Lucy by the Sea

By Elizabeth Strout

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Apparently Elizabeth Strout has a decent backlist, but she was a new-to-me author. When I was buying the book, the guy at the gallery told me what beautiful prose she had, and I was in for a treat. Telling me of the backlist I had to look forward to if I liked it. I also stumbled across a review of it on a reading blog the day after I bought it. I wanted to go into the read knowing only what I had read on the cover and without any hype, so I didn’t read the review, but I did see that the blogger enjoyed it. So I was thinking there was a good chance I’d stumbled on a new author to add to my stables.

I knew this would be a quick and easy read from being under 300 pages, with largeish sized font and a lot of spacing. Yesterday afternoon, I was feeling like just such a quick read, being still tired from a whacked out body clock with late night and early morning meetings. Well, it was a quick read. I read it entirely yesterday afternoon – impressive for me as I’m a slow reader. But was it a good read?

It was ok. That’s it, just ok. Nothing to wax lyrical about.

It is written in the style of a diary/memoir – sort of in between. The book starts in March 2020, just as Covid is arriving in New York. William, the ex-husband of Lucy (main character, in whose POV the book is written) is a scientist and takes the impending threat seriously. He convinces one daughter and her husband to leave town for the duration. His other daughter he tries to convince, but she chooses to stay. And he “drags” Lucy off to Maine. She was reluctant to leave New York and didn’t take it seriously, thinking she’d be gone for just a few days, maybe a couple of weeks. It wasn’t long after she arrived in Maine that she started to take it seriously. So starts a story of one woman’s experience of Covid – ending after she has had two doses of the vaccine and could return to a deserted New York for a visit. There is some looking back on past events, but usually only as it links to events, thoughts and feelings of the present.

It was interesting reading of someone else’s experience during lockdown. And, from her POV, comments on those who had been alone – which didn’t at all align with my own experience. But she struck me as a woman who didn’t really know or like herself, so of course she wouldn’t know how to be alone. And I’m sure there were some on their own in lockdown that did struggle.

In addition to how the story was styled, the prose was a little off-putting. At times seeming jarring and juvenile. It’s possible this was intended, but it was a far cry from what I was expecting based on the comment from that guy at the gallery.

Overall this was an average book – hence the 2.5 stars. I don’t know if I would recommend reading it, but I wouldn’t NOT recommend it either. Maybe if you see it at the library and are curious. For me, I think this book will go with me to the local second hand bookshop on Wednesday to be liberated from my shelves to someone else’s.

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