Elizabeth Strout’s spare and detailed writing, her careful observations, her evocative descriptions, her layered characters and their authentic dialogue contribute to making her one of my very favourite authors.
Lucy by the Sea (Penguin Random House 2022) follows the story of Lucy Barton, who we have met in previous novels, and includes references to her most famous character, Olive Kitteridge.
This contemporary novel, set in March 2020, sees Lucy and her former husband William escape New York to a house on a cliff by the sea in Maine, in the middle of the Covid pandemic. Here, isolating and isolated, they revive their friendship and remember all the great things they loved about each other, as well as all the annoying habits and bad behaviour that were the reason they divorced. They are both older now, and perhaps wiser, although Lucy’s interior monologues about the meaning of life and the dynamics of her relationships with family and friends, suggest that age doesn’t necessarily qualify you as having any more of the answers.
As the world is falling apart around them, Lucy and William struggle to maintain contact with their daughters – every moment is imbued with meaning, every day is a gift. This delightful novel is easy to read and strikes at the very heart of what it is to be human, to love and to be loved. As Lucy questions, forgives, forgets, analyses, learns and discovers, Strout has captured a picture of what it was like for many during lockdowns, when the planet tipped on its axis, some things took on a new importance, and some things merely fell away. Divine writing.