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Oh William!: Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2022 Hardcover – 19 October 2021
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Lucy Barton is a successful writer living in New York, navigating the second half of her life as a recent widow and parent to two adult daughters. A surprise encounter leads her to reconnect with William, her first husband - and longtime, on-again-off-again friend and confidante. Recalling their college years, the birth of their daughters, the painful dissolution of their marriage, and the lives they built with other people, Strout weaves a portrait, stunning in its subtlety, of a decades-long partnership.
Oh William! is a luminous novel about the myriad mysteries that make up a marriage, about discovering family secrets, late in life, that rearrange everything we think we know about those closest to us, and the way people continue to live and love, against all odds. At the heart of this story is the unforgettable, indomitable voice of Lucy Barton, who once again offers a profound, lasting reflection on the mystery of existence. 'This is the way of life,' Lucy says. 'The many things we do not know until it is too late.'
From the Publisher
Strout is not only mercilessly funny on the page, she's also unerringly precise about the long-term effects of loneliness, parental neglect and betrayal . . . The final scene between William and Lucy has been carouselling in my mind for days now . . . devastating and vital, bleak and tender ― Sunday Times
What sets Strout's work apart is her characterisation . . . Long on empathy while steering clear of sentimentality, her prose bears the minerality of a crisp white wine, with a seeming simplicity that belies its profound power― FT
A very good novel, deft when it needs to be and ambivalent where certainty would be facile. Its celebration of the ungraspable riddles and sudden judgments of real life becomes compulsive. . . . I cannot get Lucy Barton out of my head ― The Times
[Strout] is a novelist of the inner sensibility, and what makes her so compellingly readable is her rendering of the ebb and flow of emotion and impression, of the stream of consciousness between past and present that makes Lucy cousin to Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway ― Daily Telegraph
Strout is very good at parsing the contradictory elements that make up our relationship with ourselves and the lives we lead, and the extent to which these elements exist in a state of flux. Such a pleasure to read. And so very wise ― Daily Mail
Strout gets you to reassess every relationship you've ever had while you can still do something about it ― Spectator
Elizabeth Strout is one of my very favorite writers, so the fact that Oh William! may well be my favorite of her books is a mathematical equation for joy. The depth, complexity, and love contained in these pages is a miraculous achievement -- Ann Patchett, author of The Dutch House
The end lines of this novel from the staggeringly gifted Elizabeth Strout are a revelation - a profound understanding of our relationships, ourselves . . . A luminous novel about love, loss and family secrets; hard to believe a writer can fathom us so well― Sainsbury's Magazine
A superbly gifted storyteller and a craftswoman in a league of her own -- Hilary Mantel
A terrific writer ― Zadie Smith
She gets better with each book -- Maggie O'Farrell
One of America's finest writers ― Sunday Times
An absolute delight of a book -- Claire Fuller
A wonderful book. It is so clever, the way it's built up in little layers of discovery, and how every tiny thing discovered makes the story truer and more painful -- Emma Healey
I do not know any other writer who can portray life in this way. With such breadth and complexity, such an awareness of the light and the shadow, and in such sublimely clear and simple brushstrokes. Even though the issues that Strout looks at in Oh William! are those many of us know - the growing up of our children, the family secrets that we carry sometimes without knowing what they are, the growing older of love, and just that very simple and most basic question about who we are and what we for - she shines a light on them that is luminous and ultimately forgiving. A majestic book. -- Rachel Joyce
There are shades of Anne Tyler and also John Updike in the stories woven from the impulses and lives of people in America. But what sets Strout apart is the way she describes people's innermost thoughts and the nuances of their feelings...this warm and enjoyable segment of Lucy's life, written by one of our best storytellers ― Evening Standard
They say good things come in threes and although it feels as though this latest novel about Lucy Barton marks the completion of a trilogy, can I put in an early request? For a tetralogy, a pentalogy or whatever comes after that?...The intense pleasure of Strout's writing becomes the simple joy of learning more while - always - understanding less ― Observer
Strout has produced a shimmering meditation on trauma, memory and marriage - and the perverse ways we distract ourselves from painful experiences ― The i
A shimmering triumph of a novel, it muses delicately on love, loss and the mystery of others ― Mail on Sunday
About the Author
- Publisher : Viking; 1st edition (19 October 2021)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 256 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0241508177
- ISBN-13 : 978-0241508176
- Dimensions : 13.8 x 2.3 x 20.4 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 24,702 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from Australia
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Lucy Barton is now 63 years old, and recently widowed. David Abramson, her late husband, is a man with whom she felt comfortable. They understood each other, they supported each other. The William of the title is Lucy’s first husband, the father of their now adult daughters, Chrissy and Becka. William is now 71, and despite their marriage breakdown and subsequent marriages, Lucy and William have remained friends. And so, it is to Lucy that William turns when he wants help with unravelling a family secret.
Lucy and William embark on a journey, into a past that William was unaware of and into a shared past which has Lucy sharing her insights and reflections. I enjoyed this novel.
Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Books for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.
In this story Lucy Barton is now in her early sixties and her ex-husband William has turned seventy. They are still good friends and the story is like one running narrative of Lucy's past and present relationship with William.
It feels almost like reading a diary, with Lucy's unfiltered view on people and her own feelings just spilling out onto the page.
The story is sad, happy, nostalgic and often quite humorous. I really enjoyed it, although I feel it will not be a book that is to everyone's taste.
In this one, first husband William discovers he has an older half sister and he and Lucy go on a quest to find this woman. In doing so, they need to heavily revise what they know of William’s mother. By the end of the novel Lucy’s feeling about William undergoes a radical shift as well. Lucy faces the complexities of herself too, finding not everything inside her admirable, but considering her unfortunate background she’s done very well to give and receive love, to live a life true to herself with such courage.
Strout writes Lucy as unpretentiously honest, observant and insightful about nuances of expression and mood, as if she is beguiled with ever changing discoveries of what’s inside those around her, including her two adult daughters. The only thing that occasionally grates is the repetition of “What I mean is …” but we understand why she does it. She’s trying to be clear.
Top reviews from other countries
I never skip one line in Strout's work, her gentle, honest and nuanced writing is too precious to miss one word.
I can't think of any other writer who describes so authentically the complex and sometimes contradictory nature of personalities and relationships.
Lucy is as naive and as selflessly unaware and unsophisticated as usual, and she helps William face his problems, as they have always stayed somewhat friendly. William is facing another crisis also in his life, in that he was given a genealogy site subscription as a gift and has found out that apparently his mother had already walked out on one relationship, leaving a little girl behind.
As you would expect this has great characterisation and some of the situations some people will be more aware of than others. Beautifully written and enjoyable to read, it is sometimes the things that are not mentioned too much that makes us think, and thus gives this a greater depth, as we have to use our brains. This then gives us something that is not a long read, is enjoyable and meatier than its length may make you think, and we see Lucy once again having to navigate her way through life and ponder upon the fact that we can never really understand anyone else. This is shown quite clearly here in the discovery of the roots of William’s mother.