This was a surprisingly delightful read and I didn’t think it would compel me as much as it did.
The story centres around writer, Lucy Barton whose husband has died. She has two grown up daughters, and a first husband William whom she still has a connection too. When he invites her on a trip, she is puzzled by his need to be with her until a family secret is shared.
This is a journey of discovering William, dissecting Lucy’s relationship with him and their shared past. Lucy feels her invisibility and vulnerability as she reflects on her life, her successes and her failures. What is really interesting is that we get to know Lucy Barton so well that the book ends with acknowledgements then continues with Lucy Barton’s book which is a memoir. It was confusing yet surprising as I wanted more which I definitely got.
Strout manages to pick out and analyse human frailty and faults in both characters to the point that we feel for them. William is lost when his relationship falls apart and it is almost sweet how he gravitates back to Lucy and one wonders if there is any chance of reconciliation. How Lucy deals with him is apt yet thoughtful despite the man’s appalling behaviour with women.
It is a very upper-class lifestyle where money is not a problem for these two successful people. Yet Lucy’s background of poverty makes her the person she is and the reveal about her is interesting. This is said to be a third novel in a series which I’ve not read yet it didn’t affect my experience.
Beautifully written, I can see why it’s made the Booker shortlist for 2022. The winner to be announced on 17 October. Watch out for it.