But then, I always do. Right at the moment, I'm in the middle of my Booker readathon which usually throws up at least a couple of books which - even if they are challenging reads - take my breath away. Until I read "My Name is Lucy Barton", this hadn't happened. I'd begun to wonder if I was being over-critical, or grumpy, or whether life was such that what I really needed to read was something light, fluffy and humorous. And then it happened ...
I picked up Elizabeth Strout's "My Name is Lucy Barton" as part of my plan to read the entire Booker longlist. It hadn't made the shortlist and I can honestly say I wasn't expecting to enjoy it that much having been underwhelmed by her Pulitzer prize winning "Olive Kitteridge". But oh, how wrong was I?
Read in one breathless single sitting, it was gorgeous. Breathtakingly subtle and understated, chock-a-block full of nuances and things unsaid - I loved it. I didn't love Lucy Barton, but I did admire her. Formed by her childhood - one of poverty and abuse - married with two small girls who she loves to bit, she has no real friends and no real relationship with the family she left behind. Whilst she endures many unexpected weeks in hospital, one also begins to wonder about her marriage. A man who barely visits his wife because he can't bear hospitals and who sends their children to visit her, not just dirty and unkempt, but with the women he had become "too close to" during that time. My heart ached for Lucy. No wonder she formed such an emotional attachment to her doctor who treated her with kindness and empathy.
But it wasn't all suggestions, and smoke and mirrors, those few childhood tales that are recounted were detailed and emotionally painful. During her mother's visit, it becomes clear that Lucy is loved, but that her mother simply doesn't have the capacity to express it. Later comments about Lucy's own children never staying in her home following the divorce, choosing instead to stay with their father and stepmother, makes you wonder how much that lack impacted on Lucy's own deep-seated desire to be otherwise for her children.
But Lucy does go on to write, to be published and to have an independent life, and that knowledge provides her with succour.
The Old Shelter
Iain Kelly Writing
Bit 2 Read
A Back of the Envelope Calculation
No Love for Fatties
What are They
Petrichor and Clouds