EXCERPT: As we drove, William suddenly made a noise that was almost like a laugh. I turned my face toward him. ‘What?’ I said.
He kept looking straight ahead at the road. ‘Do you know one time when you and I had a dinner party – well, it wouldn’t have been called a dinner party, you never really knew how to pull off a real dinner party – but we had some friends over, and long after they had gone home, way after I had gone to bed, but then I came downstairs and found you in the dining room -‘ William turned his head to glance at me. ‘And I saw -‘ Again he gave an abrupt sound of almost laughter, and he looked straight ahead again. ‘And I saw you bending down and kissing the tulips that were there on the table. You were kissing them, Lucy. Each tulip. God, it was weird.’
I looked out the window of my side of the car, and my face became very warm.
‘You’re a strange one, Lucy,’ he said after a moment. And that was that.
ABOUT ‘OH WILLIAM!’: Lucy Barton is a successful writer living in New York, navigating the second half of her life as a recent widow and parent to two adult daughters. A surprise encounter leads her to reconnect with William, her first husband – and longtime, on-again-off-again friend and confidante. Recalling their college years, the birth of their
daughters, the painful dissolution of their marriage, and the lives they built with other people.
MY THOUGHTS: After having read the first two Amgash books, My Name is Lucy Barton, and Anything is Possible, which focussed on Lucy’s earlier life – i.e. leading up to 63, and on people she has known at various times in her life, respectively – I was excited to pick up Oh William!, which looks at her current relationship with her ex-husband, father of her two daughters, and sometimes friend, William.
Lucy is still grieving the loss of her second husband, David, who, I feel obliged to point out, was a much nicer man than William. William liked to belittle Lucy, mainly I think to cover his own feelings of inadequacy, the reasons for which come to light in Oh William!
Sometimes, in my head, I am very much like Lucy Barton. I try not to be, although I love Lucy to bits, but I am. And that is the thing about Strout’s characters – we are able to recognise bits of ourselves in them. But the point that I am getting to is that unlike Lucy, I would have never agreed to go on a trip with my ex-husband, not even with the temptation of finding a half sister he never knew he had, and discovering more about the first marriage of his mother, another unknown. Okay, I might have been momentarily tempted, but I would never have gone. But then William and Lucy have a totally different relationship to mine which is completely non-existent and will remain that way.
We learn a lot about William which, I guess, is the whole point of this book. He is exposed, warts and all, and I was left liking him even less than I had originally.
Oh William! is, like it’s two predecessors, a book that I completely lost myself in. I hope that it is not the last in the series. I want to know if Chrissy will succeed in becoming pregnant and carry to full term. I want to know Lucy in old age. I am not yet ready to say goodbye to this family.
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T: @LizStrout @PenguinUKBooks
#fivestarread #contemporaryfiction #familydrama #sliceoflife
THE AUTHOR: Elizabeth Strout is the author of several novels, including: Abide with Me, a national bestseller and BookSense pick, and Amy and Isabelle, which won the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize, and was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in England. In 2009 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her book Olive Kitteridge. Her short stories have been published in a number of magazines, including The New Yorker. She teaches at the Master of Fine Arts program at Queens University of Charlotte.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Penguin General UK – Fig Tree via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Oh William! for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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