Friday, 16 June 2017

Book Review: My Name Is Lucy Barton


Firstly, if I'm completely honest with myself, I was drawn to this book by its beautiful cover; the small picture frame with a window alongside the bold red typeface caught my attention. The picture frame has some illustrated buildings as its content. I was even more pleasantly surprised once I turned m attentions to the inside cover; across the lower half of both pages was an illustrated New York collective skyline of buildings and then my hearts was set on reading this book. The author of the novel, Elizabeth Strout is widely acclaimed so I had high hopes that I would enjoy this book. One of the reasons that I was happy to read it is because its rather short; less than 300 pages, so it seemed like a great option for those days when you want to read and read and read.

I have to say that I wasn't really sure what I was expecting this novel to be about; I assumed, correctly, that the main character would be called Lucy Barton and I liked the first person narrative. Her character was although unassuming and what many would label as a 'wallflower', to me she was fascinating. To begin with, I found the novel quite a fast read, as well as rather uneventful, but in fact that was my mistake; I simply wasn't looking for the clues hidden within the narrative. I can see now, why Strout is such a revered author; her literary style is just lovely. As I continued through the book, Lucy's narrative also progresses. As a reader, we see a person who is ill in hospital; at first glance, this is a completely uneventful situation, until we learn of her background. More specifically, of her childhood.

Her personality is both likeable and yet somewhat frustrating; her relationships with her family members clearly are far from perfect, although that seems to be from her moving away to the big city and leaving her underprivileged life behind, to an extent. There are some really painful memories being relived from an unintentionally abusive upbringing, alongside from genuine fears for her current life; her relationship with her husband and her two daughters. On the surface, Lucy is an ordinary person; however as the novel winds its way to an end, it is clear that she is rather extraordinary. Coming from a background of almost poverty, she has made a life for herself whilst remembering what it is like to have nothing, ensuring that she and her husband give generously to those who may otherwise go without. The introduction of her mother was an interesting addition to the novel; another perspective whilst keeping to the first person narrative. Her mother was an interesting concept; their relationship was clearly strained. It's easy to see why Lucy avoided visiting her family during her adult life, as it's made clear that they resent her success as an author. That being said, she's clearly fond of them and sends them money, so considering she was raised very poor, it was nice to see her sharing her newfound wealth, regardless of how her family view said wealth.

Overall, I enjoyed this book far more than I expected to. I liked that Lucy's medical condition was never disclosed, it gave you something to consider, especially considering how little her husband and children visited, as well as how rapidly her mother disappeared. Her upbringing definitely affected her throughout her life, it was laid out just how much attention she craved from her mother in particular, when she tells the reader that she has never been told that she is loved by her mother. Her story was sad on the one hand, but the way that Strout writes is absolutely beautiful; dealing with the complexities of all kinds of love from a compassionate narrator. I felt at times like the narrator was fairly unreliable; she's fairly passive and somewhat vague throughout. Part of me thought that the hospital stay was a dream - it was a frustrating read in some ways, as I felt like I wanted so many more details; about her childhood, her family relationships, her state of mind, etc. However, the vagueness was one of the reasons why I liked this novel, as it allows the reader to use their imagination and fill in the gaps for themselves, so to speak. It covers so many different topics, in so little pages I would really recommend reading it; it's definitely a 'marmite' kind of book that some will love and others will hate. I loved it.



  1. Your review explained some of the concepts of the book well. It sounds intriguing and I agree about the front cover being appealing. I'm sure I've eyed this one up in Waterstones! I like that you reviewed a book- I should branch out and do some book reviews! Gemma :) Beautiful Life as I Know It

    1. Hi, thank you so much for your comment - I don't know how I didn't see it at the time (oops)! I love reading and writing book reviews, it gives a bit of a break from fashion and beauty posts, you should definitely get into writing them! :)
      Plus, I have a thing for beautiful front covers ahah! Love, Rachel xx


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