Lucy by the Sea
From the Booker-shortlisted author of Oh William!
by Elizabeth Strout
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Pub Date 06 Oct 2022 | Archive Date 06 Oct 2022
From the Pulitzer prize-winning, Booker-shortlisted author of MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON and OH WILLIAM! A Christmas gift they'll never forget!
'It is a gift in this life that we do not know what awaits us'
In March 2020 Lucy's ex-husband William pleads with her to leave New York and escape to a coastal house he has rented in Maine. Lucy reluctantly agrees, leaving the washing-up in the sink, expecting to be back in a week or two. Weeks turn into months, and it's just Lucy, William, and their complex past together in a little house nestled against the sea.
Rich with empathy and a searing clarity, Lucy by the Sea evokes the fragility and uncertainty of the recent past, as well as the possibilities that those long, quiet days can inspire. At the heart of this miraculous novel are the deep human connections that sustain us, even as the world seems to be falling apart.
'A superbly gifted storyteller and a craftswoman in a league of her own' Hilary Mantel
'A terrific writer' Zadie Smith
'She gets better with each book' Maggie O'Farrell
'Lucy by the Sea might be my favourite Elizabeth Strout novel yet. Such grace, such empathy, such exquisite and sharp observation - and yet so very much itself too. No one else writes like Elizabeth Strout' Rachel Joyce
PRAISE FOR ELIZABETH STROUT
'A superbly gifted storyteller and a craftswoman in a league of her own' Hilary Mantel
'A terrific writer' Zadie Smith
'She gets better with each book' Maggie O'Farrell
'One of my very favourite writers' Ann Patchett
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 134 members
Lucy Barton is back! Lucy by the Sea is a wonderful exploration of how the much-loved character, Lucy, fares during the first Covid lockdown in the US - specifically New York City and Maine. It poignantly explores difficult family relationships, grief, worry but also, love and what is needed in life to make someone feel happy. It is fascinating to read a familiar fictional character deal with the issues many of us were dealing with during the Covid pandemic. Because the character is reappearing in new novels, it feels as if we (the readers) are growing up together with Lucy.
Highly recommend for all fans of Elizabeth Strout and those looking to explore how the Covid pandemic is beginning to be reflected in novels.
PS. How exciting to get a side-ways peek of the indomitable Olive Kitteridge in the pages of Lucy By the Sea!
What an absolute treat, Lucy Barton returns with her ex husband William. I haven't been able to deal with novels set in lockdown however in Elizabeth Strout's safe hands I've returned and travelled through lockdown with Lucy and William. Thank goodness Lucy has William, his science background ensures that Lucy doesn't end up on a European tour in the middle of the pandemic, instead William 'saves' Lucy and his daughters, he gets them out of New York to safety, Lucy is whisked away to Maine with William and experiences the tragedy of the pandemic, the BLM campaigns and the January 6th attack on the capitol. However, we experience it through Lucy's eyes, her thoughts and her conversations with the people she connects with. Strout is the master of seemingly simple prose and fiction and yet there is so much bubbling beneath the surface, the writing has such a light touch and yet difficult subjects are dealt with throughout the book. What strikes me about Strout is that she understands what it is to be human, I often wonder how much of Lucy is Elizabeth. If you love fiction just read Elizabeth Strout.
I absolutely love Elizabeth Strout's books and so was thrilled to get the opportunity to read Lucy by the Sea. Strout's writing style is unique- it flows so well and is extremely authentic. She completely takes you into her character's lives with honesty and realism. Lucy by the Sea is set at the start of the pandemic and the first lockdown- so bear this in mind if you are not yet ready to revisit this time in fiction. At the start of the pandemic Lucy's ex husband William persuades her to spend lockdown at a cottage in Maine by the sea. During this isolating time Lucy voices the fears we all had about death and family. Strout is excellent at friendships and family relationships and I absolutely loved this. It took me a while to go back to 2020 and I initially found it a little surreal. However once I became involved in the novel I was completely immersed over the course of 24 hours. Although this is part of a series of books about Lucy it can easily be read as a standalone. Highly recommended.
Many thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this digital ARC.
Elizabeth Strout once again resurrects the brave and courageous iconic writer, Lucy Barton, and writes movingly and profoundly of Lucy's experiences of lockdown, like so many us not quite grasping initially the implications of Covid 19. It is William in his determination to save her who whisks her away from New York to the Maine coastal town of Crosby, with Lucy having no idea that she will never again return to her apartment. Strout paints an authentic, gentle, intimate, understated and resonating picture of the loneliness, isolation, anxiety, fears, panic, grief, love and loss that Lucy feels, along with the development of her complicated relationship with her ex-husband William, the comfort they find in each other despite their odd irritations with each other, a comfort that leads to them finding their way to each other again, despite his cheating on her in their marriage, something her daughters find more difficult to accept than she expects
Strout exquisitely captures what it is to be human in these challenging times, such as what it means to be family, of being a mother to 2 precious adult daughters with their own issues, Chrissy's miscarriages, the crumbling of Becka's marriage to the poet Trey and its impact on William as he reflects upon and regrets his past infidelities. There is a compassion, non-judgementalism, and a humanity with which the author approaches her characters, many of whom make an appearance from other books, building on old connections whilst there is the simultaneous creation of a web of new connections after having moved to the strangeness of a new place, physically and metaphorically. Lucy makes a heartfelt empathetic connection with Bob Burgess through their walks and socially distanced meetings, he has read her memoir and relates particularly to the issue of growing up in such deep poverty. She begins to understand and see beyond the stereotypical Trump supporters through meeting Charlene at the food pantry, and her sister, Vicky, people living under heavy pressures, part of the troubled communities who have been regarded with contempt and looked down on by establishment circles.
In the darkest of times, Strout provides hope and light in her latest stellar and thought provoking novel, highlighting the time and opportunities available for us to spend in reflections of our current lives, the past, the family, relationships, and growth in developing greater resilience and vital understanding of others who make up our fragile, desperate, and ravaged communities, whilst potentially generating new energies and excitement by moving into new areas professionally, personally and geographically that might have been otherwise unthinkable pre-pandemic. This is a beautiful and contemplative novel that just bursts with heart and underlying wisdom, and a Lucy whose struggles and challenges are a pure joy to follow through the harsh realities and losses of a nightmare pandemic. Highly recommended. Many thanks to the publisher for an ARC.
Lucy by the Sea is Lucy Barton’s third outing, the second in a year. Lucy and her ex-husband, who readers met in last year’s Oh William!, spend the first year of the pandemic in Maine where Lucy’s life, like many others, is changed in surprising sometimes shocking ways.
William is quick to see which way the wind is blowing, whisking the sceptical Lucy off to the coastal town of Crosby. Lucy is convinced they’ll be back in New York in a few weeks but William thinks they’re in for a long haul, ensuring that both their daughters are safely away from the city, too. Things are a little scratchy at first, but they settle into a routine. Lucy misses her daughters, grieves the loss of people she loves and comes to understand herself, William and their country a little better. William, meanwhile, takes on the practicalities of their new life with alacrity and finds his way to an unexpected reconciliation and contentment.
As ever, Strout’s writing is empathetic and insightful. She summons up that strange, unreal time when many of us, like Lucy, didn’t know what had hit us nor had an inkling how long we would remain in the introspective, claustrophobic lockdown bubble before the freedom offered by vaccinations. There’s a more overt political strand than in previous Strout novels as Lucy thinks about Trump supporters and frets about the spread of Covid during the Black Lives Matter protests. Any doubts about Lucy’s third outing were quickly dispelled for me. If anything, I found this a more interesting novel than Oh, William! and My Name is Lucy Barton.
My devouring of this story was completed last night and I’ve been thinking a lot about Lucy Barton ever since.
After reading this latest instalment of the “Barton” series, I can truly say Lucy and I have been on some incredible journey together. But the thing is, I have no idea what she looks like. She did mention blonde highlights in this book, but that’s a about it. That’s the quality of Strout’s writing – even though I know Lucy so, so, so well and love her to bits and bits. I don’t need to know what she looks like. Skin is, after all just a few layers of protein, carbohydrates, water and gunk that cover each and every one of us – but it’s not who we are, we don’t need to know what Lucy looks like. Strout makes her appearance redundant. The author’s sparse writing – and it is sparse – tells us everything we need to know about this gentle, thoughtful woman.
I feel I know Lucy better than many people I mix with in my own life. Importantly, Strout also allows us, the reader, to fill in the gaps in her characters. She respects us in this way. So, who knows - Maybe my Lucy is different to your Lucy?
It would be a lovely experience to compare each and everyone’s Lucy – you think?
Lucy’s ex-husband, William drags her upstate New York, along with their daughters to get away from the Big Apple during the carnage of the first wave of the COVID pandemic. They all stay at different houses, and all strictly observe requirements of mask mandates, distancing, isolation periods – William (being an obsessive scientist) wouldn’t have it any other way.
I like William too – but he’s a funny bugger, funny as in ‘funny’, not funny, funny. There’s certain gaps in his character I can’t fill in. Maybe he’s a typical bloke? Certain scenes – for example when Lucy wants to describe an event that has happened in her day and he looks up from his laptop with impatience, which quickly turns to boredom. This is noticed by Lucy. Because she tells us by saying “I noticed that”. Oh dear – I know what William did there, I know only too well – the need for the women in our lives tell their stories, the need for blokes to get to the point. Poor Lucy – it’s heartbreaking, but she reflects on these things with such insight and understanding it’s almost superhuman. She will say things like “I understand why he thinks that”, or “I noticed that”.
Lucy doesn’t seem to blame or condone. She just remembers and, says.
There are people they ‘meet’ from a distance, upstate. We get to know their stories too. Also, William’s half-sister comes into his life in a bigger way. We also see relationships change and develop between all the characters, some relationships are created and even lost. The types of variations all of us see and experience everyday of our lives.
Nothing extraordinary, but profound when you think about it.
This is the best. I will remember this story - I want to tell you that.
Elizabeth Strout is a unique writer, her work is conversational, warm, honest, and heartfelt. I’ve enjoyed several of her previous books. Her new novel, Lucy by the Sea, is also wonderful. Lucy Barton has moved to Maine during the Covid emergency with her ex-husband William. As she adjusts to the anxious and slower rhythms of her new life, she comes to terms with past mistakes, both hers and William’s, and worries about her two daughters, Chrissy and Becka who have their own troubles in adjusting to the health crisis and in their relationships.
There were so many powerful truths in this novel, I was often struck by its wisdom. One that struck me was Lucy’s observation that we need to truly put ourselves in other peoples’ heads to have empathy for them. She talks of the divide in America and the antipathy some parts of the society have for their more educated and well-off peers - how the feeling of being ‘less than’ over their entire lives can cause rage. She links this to the people who stormed the White House and who support Donald Trump. Lucy doesn’t excuse the behaviour, but she gives an understanding of its cause.
I read the book very quickly because I savoured being in Lucy’s gentle point of view, hearing her musings and observations. Above all else she loves her family and her forgiveness of William’s past errors and enduring love for him is really touching.
In addition to this, I have always been leery of the idea of a book set in lockdown, but Strout is such a brilliant writer that she pulled this off and made it compulsive reading.
With thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Random House for the advance copy.
I have read and loved pretty much everything Elizabeth Strout has written, so it was a real joy to spend more time in the company of some of her most lovable characters. 'Lucy by the Sea' is a sequel to 'My Name Is Lucy Barton' and 'Oh, William!', unfolding over the course of 2020 and early 2021 during the coronavirus pandemic. In March 2020, Lucy's ex-husband William persuades Lucy to leave New York with him and sit out the pandemic in the small coastal town of Crosby, Maine. Lucy recounts the events of this year, including her changing relationship with William, the challenges faced by their daughters, and William's efforts to connect with the half-sister whose existence he discovered in 'Oh, William!'. She also continues to reflect on her impoverished upbringing in Amgash, Illinois, and her brother and sister who still live there.
Strout's novels are frequently self-referential, and seasoned readers of her work will recognise Crosby as the setting of 'Olive Kitteridge' and 'Olive, Again'. The novel also features a number of characters from her other novels, including Bob Burgess from 'The Burgess Boys', a now-adult Katherine Caskey from 'Abide With Me' and Charlene Bibber from 'Olive, Again', as well as a cameo appearance from Olive Kitteridge herself. Some readers might find this slightly self-indulgent (even a quotation from a novel referenced by Lucy turns out to come from 'Olive, Again'), but it is rather moving to be able to see what has become of these characters in the years since we last saw them.
Strout imbues this novel with Lucy's trademark insight, vulnerability and tenderness, and the novel offers a powerful study of the kind of intimacy that exists in a relationship like Lucy and William's. This feels like a looser and more episodic novel than Lucy's previous outings, and the narrative perhaps lacks the same sense of urgency we feel in 'My Name Is Lucy Barton' and 'Oh William!', but this is partly reflective of the way that we all experienced the passage of time during the pandemic.
This novel is also more politically engaged than Strout's other novels, referencing the killing of George Floyd and the Capitol riots as well as reflecting more generally on the growing divisions in American society. Lucy's response is primarily one of empathy for those who feel differently from her, partly borne out of her own experiences of extreme poverty. This is exemplified in her budding friendship with Charlene who has a Trump bumper sticker and refuses to be vaccinated; Charlene values her friendship with Lucy precisely because they don't talk politics. At the same time, Lucy seems to recognise the limitations of her position when she decides not to publish a story which is "sympathetic toward a white cop who liked the old president and who does an act of violence and gets away with it."
There have already been many other novels reflecting on how life changed during the pandemic, and there will doubtless be more to come. However, there is a particular comfort and pleasure to be found in reliving the events of 2020 through Lucy's eyes. Anyone who has enjoyed Strout's previous work will not be disappointed by this novel. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me an ARC to review.
A great writer at the height of her powers. The reader follows Lucy Barton and the development of her relationship with William and her two daughters against the backdrop of covid. A deep and insightful work that digs into the realities of old age, loss and human frailties
I’ve loved every one of the Lucy Barton novels. Thinking about it, I’ve loved everything Elizabeth Strout has written. The clarity of her prose. The way she creates a real voice for her characters. The way she chops up the length of her sentences to create a sense of rhythm and drama. The way she stops and then goes back.
Sometimes her prose is almost conversational, but always more considered and purer than any conversation I have ever had. There is also an honesty that comes out of her books. The fact that people are flawed but most, try to do their best within the constraints they live within.
How education is the key to social mobility. How luck plays a part in life. How poverty endures and moves down through generations like a dark shadow.
There is a sympathy, empathy and understanding that Lucy Barton has that makes you see the importance of trying to understand people, not just where their views diverge from yours.
Charlotte Burridge and Lucy’s brother and sister are used to help understand the way America is now. How poverty and disdain create such toxicity.
I started this in the morning and finished it this afternoon. It is though provoking elegiac and offers a window into the American experience of living with Covid, George Floyd, QAnon and Donald Trump. It created an entirely new perspective for me.
That makes it sound horribly worthy. It is not.
It is a wonderful novel and if in any way you are interested in Lucy Barton and the characters we have met since 'My Name is Lucy Barton' was published this is a must read.
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