Sunday, February 21, 2016
I found My Name is Lucy Barton to be a spare and eloquent book. The manner in which Elizabeth Strout presents her protagonist Lucy feels truly intimate. Manhattanite Lucy Barton is laid up in the hospital for weeks with a strange infection. She misses her young daughters. Having made her way out of a deprived childhood via a college education, Lucy has not been in the company of her own mother for many years.
It is indeed a gift when her mother appears at her bedside, uncharacteristically travelling so far from small town Illinois. We begin to hear more about Lucy's strange, impoverished childhood not so much from the mother and daughter conversations as from Lucy's recollections as her mother dozes in a bedside chair. And so what is left out of their conversations is often more important than what is said. But oh, how Lucy cherishes the sound of her mother's voice. Her visit is indeed a gift.
Another interesting factor is that Lucy dreams of becoming a writer. We see that she has the knack of being an inquisitive and thoughtful people watcher. She loves many people in her life deeply, including the devoted doctor attending her. Lucy lets us know that she will never write about her marriage and also that there may be some lack therein. Much lies in suspension as Lucy stays hospital-prone. I read the novel in one day and found it to be a character-rich literary masterpiece.