part keeps the reader a bit distant from all of her travails.
     On occasion, you intuit that a writer's life experiences are so different from yours that you will never fully understand her characters. And although I love Strout's novels and her writing, I am always looking at the page through gauze. I don't mind it though. I don't expect to "get" every novel I read any longer.

For more reviews, see Barrie Summy right here.


Anonymous said...

This sounds really interesting, Patti. Sometimes those 'life examined' novels can really be well-written.

Jeff Meyerson said...

Not for me. I tried Olive Kittredge - the book and the miniseries - but just didn't appeal to me at all.

Sarah Laurence said...

I loved Strout's other novels, especially Olive, but this one sounds too sedentary for me. Thanks for your review!

Rick Robinson said...

Why did I think, based on the title alone, that this was going to be about a nurse?

Steve Oerkfitz said...

Got to say this doesn't look like my sort of thing.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Sue Barton was a nurse.

Linda McLaughlin said...

This doesn't sound like my cup of tea, either. Glad you can still enjoy her books, even if this one isn't a favorite.

Anonymous said...

I think I"ll skip this one; fraught relationships between mothers and daughters aren't my plot of choice."

On the other hand, just finished "Shot in Detroit," and liked it very much. Thought the macabre subject matter would turn me off. Not so. I thought it was sensitively written about the deaths of Black men and Violet Hart's photographic goals. I do not think she was insensitive to the subjects or their families.

I was sorry about what happened to her lover though. A romantic at heart, I guess, I wanted her romance to work out.

Will you write more about Violet Hart? Her adventures in New York perhaps?

pattinase (abbott) said...

Luckily I wrote that scene early--before I was attached to him.
My husband wants a sequel where she and the police detective solve a murder together and become romantically involved. Right now, not writing anything. Maybe it will be short stories again.
Thanks so much for your kind comments. It means a lot to hear it worked for a sensitive woman.

Anonymous said...

My only question about the deaths in Detroit was the lack of any killings by police of young Black men - a major political scandal of the day, setting of protests from coast to coast of all types. I do know the story of the death of 7-year-old Ayanla Jones by police and of other police brutality in and around Detroit.

I was wondering if Violet and Saad would become involved romantically. But she may meet someone new. And maybe she'll move back to New York for a job.

Gosh, I just had to answer five sets of photos to make a comment. Seems like overkill, so to speak.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I wrestled with this a lot. But in the end, I didn't want to introduce such a hot button issue. The deaths lacked political content on the whole and I felt I was not ready to comment on it. Also during the period I was writing it-2008-09- I never saw an overt cop shooting come up.
Five sets of photos. Ugh. How can I fix that?

Anonymous said...

Oh, it was your call as the writer and Ayanla Jones, age 7, hadn't been killed yet.

But as far as the blurbs on or about the book, I don't see it as psychological suspense, not edge of your seat suspense like some books are these days. Nor do I see any resemblance to Ruth Rendell.

I felt like I was reading about V.I. Warshawski going through a morbid period, but the humor was there on every page. I was enjoying the book as it wasn't a ponderous read, but a light, fun read despite having a macabre focus.

So, since V.I. is one of my favorite detectives, I felt like Violet could be a cousin of hers. The kinds of things that happen to V.I. happened to Violet, like happening to know someone who was brutally killed and then being a police suspect.

Anyway, I hope to read more about Violet or a relative of hers.

Barrie said...

My Name is Lucy Barton is waiting for me at the library. :) So, your review was timely. Thank you!

And, I , too, loved SHOT IN DETROIT! Must rate it on amazon!

Barrie said...

Oh, and I only had to go through one set of photos to post.