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I loved this book as I have loved her others. Her characters are so relatable, I feel like I am a bystander watching it all unfold and occasionally a nod recognition from some part of my life, maybe something that has just occurred to me. I was sad when I finished it .
I am intrigued. After reading ‘Oh William!’ I realised that I should have started at the beginning, by reading ‘My name is Lucy Barton’ and then ‘Anything is Possible’. I feel like I know Lucy Barton, after reading ‘Oh William!’ but I want to know her better: all those references to her earlier story have me intrigued. Oh yes, it is possible to read ‘Oh William!’ as a standalone: it is a story about family and about secrets, largely self-contained. But I have a feeling that my appreciation of this novel will be deepened once I have had an opportunity to read the earlier novels in the series.
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.
I hadn't realised that this was the third book in a series, but felt it was still quite good as a stand alone novel. Having said that,I am now keen to read the first to books in the 'Amgash' series. 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 next instalment of the Lucy Barton story Strout does her usual thing of seeming to write about quotidian life in all its ordinariness but in doing so, extracts complexities of the human psyche in their known and unknown mysteriousness. As Lucy says at the end, who can say what people have within them and why we turn out as we do? In the end, all that’s left to us is to see the dearness in all the souls around us even when we can see faults of character. 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.
My apologies to my book group. I chose this on the basis of its international best seller billing but it really disappointed. Emperor's new clothes? The prose style is painful to read being the reminiscing of one person, the plot ticks along so slowly it is hard to remain interested and the conclusion came so suddenly I was left wondering what had happened. The answer - nothing much. The one positive for my book group is that although it is relatively expensive to buy, it is quite short!
Newly widowed Lucy Barton, a successful writer now in her sixties, has retained an amicable relationship with her first husband -the father of her two daughters. This complex relationship stands at the heart of the novel - a story of regret, reflection and the revelation of some surprising family secrets. This is a short novel and a quick read that will, nonetheless, give you plenty to think about when you have finished it. Elegant, nuanced, deceptively layered.
I came to Strout's writing with My Name is Lucy Barton - a profoundly moving novel, every sentence formed so beautifully as Oh William is too. 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.