“So much of life seems speculation.”
What Yates does for ‘quietly depressing’, Elizabeth Strout does for ‘deeply sad’.
In her latest (brilliant) book, My Name is Lucy Barton , we meet Lucy, a woman confined to a hospital bed because of an inexplicable infection. During her long hospital stay, Lucy’s estranged mother pays a visit and it’s through their conversations that we learn about Lucy’s life.
‘I kept thinking how the five of us had had a really unhealthy family, but I saw then too how our roots were twisted so tenaciously around one another’s hearts. My husband said, “But you didn’t even like them.” And I felt especially frightened after that.’
There are no screeching plot twists or shocking revelations – this is an earnest character study and in Lucy and her mother, Strout has created two women that are deeply, deeply sad and lonely. But not bitter. It’s important to emphasise the lack of bitterness – they’re not angry or demanding but nor are they depressed or passive. It’s pure sadness, ever-present, resigned.
“Lonely was the first flavour I had tasted in my life, and it was always there, hidden inside the crevices of my mouth, reminding me.”
The writing style is intimate – the tempo of the conversations Lucy has with her mother are repeated in Lucy’s inner monologues, allowing the reader to feel like they’re in conversation with her. Some will find it disjointed but I felt it reflected thought patterns, and the ebb and flow of conversations with someone who you know well, where there’s no need to fill in all the spaces.
4/5 Simple, heart-breaking, memorable.
I received my copy of My Name is Lucy Barton from the publisher, Random House, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.