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Unpopular opinion : My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

26th May, 2016

My name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

My Name is Lucy Barton is a keenly observant narrative of the relationship between a mother and daughter, even after not being in touch for many years, the yearning of a woman to be a writer and the changes a perfect marriage undergoes with time.


Lucy, a writer living in New York, reflects in the later years of her life of the time she had to spend nine weeks in the hospital and her mother, with whom she had broken ties a long time ago, visited her and stayed by her side. The memories of the incident set her thinking about the years she spent growing up in Illinois; her dysfunctional family; about the loves and friendships that have crossed her life; and about the developments that seeped into her marriage.

“You will have only one story,” she had said. “You’ll write your one story many ways. Don’t ever worry about story. You have only one.”

Why it didn’t work for me?

The book has been highly praised for because of its spare prose and deliberate silences. Well, it so didn’t work for me. I think I was expecting a big revelation or some happening turn in the plot, which was not the case. The book did make me reflect at times about my relationships, but it did not make as deep a mark that I would want to recommend the book to another person. I felt the book was too short to create an impact of the character in my mind and I do think I might have enjoyed it a lot more if it was longer. To me, the book read like many sentences wound together, with no surprises.

My name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

However, I did enjoy…

What I did enjoy is the evanescence of memories. The writing beautifully shows how our memories change and along with it our view points. I liked the author’s characterization of her mother. Usually the reader would come to hate the person who doesn’t agree with the heroine/narrator while reading a book. But this was so different. The book lets you take a mature approach towards family and relationships. I loved how the narrator and her mother could bond over gossips of the neighbourhood even when the mother was very cold to Lucy’s husband. Also, Strout has successfully reaffirmed how a person’s inner feelings might be vastly different from what mask he/she adorns on the outside.

My name is Lucy Barton is a short book that you can read in one sitting. If you are looking for something slow with good writing, this might be a good choice. The book is the story of the grief of memories and our perception towards relationships studded with small moments of joy. I did not enjoy the book as much as I thought I would. However, I think I would read Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge before forming an opinion of the author

Let's discuss

Have you read this book? Did you enjoy it? Do you have a book by Elizabeth Strout that you would recommend?

Title : My Name is Lucy Barton
Author : Elizabeth Strout
Publisher : Viking
Published : 2016
Language : English
Pages : 191
Rating : 3/5

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My Name is Lucy Barton

About the Author

Elizabeth Strout is an American novelist who won the Pulitzer Prize for Olive Kitteridge, a collection of connected short stories about a woman and her immediate family and friends. Her other books include Amy and Isabelle (1998), Abide with Me (2006),and  The Burgess Boys (2013)

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This Post Has 31 Comments
  1. I’ve only read rave reviews of this and I do want to read it, but its really interesting to read an opinion that isn’t so overwhelmingly positive – it helps me get a better idea of the book overall.

  2. I haven’t read Lucy Barton (or anything else by Strout for that matter), so I can’t offer an opinion on the novel. Like you, I’ve read positive reviews of this novel elsewhere, but it’s always useful to see another perspective. Plus you’ve been quite balanced in your review, highlighting the positives alongside the aspects that didn’t work for you.

  3. I have been meaning to try something from this author, so it’s a shame that you found it to be only mediocre. When a book has no surprises and isn’t leaving a deep mark, then it really is just no fun. I think I’m gonna have to skip over this one 🙁

  4. I’ve read and really liked this at the time (there’s a review on my blog) but you are not the first person who didn’t get along with it. Interstingly, I can’t remember any of it.

  5. New reader here (new reader to your blog that is, I’ve been reading books since I was tiny!) I’m almost finished with this book and have also been underwhelmed. I think this is partly due to the fact that I read this book at the wrong time. In the summer I love page turners; it’s during the winter that I crave slow, contemplative books, so I definitely should have read this in the winter. I read Olive Kitteridge back when it was getting all the buzz and was one of the few who didn’t like it. I found it to be depressing, a negative view of life and human nature. I’m definitely one who loves a good tragedy, but that book lacked…change, beauty, I’m not sure. As always, Strout’s writing is exquisite.

    1. Nice to know that you have a similar opinion about the book. As for me, it was not that I picked the book at a wrong time. I just couldnt feel the depth. I want to try Olive Kitteridge at some point. But not soon. Right now I need some happy books. 🙂

  6. What a well-balanced review! I did enjoy this book more than you – and like you I was most appreciative of the less conventional look at the mother daughter relationship in that the bond wasn’t broken because the two characters were very different but more accepting than most novels would portray this relationship.

    1. I am glad you enjoyed it more. And I completely agree. I loved the way the mother daughter bond was portrayed. They disagree on many things even after they meet after so many years, yet there is something that binds them together.

  7. I have yet to read this one. Thank you for sharing your review! 🙂 I’ve been interested in reading “Olive Kitteridge”. I guess I will start with that one — it will be my first book by Strout.

  8. Is it weird that hearing a bad review after so many good ones only makes me more curious? I enjoyed reading your thoughts, now I’m even more tempted to pick up a copy (even if that’s not quite what you intended). Don’t worry, I won’t blame you if I don’t enjoy it 😛

    1. That happens with me too. I always want to see which side I would be on. I hope you enjooy the read. Whatever the case may be, I will be interested in reading your thoughts.

  9. Great review! I always appreciate an unpopular opinion 🙂 It’s nice to get multiple perspectives on a book and especially when it’s a much hyped book, it’s nice to have another perspective to temper the hype.

    1. I agree with you. Even I read unpopular opinions to see if there are any strong points against me reading the book. Usually I will read it anyway if I badly wanted to and then decide which side I am on.

  10. I did love this book but can easily understand why it would not appeal to everyone. I loved the quietness of it and the fact that there were no big surprises – but that said, I did find a couple of the scenes very moving.

    If you haven’t read Olive Kitteridge yet, do. It is truly wonderful and the best example I’ve read of a group of linked short stories.

    1. I agree- those who love a quiet read would find this very appealing. I hope to read Olive Kitteridge very soon. I like reading short stories and I heard it is one of Strout’s best works.

  11. I really loved this one. I would have liked it to be longer, but I actually quite enjoyed the experience of having just a few brief hours with a story (especially with so many novels being so incredibly long these days). I agree that Strout takes a very mature approach to family. I thought that was an excellent way to put it. I’d definitely recommend giving Olive Kitteridge a go. It’s not quite so fleeting, and Olive is an incredible character.

  12. I read The Burgess Boys some years back. I didn’t like the story much but the writing was quite nice. So it is not one of my best reads, nevertheless I don’t regret spending time on it.

  13. I enjoyed your balanced review of this book, which I haven’t read yet but intend to. I found “Olive Kitteridg”e well done and very moving. “Amy and Isabelle,” I was not so crazy about. It was well-written but seemed somehow at a distance.

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