I’d never really encountered Elizabeth Strout’s work until I saw the HBO adaptation of Olive Kitteridge last year.
It was a fantastic miniseries underpinned by great characters – memorable, complicated, flawed, real – and stunning writing. Even on the screen, Strout’s incredible talent shone through and I knew then I had to read her books.
I’ve started with this, her most recent novel.
It’s a slim tome, less than 200 pages with bite-sized chapters, that tells a story that’s both intimate and universal.
Lucy Barton is sick in hospital and her mother comes to visit, bringing up memories of her impoverished childhood and eventual escape.
A simple premise, with no real plot to speak of but in Strout’s hands it’s excellent. She’s a breathtakingly good writer, packing more meaning and emotional punch into a 300-word chapter than most authors manage in 300 pages.
She wastes no time, no words. This is one of those glorious novels where not a single sentence feels out of place. There’s no padding, no indulgence – every line works with every other to form a faultless whole.
A five star book. Expect more Strout soon.
Next: A bit of Barnsey