Monday, 13 February 2012

Elizabeth Strout

Oh Elizabeth Strout is a good writer. I bought Amy and Isabelle after reading an on-line interview with Anne Tyler who said that she admired it.

Fifteen-year old Amy and her mother live at Oyster Point, the posh end of Shirley Falls, Maine. Single mother Isabelle doesn't have the confidence or means to mix with the well-heeled wives of the neighbourhood. Lonely Amy embarks on a relationship with her charismatic maths teacher who seduces her by quoting the poetry of Edna St Vincent Millay. Meanwhile the soapy, sudsy river which divides Shirley Falls churns around the mill where Isabelle works as a secretary and the women in the office bicker and gossip.

There are many wonderful moments in this novel - Isabelle and Amy sharing doughnuts in the steamy coffee shop and Amy's fleeting moment of happiness, Isabelle trying to improve her mind by reading Madame Bovary which the women in the mill nickname 'Madame Ovary', kind Fat Bev's battles with her digestion and the way the river reflects the events of the novel. There is also the recurring motif of a missing 12-year-old girl which turns the novel almost into a thriller at the end.

Strout is an earthier writer than Tyler (her characters say f**k!) but has the same gift for dialogue and humour. I've ordered her novel Abide With Me and Olive Kitteridge a collection of short stories, both set in Maine. Do let me know if you've read Elizabeth Strout, I'm sure I've seen reviews of Olive Kitteridge around the blogosphere but can't remember where. I'd like to re-read them.


callmemadam said...

I've read Olive Kitteridge and found it depressing. I just looked up my review and found it ended 'thank goodness for Anne Tyler.'!

Joan Hunter Dunn said...

I love Anne Tyler's books so will look out this author on that recommendation.

JoAnn said...

I'm a fan of Anne Tyler, but I love Elizabeth Strout! My book club read Amy & Isabelle years ago and Olive Kitteridge has become a personal favorite. Must read Abide with Me soon.

My review (written shortly after I began blogging):

and my book club's reaction:

mary said...

I loved Olive Kitteridge, what a brilliant character. I've never read any of her other books, though, so must remedy that soon.

Anbolyn said...

I've never read Elizabeth Strout, but I know people who love Olive Kitteridge. I have a copy on my shelf - I might give it a try since you can recommend her writing.

Sunday Taylor said...

I loved "Olive Kitteridge." This new one sounds very good and I would like to read it on your recommendation.

Cathy at PotterJotter said...

Thanks for the recommedation - my list of 'to read' books grows ever longer - thanks for your good wishes too! xC

Buried In Print said...

I read this one so long ago that I don't remember much about it, other than that I found both mother and daughter credible; neither of them was wholly likeable, but they were believable, and I included this one amongst my favourite reads for that reading year. I haven't read Olive yet, but I fully intend to; she seems to write slowly, and I don't want to "read her all up"!

Carolyn said...

This sounds interesting. All the buzz around Olive Kitteridge put me off it, but maybe I would enjoy Amy & Isabelle more.

Lilac In May said...

I love it when I have a new author to look out

Vintage Reading said...

callmemadam, starting OK tonight so I will keep an open mind but if I don't like it it's good to know there is always AT!

Joan Hunter Dunn, I read somewhere that AT is now regarded as one of the great American novelists - about time she receives her due!

JoAnn, checked out your reviews, thank you!

Mary, I'm about to start OK and have Abide with Me or order - can't wait!

Anbolyn, as always I will look out for your review of OK.

Sunday, glad you enjoyed it. I'm really looking forward to making a start.

Cathy, bet my tbr list is bigger than yours!!

Buried in Print, yes both Amy and Isabelle are flawed as we all are and I agree that is what made them so real. Like you, I don't want to hurry throught all of Strout's 3published novels.

Carolyn, I agree. When everyone in the media and blogosphere is reviewing the same book I back off. Don't know why but it puts me off.

Lilac, I'm so glad to have discovered Elizabeth Strout. Ann Patchett, too.

Penny said...

'Olive Kitteridge' has been sitting in my TBR bookcase for some time. I've read mixed reviews, but will now slip her out and have a look.

I'm excited to read about a new (to me) author. I love Anne Tyler... You know what this means, though, don't you? And I'd convinced myself that I REALLY didn't need to buy any more books for a LONG time!