What a gifted writer Elizabeth Strout is. Oh William! sees the return of Lucy Barton as she meets again her first husband, William, and reflects on love, loss, friendship and the fact that life can seem bewildering. Lucy’s voice is so real it seemed as if we were having a real conversation, face-to-face. This is the stream-of-consciousness story – complete with ums, ahs, meanderings and distractions – of a few months in Lucy’s life, after the death of her second husband David and when William’s latest wife, Estelle has just left him. Lucy and William were married for twenty years and have two daughters; that’s a lot of baggage. The connections that bind a married couple do not disappear after they are divorced, memories and experiences are inextricably linked. William, now 71, came home one day to find the flat looking odd, with gaps where things should be, and a note from his wife Estelle saying she had moved out. As he explains to Lucy, now a successful writer in her sixties, what has happened, she relives the moment she also left William, how she felt at the time and how she feels now. She calls him Pillie, he calls her Button. They spend more time together and their daughters ask if they are getting back together. In fact, they are investigating a family secret recently revealed when William is given the gift of an ancestry records service. As they travel back into the past of William and of his mother, Catherine Cole, Lucy recalls her own childhood, the neglect, the poverty, and considers how this shaped who she is today.
Strout has written a short, elegant story with hidden depths that draw you in. She explores the affections, regrets, irritations and resentments of a couple, once married, now sort-of friends. They are an everyman couple who loved each other, who were at times thoughtless, cruel, unforgiving and impatient but now show moments of heart-stopping fondness. Lucy recounts the road trip undertaken into William’s past except it is also a journey into her own past as the revelations of someone else’s secrets shed new insight into her own desperately sad childhood.
A novel about human flaws that shows how it’s almost impossible to know ourselves as others see us, as we can never thoroughly know someone else.
This is a companion novel to My Name is Lucy Barton, the first ever book by Strout I read, but each novel can be read independently.
BUY THE BOOK
Read my reviews of these other books by Elizabeth Strout:-
AMY & ISABELLE
ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE
MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON
If you like this, try:-
‘Mum & Dad’ by Joanna Trollope
‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara
‘In Another Life’ by Julie Christine Johnson
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
OH WILLLIAM! by @LizStrout #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5pB via @SandraDanby