Book Review for “Lucy by the Sea” by Elizabeth Strout.
Summary: “As a panicked world goes into lockdown, Lucy Barton is uprooted from her life in Manhattan and bundled away to a small town in Maine by her ex-husband and on-again, off-again friend, William. For the next several months, it’s just Lucy, William, and their complex past together in a little house nestled against the moody, swirling sea.”
Age: Adult; Genres: Literary, Women, Fiction; Settings: Contemporary; USA – New York, Maine; Other Categories: Novel, Series (Amgash #4).
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I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – I love me some Lucy Barton. So, when I saw this fourth novel with her, I was hoping I’d get the ARC. Well, not only did I get a copy from NetGalley, but Penguin Random House International actually sent me a print copy! I was NOT expecting that at ALL, so once again, THANK YOU. There is one drawback, however, and that being that unless Strout has a really good reason to tell more of Lucy’s story, we’re basically caught up with her to present day – or at least through early 2021. That’s a sad prospect because I’m not sure I want to read about Lucy’s death – or William’s for that matter. However, it is always possible that there will be a fifth book with Lucy, since the world, and Lucy’s life, was still somewhat up in the air at the end of this novel (I hope that’s not a spoiler – I don’t think it is. The world is in chaos right now, so why wouldn’t Lucy’s life be the same, right).
Anyway, despite this slightly upsetting prospect, I was thrilled to get back into Lucy’s life. But the thing is, I’m wondering if the poignancy of this story is more about how ordinary people were able to muddle through these last couple of years of upheavals in general, and less about how Lucy handled them in particular, even though there is a good deal of that as well. This is probably what made me feel just a bit more distanced from Lucy than in the previous novels. Despite that, I’m positive that Lucy and I could become very close friends since we have several things in common. I cannot tell you how many things Lucy goes through that I were so similar to things I’ve gone through recently, that rang so true. In fact, I couldn’t help but feel like this felt more like a memoir than a novel at times. So, it surprised me that this book didn’t make me cry even once – however, it certainly did make me laugh several times (as well as nod my head vigorously quite often). So, as my mother would have said… six of one; half dozen of the other.
Now, I get that not everyone likes these Lucy Barton stories, but I really enjoy them. This is mostly because I find her to be very much like me in many ways. Sometimes she’s reclusive, and she can get panicky or uncomfortable going into certain situations. She doesn’t always like people, but when she does, she’s totally there for them – when they’re around. However, she might not remember to be in touch with them between chance meetings, and most of the time, she isn’t one to initiate any get-togethers. For this reason, the digital age is very comforting to Lucy – mostly because she can stay in contact without too much effort. Furthermore, Lucy doesn’t feel like her life has been very special or that she’s at all important. While sometimes that low self-esteem can annoy others – particularly her family – others don’t see that; they think her distance and silences are her way of being a snob. Yes, Lucy is a complex person, who doesn’t realize how she sometimes makes complicated things easy, and easy things complicated. She’s a real wonder, that woman is!
As usual, Strout brings us this part of Lucy’s story with such an open and unassuming style, that it feels like she’s talking directly to us. Again, there’s a deceptive simplicity to her language here, much like we would use when we’re on the phone, sitting with someone in the park, having a coffee with a friend, or even by text. And yet, when Strout starts to describe the sea, and the coastline, and the various places that she and William visit – both by car and by foot – we can almost taste the salt on the air, smell the sand, and hear the waves. And with this novel, which takes place during the Covid-19 lockdowns, when things open up enough for people to hug again, we can totally understand why Lucy says “closer, closer” when she’s being held. I know this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I loved it, and I will warmly recommend it with 4.75 stars out of 5 (rounded up for the graphic)!
Random House (will) release(d) “Lucy by the Sea” by Elizabeth Strout on September 20, 2022. This book is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, Foyles, The Book Depository UK and Book Depository US (both with free worldwide delivery), Waterstones, WHSmith, Wordery UK and Wordery US, Kobo US (eBooks and audiobooks), the website eBooks.com, Booksamillion.com, iTunes (iBooks and audiobooks), new or used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from as well as from Bookshop.org and UK.Bookshop (to support independent bookshops, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) or an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the publishers for sending me both the print and eARC of this novel via NetGalley.
This novel qualifies for the following reading challenges: New Release Challenge (#42).