My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
A story of a complex relationship between a mother and daughter. Does a book get better than this?
From page one you are pulled into a story line that is just so beautifully written that you do not want to let go until you have finished reading the entire novel and at around 200 pages this is easily done as you lose yourself in an exquisite story.
In My Name is Lucy Barton the story is set in the mid 1980’s we find the Lucy hospitalised and this is her story as she recounts the period of nearly nine weeks in hospital from complications after recent surgery.
It is clear from the very start this is going to be a tender recount of a troubled childhood and then to her present day marital problems, not helped with the fact that her husband has an aversion to hospitals and has secretly arranged for her mother to come and stay with her, as we find through the pages of a childhood bereft of love from her mother, with whom she has not seen for a number of years, we find Lucy waking one morning to find her mother standing at the foot of her bed. Disbelief, shock even at seeing her estranged mother standing there.
For the coming days and nights as her mother who seems to be in constant state of a form of depression Lucy recounts her younger days and the family, friends and failed relationships even those of her friends and the sheer desperation of the loneliness of her formative years, deprived of such things as books and television this part of her life is nothing short of tragic.
Despite the fact that mother and daughter have not met in many years, her mother starts to recount tales and there is a difference in her tone that Lucy seeks to explore yet the longing for the words ‘I love you’ fail to appear even at a time that her daughter so desperately needs to hear it, her mother just falls into denial of the past. As the reader becomes more sucked into the hospital room, you can almost feel that her mother wants to say all the things that she never said, as in ‘I love you’ but the words seem to chock her and the words never appear. Lucy is something of a writer and tells her mother about the fact she had a few stories published but her mother just ignores and stares out of the window where Chrysler Building glimmers to a world that Lucy cannot escape to but you get the feeling it is calling to Lucy, but she is trapped in that hospital room, it was those years as a child with no books that led Lucy to want to write books to prevent anyone from feeling the sheer loneliness that she endured.
There is something else going on here and Strout is offering glimpses at our own world and our own lives I felt that as an author Strout was offering counselling to everyone reading it. This is writing of a very special quality and of a writer at the height of her game. There are some very special qualities that come of My Name is Lucy Barton. Everyone wants to be loved and you can’t help but feel empathy with Lucy as she just wants to be loved by her mother as much as she loves her. A book that will be revisited time after time.
Strout has written a deeply emotional and powerful story in My Name is Lucy Barton a story of the complex relationship between mother and daughter and also of love. Elizabeth Strout being a previous winner of the Pulitzer Prize for her novel Olive Kitteridge in 2009 and now is longlisted for the 2016 Baileys Prize. Just a word on the cover design. Simple and effective and it works.
My Name is Lucy Barton written by Elizabeth Strout was published 4 February 2016 by Viking. Available through Waterstones and all good bookshops.